total: 2,040 sq km
land: 2,030 sq km
water: 10 sq km
tropical, modified by southeast trade winds;
warm, dry winter (May to November);
hot, wet, humid summer (November to May)
small coastal plain rising to discontinuous mountains encircling central plateau
mean elevation: NA
elevation extremes: lowest point: Indian Ocean 0 m
highest point: Mont Piton 828 m
arable land, fish
agricultural land: 43.8%
arable land 38.4%; permanent crops 2%; permanent pasture 3.4%
other: 38.9% (2011 est.)
190 sq km (2012)
Population – distribution:
population density is one of the highest in the world; the urban cluster is found throughout the main island, with a greater density in and around Port Luis; population on Rodrigues Island is spread across the island with a slightly denser cluster on the north coast.
cyclones (November to April);
almost completely surrounded by reefs that may pose maritime hazards
People and Society
The estimated resident population of the Republic of Mauritius was 1,356,388 as of December 2017. The female population was 683,893 compared to a male population of 669,798. The population on the island of Mauritius is 1,308,383 and that of Rodrigues island is 48,004; Agalega and Saint Brandon had an estimated total population of 284. Mauritius has the highest population density in Africa.
With no indigenous population, Mauritius’ ethnic mix is a product of more than two centuries of European colonialism and continued international labor migration. Sugar production relied on slave labor mainly from Madagascar, Mozambique, and East Africa from the early 18th century until its abolition in 1835, when slaves were replaced with indentured Indians. Most of the influx of indentured labor – peaking between the late 1830s and early 1860 – settled permanently creating massive population growth of more than 7% a year and reshaping the island’s social and cultural composition. While Indians represented about 12% of Mauritius’ population in 1837, they and their descendants accounted for roughly two-thirds by the end of the 19th century. Most were Hindus, but the majority of the free Indian traders were Muslims.
Mauritius again turned to overseas labor when its success in clothing and textile exports led to a labor shortage in the mid-1980s. Clothing manufacturers brought in contract workers (increasingly women) from China, India, and, to a lesser extent Bangladesh and Madagascar, who worked long hours for lower wages under poor conditions and were viewed as more productive than locals. Downturns in the sugar and textile industries in the mid-2000s and a lack of highly qualified domestic workers for Mauritius’ growing services sector led to the emigration of low-skilled workers and a reliance on skilled foreign labor. Since 2007, Mauritius has pursued a circular migration program to enable citizens to acquire new skills and savings abroad and then return home to start businesses and to invest in the country’s development.
1,356,388 (July 2017 est.)
Indo-Mauritian (compose approximately two-thirds of the total population), Creole, Sino-Mauritian, Franco-Mauritian.
Creole 86.5%, Bhojpuri 5.3%, French 4.1%, two languages 1.4%, other 2.6% (includes English, the official language of the National Assembly, which is spoken by less than 1% of the population), unspecified 0.1% (2011 est.)
Hindu 48.5%, Roman Catholic 26.3%, Muslim 17.3%, other Christian 6.4%, other 0.6%, none 0.7%, unspecified 0.1% (2011 est.)
Ethnicity, Language, and Religion
The forebears of the various ethnic groups composing Mauritian society arrived as settlers, slaves, indentured laborers, and immigrants. Although the country’s past contains dark chapters of inequality and exploitation, modern Mauritian history has been remarkable for its relatively smooth and peaceful transition from colonial rule and the rule of large plantation owners to multiparty democracy. Approximately two-thirds of the population is of Indo-Pakistani origin, most of whom are descendants of indentured laborers brought to work in the sugar industry during the 19th and early 20th centuries. About one-fourth of the population is Creole (of mixed French and African descent), and there are small numbers of people of Chinese and Franco-Mauritian descent.
Language is perhaps the most complex and perplexing aspect of the Mauritian social mosaic. This intricacy derives from the number of languages spoken combined with the uses to which they are put and the sociopolitical connotations they bear. Although Creole is the most widely spoken language (about 80% of the population), French predominates in the media, and English is the official language of government and school instruction. English and French are generally considered to be de facto national and common languages of Mauritius, as they are the languages of government administration, courts, and business. The constitution of Mauritius is written in English, while some laws, such as the Civil code, are in French.
