2023 – Interesting year !

2023 brings a whole new dimension to humanity. After the dreadful past years under Covid, this new year seems like actually turning the page and stepping on the doorsteps of hope. There is still some doubts as we hear that new variants are hitting China and that they are far more contagious. There are different positions on the island; some are insisting that we go back to our masks again while others are of the opinion that the new variants, despite being highly contagious, are not that dangerous. Overall, I think we are wiser than before.

Personally, I believe that 2023 will see an uplift of the socio-economic life. We cannot, at this stage, speak of pure growth but we can certainly hope for stabilization of the economy in broader terms. Not being an economist, I will refrain from venturing into this area, but I can try wearing my business observer hat for this article. From what I see, there is a definite acceleration in every economic sector and things are starting to take shape. Here, my observations are not from economic data, statistics or other specialized data – but rather an on-the-ground and visible interpretation of the current, and expected, future business environment. I believe this is more meaningful to the common mortals that we are ; most of us not being experts in the interpretation of technical terminology.

There are many signs that confirm the upward trend of the retail sector. The adoption of e-commerce / home delivery by the locals (finally), supported by the apparition of different FinTech platforms, with easy and secure payment options. I remember while we were developing the mobile application for the non-pharma medical sector, specialized in diabetes care products (www.happydiabetic..mu) , we had an unsurmountable obstacle : online payment. We had to propose a ‘payment on delivery’ system. Covid forced the market to adopt online shopping, and by extrapolation, the operators to provide payment solutions.

The idea of sharing credit card credentials online has always been freaky for Mauritians ; curiously not when they order from unknown / unseen companies abroad. Traders were charged with hefty bank charges for credit card gateway modules, invoiced in US Dollars ! All these slowed down the local e-commerce sector.

There came the introduction of different online payment mobile applications such as MCB Juice, Blink (Emtel) and My.T Momey (Mauritius Telecoms). They are all state-of-the-art solutions and are now present in every household. This led to evolution of the local consumer behavior, resulting in an increase in commercial (retail) transactions. The volume and value of this sector is increasing exponentially and will not, in the foreseeable future, experience a downturn. The excitement of local online purchases is still very palpable. Many, these days, cannot do without. The delivery man is the modern-day Santa Claus, available all year-round. Spending is just a little pain you accommodate for a bigger joy. Everything is now available online : electronics, consumer goods, health & beauty, vegetables & meat, processed foods, textiles & fashion – everything ! Besides, the usual utility bills (water, electricity, phone / internet) are now all payable in a click.

You can get a glimpse of these e-payment solution applications on the following links :

https://www.myt.mu/money/

https://www.emtel.com/

https://www.mcb.mu/en/juice/

On the traditional retail side (shops), interesting things are happening. The biggest mall of the Indian Ocean (I heard it somewhere) is now ready under the name of Tribeca Mall. It is located on the other side of the main highway, facing the Cybercity ; therefore some kilometers away from the Bagatelle Mall, which is itself a landmark. Investment in Triberca Mall required an investment of around MUR25 billion for an infrastructure stretching over 80,000 square meters and 3,500 surface and underground parking spaces.

The Tribeca Mall will house the Winners hypermarket in an area of ​​7,000 square meters. In addition, the public will be able to find new brands and other brands such as Dragon Electronics/LG, Fashion House, Toys World/Mozouzou, Challenger, Esprit, Zippy, Nine West, Foir’Fouille, Sports 2000, Adidas, Miniso, Yamamay, Carpisa, Footsteps, Gourmet & Co, WOWACC, Beauty Success, 20/Vin, L’Occitane, Audere Beauty, Trollbeads, The Body Shop, Mado.

An investment of this size demonstrates the optimism of the promoters and a certain vision of the future. I remember when Bagatelle Mall was being built, most people thought that the promoters lost their plot simply looking at the size of the parking space. But today, in peak shopping hours, the car park is full. Vision !

The stabilization of freight and logistics, post-Covid, is also happening, releasing tensions in international commercial exchanges. Freight costs reached a ridiculous high, but it looks more and more that all players are coming to better senses. Volume of transactions has also increased on the international scene, as China provide more comfort around its sanitary dispositions and its ability to contain the Covid variants away from the business environment.

Parking lots in commercial centers are busy, postmen and delivery people are visible everywhere, restaurants have to be booked well in advance ;  signs that the Mauritian population is able to spend. Of course, there are mentions that the economic situation is chaotic, but honestly the perception is tinted by politics. Reality is what you see in everyday life. Many locals would probably whip me for saying this as the country faces certain challenges on the macro-economic front, a social discomfort and a looming drought (heavy rain is expected though). But again, this article focuses on business opportunities and not on social elements.

True that wealth is not distributed evenly as is common almost everywhere. This cannot be denied, but as well, there is no denying the existence of a certain purchasing power and therefore an exploitable market for businesses.

What is admirable of Mauritius, is its resilience. The small island puts a tough resistance to international economic pressure. It cannot sustain such prowess over extended time, but at this stage there is a positive outlook on the future. Foreign direct investment is on a constant rise, or, at worst stable, but surely not decreasing. Businesses are being registered every day in impressive volume counts. The demand for relocation is also on a steady rise. Infrastructure, both from the private and the public sector, appears from nowhere basically every week. The signs are here !

All this make 2023 a promising and exciting year! We hope all of us get the best out of it.

(c) http://www.gibsonandhills.com

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