According to a 2000 census, Hindus constituted about 50% of the total population. Christians made up about 32%, with a vast majority (about 85% of all Christians) affiliated with the Roman Catholic church. Other Christian denominations include Adventist, Assemblies of God, Christian Tamil, Church of England, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, Evangelical, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Most Christians live in the southern portion of the country while the north tends to be predominantly Hindu. About 16% of the population were Muslims, with a majority being Sunni. There are a small number of Buddhists. Throughout the country, there is a strong correlation between religious affiliation and ethnicity. Those of Indian descent are primarily Hindu or Muslim. Those of Chinese descent are often nominally Buddhists, but practicing Catholics, since they often admit their children to Catholic schools. Creoles and Europeans are primarily Catholic.
Education in Mauritius is managed by the Ministry of Education & Human Resources, which controls the development and administration of state schools funded by the government, but also has an advisory and supervisory role in respect of private schools. The Tertiary education is maintained by the Ministry of Tertiary Education, Science, Research and Technology. The government of Mauritius provides free education to its citizens from pre-primary to tertiary levels. Since July 2005, the government also introduced free transport for all students. Schooling is compulsory up to the age of 16. Mauritian students consistently rank top in the world each year for the Cambridge International O Level, International A and AS level examinations.
Many children ages three through five attend pre-primary schools. According to Statistics Mauritius for 2016, nearly 29,000 students were enrolled in such schools. Almost 100 percent of the population of 4 to 5-year-olds attended pre-primary schools. More than 97,300 (97 percent) students enrolled in 318 primary schools for the 2016 school year. While the number enrolled in secondary school grew to over 110,000, only 72 percent of students eligible attended. The problem with education in Mauritius is retention. Attendance drops 25 percent from primary to secondary school.
Children are enrolled in primary school from the age of five and enter Standard I and move automatically up to Standard VI. The system is highly competitive and a two-year preparation starts since Standard V up to Standard VI for the end of primary school examinations, the Certificate of Primary Education (CPE). The CPE is a national examination carried out by the Mauritius Examination Syndicate which devises the syllabus; prepares and prints the examinations papers and does the correction. The 6-years of secondary schooling adhere to the British model too. After the first 4 of these, students write their O-Levels in at least 6 subjects. If they wish to, they may remain on for the final 2 years, in preparation for the A-Level examinations administered by the University of Cambridge.
Tertiary institutions in Mauritius include colleges, universities, Institutes of Technology/Polytechnic and other technical institutions. The country’s two main public universities are the University of Mauritius and the University of Technology. Universities, as in most countries worldwide, have three stages: Bachelor’s (undergraduate), Master’s (graduate), and Doctoral degrees. Undergraduate stage lasts for at least four years and graduate stage lasts for five years after completion of secondary education or one year after obtaining a bachelor’s degree. The third stage of higher education results in obtaining a Ph.D. Degree. Private institutions and overseas institutions/bodies deliver tertiary-level programmes mostly in niche areas like Information Technology, Law, Management, Accountancy, and Finance.
Since independence in 1968, Mauritius has undergone a remarkable economic transformation from a low-income, agriculturally-based economy to a diversified, upper-middle-income economy with growing industrial, financial, and tourist sectors. Mauritius has achieved steady growth over the last several decades, resulting in more equitable income distribution, increased life expectancy, lowered infant mortality, and a much-improved infrastructure. Real GDP growth reached a robust 4% in 2017. The main drivers of growth were the services sector, especially finance, and the trade and accommodation services. The latter benefited from a buoyant tourism sector, a key sector supported by the recent acceleration in the global economy. Tourist arrivals increased by 5.2% in 2017 to reach 1.34 million—a number equivalent to the island’s entire resident population.
The Mauritius economy currently depends on sugar, tourism, textiles and apparel, and financial services, but is expanding into fish processing, information and communications technology, education, and hospitality and property development. Sugarcane is grown on about 90% of the cultivated land area but sugar makes up only around 3-4% of national GDP. Authorities plan to emphasize services and innovation in the coming years. After several years of slow growth, government policies now seek to stimulate economic growth in five areas: serving as a gateway for international investment into Africa; increasing the use of renewable energy; developing smart cities; growing the ocean economy; and upgrading and modernizing infrastructure, including public transportation, the port, and the airport.
Fiscal policy has been stable with an overall budget balance of -3.2% of GDP planned for the current fiscal year, which ends in June. If achieved, this would be a small reduction from the 3.5% of GDP budget deficit outturn of FY 2017/18. Public sector debt levels are substantial, at approximately 56% of GDP (by the domestic statutory definition). Mauritius’s external balances continued to be supported by abundant financial and capital inflows, including net inflows to the large offshore corporate sector. Thus, although the current account deficit was a sizable 5.9% of GDP in Q3 2017 (slightly narrower than a year earlier), the overall balance of payments remained moderately in surplus, and gross international reserves rose to $ 6.1 billion in January 2018 (equivalent to over 10 months of imports).
The baseline scenario is for economic conditions to remain buoyant on the back of favorable external conditions and the pick-up in public investment, notably Mauritius’s sizable road decongestion program. Economic growth is projected to remain in the 3.5–4.0% range, broadly consistent with the estimated pace of potential growth in output. Growth could even accelerate if the government’s ambitious public infrastructure program gathers pace and stimulates more private investment. The economy’s external financing position should benefit from continued strength in services exports (mainly tourism) and brighter prospects for goods exports due to stronger economic growth in Mauritius’s key trading partners.
Mauritius’ sound economic policies and prudent banking practices helped mitigate the negative effects of the global financial crisis of 2008-09. GDP grew in the 3-4% per year range in 2010-17, and the country continues to expand its trade and investment outreach around the globe. Growth in the US and Europe fostered goods and services exports, including tourism, while lower oil prices kept inflation low. Mauritius continues to rank as one of the most business-friendly environments on the continent and passed a Business Facilitation Act to improve competitiveness and long-term growth prospects. A new National Economic Development Board was set up in 2017-2018 to spearhead efforts to promote exports and attract inward investment.
GDP (purchasing power parity):
$27.44 billion (2017 est.)
$26.41 billion (2016 est.)
$25.42 billion (2015 est
note: data are in 2017 dollars
GDP (official exchange rate):
$12.27 billion (2017 est.)
GDP – real growth rate:
3.9% (2017 est.)
3.9% (2016 est.)
3.5% (2015 est.)
GDP – per capita (PPP):
$21,600 (2017 est.)
$20,900 (2016 est.)
$20,100 (2015 est.)
Gross national saving:
13.7% of GDP (2017 est.)
16.3% of GDP (2016 est.)
16.3% of GDP (2015 est.)
GDP – composition, by sector of origin:
services: 74.2% (2017 est.)
Agriculture – products:
sugarcane, tea, corn, potatoes, bananas, pulses; cattle, goats; fish
food processing (largely sugar milling), textiles, clothing, mining, chemicals, metal products, transport equipment, nonelectrical machinery, tourism
Population below poverty line:
8% (2006 est.)
revenues: $2.912 billion
expenditures: $3.337 billion (2017 est.)
About 40 percent of the island’s surface is being used for cultivation, of which roughly 90 percent is sugar cane, the balance being tea, tobacco and food crops. Historically, sugarcane cultivation was the main agricultural activity in Mauritius. Following a cut in the European Union’s guaranteed sugar falling production levels and the global food price crisis, the Ministry of Agro-Industry and Food Security emphasized the need to diversify the agricultural sector.
Tea production in Mauritius has been on the decline, disadvantaged by production cost increases, labor shortages, and low world prices. The area under tea cultivation declined from 2,905 ha (7,178 acres) in 1990 to 660 in 2001. Tobacco production was 600 tons in 2001 and now provides the raw material for most locally produced cigarettes. In recent years, horticultural products have been successfully grown for export, including flowers (mainly anthuriums), tropical fruits, and vegetables.
Relying on imports for 70 percent of the country’s food requirements, Mauritius is particularly vulnerable to rising global food prices. Since the 2008 global food price crisis, the government has been pushing the agriculture sector to boost food production to increase the country’s self-sufficiency. A reasonable level of success has already been achieved, with farmers producing almost 100 percent of the country’s needs in fresh vegetables, 60 percent in potato and about one-third in onion.
Fruit production consists mainly of banana, pineapple, litchi, and mango, and meets just under 50 percent of the country’s requirements. Livestock production is undertaken by about 3,500 people but only produces five percent of requirements in meat and two percent in milk. The government is working towards making the dairy sector more technological, upgrading small regional cow breeding cooperatives and attracting investment in animal feed production.
Tuna, snapper, and grouper are some of the most commercially valuable species of fish in Mauritius’ waters. One of the major causes of poverty among coastal fishing communities is the depletion of marine resources. According to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), lagoons are at risk of being over-fished, octopus stocks have declined sharply and the methods of fishing for octopus are gradually destroying the reef. To relieve pressure on resources, the government has introduced a range of regulations. Coastal communities are also vulnerable to cyclones and rising sea levels.
electrification – total population: 100% (2016)
Electricity – production:
2.857 billion kWh (2015 est.)
Electricity – consumption:
2.68 billion kWh (2015 est.)
Electricity – exports:
0 million kWh (2015 est.)
Electricity – imports:
0 billion kWh (2015 est.)
Electricity – installed generating capacity:
1.056 million kW (2015 est.)
Electricity – from fossil fuels:
66.3% of total installed capacity (2015 est.)
Electricity – from nuclear fuels:
0% of total installed capacity (2015 est.)
Telephones – fixed lines:
total subscriptions: 389,500
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 29 (July 2016 est.)
Telephones – mobile cellular:
total: 1.814 million
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 134 (July 2016 est.)
Internet country code:
percent of population: 53.2% (July 2016 est.)
Industry and Mining
The manufacturing sector of Mauritius has evolved into a technology-intensive sector and offers investment opportunities in food processing & Packaging, Textiles & Technical Textiles, Precision Engineering & Watchmaking, Medical Devices & Pharmaceuticals, and High-end jewelry & Diamond Processing. The manufacturing sector contributed an estimated 17.7% to Mauritius’ total GDP. In 2011 the manufacturing sector in Mauritius employed approximately 77,000 employees, roughly 26% of the Mauritian labor force.
The Mauritian manufacturing sector has traditionally been dominated by textiles and sugar production. In 2010 the industrial sector in Mauritius was responsible for producing 452, 473 tonnes of sugar. More recent diversification into jewelry production, optical goods manufacture, furniture making, light engineering and electronic components manufacturer and assembly has expanded the sector.
Mauritius sits in a “golden triangle” connecting Asia, Africa, and Australia, and some consider the country will become the business capital of Africa. State-of-the-art infrastructure and forward-thinking factories have also made Mauritius an attractive option for innovation as the country upgrades its apparel production offering. Operators in Mauritius have invested in new technology to decrease production cycle times and many companies are vertically integrated. Much Mauritian apparel and textile manufacturers are flexible with order quantities and add value via their contribution to the design of the products, according to Enterprise Mauritius division manager Geerish Bucktowonsing.
Of the more than 1,500 products Mauritius exports to more than 150 countries around the world, textiles, and apparel are the leading export. Mauritius has a 40-year history of making textiles and apparel and was once one of the largest producers of knitwear. Over those years, the country has evolved from its initial cut, make, trim capabilities to vertically integrated manufacturing for value-added, sophisticated product. The textile and apparel industry in Mauritius consists of facilities for spinning, knitting, and weaving and finishing for dyed and printed fabrics, denim fabrics and for knit-to-shape items.
The World Bank ranked Mauritius first in Africa for 2016 in terms of ease of doing business there, and it was also ranked first in Africa in the World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report for 2015.
Banking and Finance
Mauritius has a relatively sophisticated banking sector with 23 banks currently licensed to undertake banking business. Of the 23 banks, 2 banks provide private banking services exclusively while one bank conducts Islamic banking exclusively. Data sourced by the Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion suggests that 82 percent of Mauritians aged 15 and above have a bank account.
According to the Banking Act of 2004, all banks are free to conduct business in all currencies, including the Mauritian rupee. There are also eight non-bank deposit-taking institutions, as well as several money changers and foreign exchange dealers. There are no official government restrictions on foreigners opening bank accounts in Mauritius, but some banks may require letters of reference or proof of residence for their own due diligence. The Bank of Mauritius, the country’s central bank, carries out the supervision and regulation of banks as well as non-bank financial institutions authorized to accept deposits. The Bank of Mauritius has endorsed the Core Principles for Effective Banking Supervision as set out by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision.
The banking system is dominated by two, long-established domestic groups, Mauritius Commercial Bank (MCB) and State Bank of Mauritius (SBM), which together hold approximately 65 percent of all Mauritian banking assets. Maubank, the third largest bank in the country, became operational in January 2016 following a merger between the Mauritius Post & Cooperative Bank and the National Commercial Bank. The latter is the ex-Bramer bank which was nationalized after revocation of its license in April 2015 for failure to meet the minimum cash reserves ratio. The Bank of China obtained a banking license in March 2016 and started operations on 27 September 2016. Other foreign banks present in Mauritius include HSBC, Barclays Bank, Bank of Baroda, Habib Bank, Banque des Mascareignes, PT Bank Maybank Indonesia, Deutsche Bank, Standard Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, State Bank of India, and Investec Bank. As of January 31, 2017, commercial banks’ total assets amounted to USD 34.7 billion.
The government of Mauritius abolished foreign exchange controls in 1994. Consequently, no approval is required for converting, transferring, or repatriating profits, dividends, or capital gains earned by a foreign investor in Mauritius. Funds associated with any form of investment can be freely converted into any world currency. The exchange rate is market-determined, but a small number of institutions dominate the market with the Bank of Mauritius, the central bank, occasionally intervening. Between end February 2016 and end February 2017, the Mauritian Rupee appreciated against the British Pound Sterling and the Euro by 10.7 percent and 3.3 percent, respectively, but remained fairly stable against the U.S. Dollar.
There are no time or quantity limits on remittance of capital, profits, dividends, and capital gains earned by a foreign investor in Mauritius. Mauritius has a well-developed and modern banking system. There is no legal parallel market in Mauritius for investment remittances. The Embassy is unaware of any proposed changes by the government to its investment remittance policies.
Once thought to be the preserve of nearby Madagascar, wildlife tourism in Mauritius is rapidly gaining in popularity. And why wouldn’t it? Mauritius has saved more bird species from extinction than any other country on earth, with the result that you can now see two of the loveliest birds of the Indian Ocean – the pink pigeon and the Mauritian kestrel – at various places around the island. Giant tortoises – in captivity in their hundreds, or roaming free on Île aux Aigrettes – are another drawcard, while dolphins, whales, and sharks are just three highlights of the island’s richly biodiverse marine environment.
Mauritius is rightly famed for its sapphire-blue waters, powder-white beaches and, yes, luxury resorts that provide a front-row seat onto some of the most beautiful views in the Indian Ocean. These are places of the utmost refinement, of impeccable service, of facilities that range from pampering spas, designer rooms and extensive watersports options to dreamy swimming pools, expansive palm-strewn grounds, and world-class restaurants. Your stay will live long in the memory and will have you dreaming of a return. Partly that’s because of the supreme levels of comfort and luxury. But it’s also thanks to the resorts’ discretion and warmth, and the unmistakable sense of being treated like royalty.
Place of Attraction
Port Louis; Most people come to ‘Por Loowee’, Mauritius’s capital, to shop, although it has several cultural attractions. The Blue Penny Museum is home to the world’s first colonial stamp and you can see an ancient dodo skeleton, on the first floor of The Natural History Museum. Get a sense of multi-faith Mauritius here by gazing over churches, mosques, and Chinese and Indian temples from the citadel, or join the locals and ex-pats on a late afternoon stroll up Signal Mountain – named after the antennae on top – to see the city at sunset.
Grand Baie; A fishing village 20 years ago, this sheltered bay bobbing with boats is now the main tourist hub of the island. Nicknamed “Le Trop” for its hot shopping and après-sol entertainment, it has plenty of excursions, attractions and beaches nearby.
Le Morne Brabant; found in the South of the island, is a scarcely inhabited place. It is mostly surrounded by hotels. There you will have the chance of seeing Le Morne Mountain, classified as World Heritage, a single peak encapsulating so much of Mauritius’ history in it. The mountain was the place, for slaves, to escape from their masters. The place is full of nice viewpoints over the west coast of the island and over the southern part of the island.
A national park stretching over 6574 hectares of incredible native forests and wildlife, covering 3.5% of Mauritius’ land area and including a range of ecosystems. This dense forest is home to over 300 species of flowering plants. Want to spot one of the rarest birds in the world? Then the national park is your best bet since it is the habitat of the Pink Pigeon, a bird endemic to Mauritius, which nearly reached extinction.
Black River Gorges National Park; The Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary is one of the amazing Sanctuary of Sierra Leone. It is located in Freetown and it will take about 40 minutes from the mainland of Freetown. The western area forest reserve has become more visited by the tourists because of the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary. It covers about 100 acres. You can go through Sanctuary by the new dirt motorway. It will be the best if you come on a one-day excursion to see the lovely waterfalls, villages surrounding the Sanctuary easily.
Chamarel is a small village located in the district of Savanne. Chamarel attracts much since you will have the chance to visit the beautiful places in its vicinity- The highest waterfall in Mauritius at 100 meters and the 7-colored earth. The Chamarel Falls is as impressive a waterfall as you’ll find anywhere and makes up a perfect spot. Climbing the stairs to the viewing platform reveals an awe impressive view as it hits the pool 100 meters below. The ‘Seven Coloured Earth’, made up of sand dunes of different distinct colors including reds, browns, and purples will impress more than one. This phenomenon is due to the cooling, at different temperatures, of volcanic rocks which resulted in dunes of different colors.
The history of Mauritius begins around 900 AD, when Arab sailors, engaged in trade with people from the East African coast, Comoros, and Madagascar, first laid eyes on what they called Dina Arobi (Abandoned Island). Since the Arabs were first and foremost traders and a journey as far into the Indian Ocean as the Mascarene Islands was a rather dangerous venture in their small Dhows, there was no incentive to establish a settlement on the island.
At the end of the fifteenth century, Europe started to cast its eyes to the East. Attracted by its treasures, of which spices were most important, the Portuguese were the first Europeans to sail around the Cape of Good Hope and explore the Indian Ocean. Vasco da Gama was the first to do so, and on his famous voyage in 1498 he was the first European to learn about the existence of the Mascarene Islands by way of a map shown to him by his Indian pilot. Mauritius was indicated by its Arab name the very first time it appeared on a European map in 1502, two years after the Portuguese navigator Diogo Dias became the first European to discover the island. The Portuguese did not settle on Mauritius, for the island did not possess any of the riches they were after. They did, however, stop occasionally on the island to obtain food and water before continuing their journeys to the East. They gave the island several names, of which Ilha do Cerne (Swan Island) was preferred in the end.
An official world map by Diogo Ribeiro described “from west to east, the first island, ‘Mascarenhas’, the second, ‘Santa Apolonia’ and the third, ‘Domingo Froiz.’ “The three islands (Réunion, Mauritius, and Rodrigues) were encountered some years earlier by chance during an exploratory expedition of the coast of the Bay of Bengal led by Tristão da Cunha. The expedition ran into a cyclone and was forced to change course. Thus, the ship Cirne of the captain Diogo Fernandes Pereira came into view of Réunion island on 9 February 1507. They called the island “Santa Apolonia” (“Saint Apollonia”) in honor of that day’s saint. Mauritius was encountered during the same expedition and received the name of “Cirne” and Rodrigues that of “Diogo Fernandes”. Five years later, the islands were visited by Dom Pedro de Mascarenhas who left the name Mascarene for the whole region. The Portuguese took no interest in these isolated islands. They were already established in Asia in Goa, on the coast of Malabar, on the island of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and on the Malaysian coast.
In 1598, the second Dutch Expedition to Indonesia consisting of eight ships, under the orders of admirals Jacques Cornelius van Neck and Wybrandt van Warwyck, set sail from Texel, Netherlands, towards the Indian subcontinent. The eight ships ran into foul weather after passing the Cape of Good Hope and were separated. Three found their way to the northeast of Madagascar, while the remaining five regrouped and sailed in a southeasterly direction. On 17 September, the five ships under the orders of Admiral van Warwyck came into view of Mauritius. On 20 September, they entered a sheltered bay which they named “Port de Warwick” (now known as “Grand Port”). They landed and decided to name the island “Prins Mauritz van Nassaueiland,” after the son of William the Silent William the SilentPrince Maurits (Latin version: Mauritius) of the House of Nassau, the stadtholder of most of the Dutch Republic, and after the main vessel of the fleet, the “Mauritius”. From that time, only the name Mauritius has remained.
The island’s Port de Warwick was used by the Dutch as a stopover after long months at sea. In 1606, two expeditions came for the first time to what would later become Port-Louis in the northwest part of the island. The expedition, consisting of eleven ships and 1,357 men under the orders of Admiral Corneille, came into the bay, which they named “Rade des Tortues” (literally meaning “Harbor of the Tortoises”) because of the great number of terrestrial tortoises they found there. From that date, Dutch sailors shifted their choice to Rade des Tortues as a harbor.
In 1615, the shipwreck and death of governor Pieter Both, who was coming back from India with four richly laden ships in the bay, led Dutch sailors to consider the route as cursed, and they tried to avoid it as much as possible. In the meantime, the British and the Danes were beginning to make incursions into the Indian Ocean. Those who landed on the island freely cut and took with them the precious heartwood of the ebony trees, then found in profusion all over the island. The island was not permanently inhabited for the first forty years after its “discovery” by the Dutch, but in 1638 Cornelius Gooyer established the first permanent Dutch settlement in Mauritius with a garrison of twenty-five. He thus became the first governor of the island. In 1639, thirty more men came to reinforce the Dutch colony. Gooyer was instructed to develop the commercial potential of the island, but he did nothing of the sort, so he was recalled. His successor was Adriaan van der Stel, who began the development in earnest, developing the export of ebony wood.
Dutch colonization started in 1638 and ended in 1710, with a brief interruption between 1658 and 1666. Numerous governors were appointed, but continuous hardships such as cyclones, droughts, pest infestations, lack of food, and illnesses finally took their toll, and the island was definitively abandoned in 1710. Settling the island and creating an organized ebony business proved much harder than expected, as cyclones frequently destroyed the settlement, rat- and locust plagues destroyed crops, and African slaves and Batavian convicts, brought over to cut the ebony, often ran away.
In 1644, the Islanders were faced with many months of hardships, due to delayed shipment of supplies, bad harvests, and cyclones. During those months, the colonists could only rely on their own ability to feed themselves by fishing and hunting. Nonetheless, van der Stel secured the shipment of 95 more slaves from Madagascar, before being transferred to Ceylon. His replacement was Jacob van der Meersh. In 1645, the latter brought in 108 more Malagasy slaves. Van der Meersh left Mauritius in September 1648 and was replaced by Reinier Por. In 1652, more hardships befell the inhabitants, colonists and slaves alike. The population was then about a hundred people. The continuing hardships affected the commercial potential of the island and a pullout was ordered in 1657. On 16 July 1658, almost all the inhabitants left the island, except for a ship’s boy and two slaves who had taken shelter in the forests. Thus the first attempt at colonization by the Dutch ended badly.
In 1658, just twenty years after the first attempt at colonization, the Dutch East India Company’s station at Mauritius was terminated. However, the ever-present English and French competition in the Indian Ocean made the VOC reconsider their decision for abandoning the island, and Mauritius was resettled in 1664. The second group of settlers ran into the same problems as their predecessors. Within months they ran out of provisions, and hunters frequently came back from the interior empty-handed. Moreover, several settlers started an illicit trade in ebony with English ships anchoring on Mauritius’ northwestern shores. To make matters worse, slave revolts were becoming a common occurrence, and droughts and epidemics complemented the catastrophes caused by cyclones. The settlers had little respect for their various commanders, and almost every day people were drinking and feasting. Finally, in 1707 it was decided to evacuate the island. Besides several people who fled into the interior, the last settlers left Mauritius in 1710.
Isle de France
Abandoned by the Dutch, the island became a French colony when, in September 1715, Guillaume Dufresne d’Arsel landed and took possession of this port of call on the route to India. He named the island “Isle de France”, but it was only in 1721 that the French started their occupation. During the first years of French rule, a very multiethnic population was created as people from India, Madagascar, Europe, Africa, and China were moved to the island. An attempt was made to develop agriculture, but just as had been the case during Dutch rule, cyclones, droughts, and pests made this quite an unsuccessful endeavor. Slaves, as well as some workers and soldiers, escaped into the forests from which they would frequently launch attacks, soldiers often refused to take orders, and many of those who did stay faithful to their governor were heavy drinkers. Just as had been the case with the Dutch, in the first decade of French rule the settlement was on the border of collapsing.
The tide quickly turned when Bertrand-François Mahé de La Bourdonnais took up his post as governor of Île de France and Île de Bourbon (Réunion) in 1735. He brought discipline back to the population and created several businesses for which he often provided the starting capital. Sugar, indigo, cotton, and tobacco plantations were set up, and an adequate labor force imported from India. Port Louis was transformed into a well defended naval base with a state-of-the-art naval workshop, where stores, a market, a theatre, an aqueduct, and a large hospital were built. During the latter part of the 1730‟s, a large number of infrastructures were constructed as well. Slaves were offered training in activities such as shipbuilding and stone cutting. Moreover, they were enrolled as slave hunters and were given a salary. They became very effective in reducing the runaway slave population. La Bourdonnais was replaced in 1746.
Charles Mathieu Isidore Decaen was a successful general in the French Revolutionary Wars and, in some ways, a rival of Napoléon I. He ruled as Governor of Isle de France and Réunion from 1803 to 1810. British naval cartographer and explorer Matthew Flinders was arrested and detained by General Decaen on the island, in contravention of an order from Napoléon. During the Napoleonic Wars, Mauritius became a base from which French corsairs organized successful raids on British commercial ships. The raids continued until 1810, when a Royal Navy expedition led by Commodore Josias Rowley, R.N., an Anglo-Irish aristocrat, was sent to capture the island. Despite winning the Battle of Grand Port, the only French naval victory over the British during these wars, the French could not prevent the British from landing at Cap Malheureux three months later. They formally surrendered the island on the fifth day of the invasion, 3 December 1810, on terms allowing settlers to keep their land and property and to use the French language and law of France in criminal and civil matters. Under British rule, the island’s name reverted to Mauritius.
The British administration, which began with Sir Robert Farquhar as Governor, led to rapid social and economic changes. However, it was tainted by the Ratsitatane episode. Ratsitatane, the nephew of King Radama of Madagascar, was brought to Mauritius as a political prisoner. He managed to escape from prison and plotted a rebellion that would free the island’s slaves. He was betrayed by an associate and was caught by the British forces, summarily judged, and condemned to death. He was beheaded at Plaine Verte on 15 April 1822, and his head was displayed as a deterrent against future uprisings among the slaves. In 1832, Adrien d’Épinay launched the first Mauritian newspaper (Le Cernéen) which was not controlled by the government. In the same year, there was a move by the pro-cureur-general to abolish slavery without compensation to the slave owners. This gave rise to discontent, and, to check an eventual rebellion, the government ordered all the inhabitants to surrender their arms. Furthermore, a stone fortress, Fort Adelaide, was built on a hill (now known as the Citadel hill) in the center of Port Louis to quell any uprising.
Slavery was abolished in 1835, and the planters ultimately received two million pounds sterling in compensation for the loss of their slaves who had been imported from Africa and Madagascar during the French occupation. The abolition of slavery had important impacts on Mauritius’s society, economy, and population. When slavery was abolished on 1 February 1835, an attempt was made to secure a cheap source of adaptable labor for intensive sugar plantations in Mauritius. Indentured labor began with Chinese, Malay, African and Malagasy laborers, but ultimately, it was India which supplied the much-needed laborers to Mauritius. The planters brought a large number of indentured laborers from India to work in the sugar cane fields. Between 1834 and 1921, around half a million indentured laborers were present on the island. They worked on sugar estates, factories, in transport and construction sites.
The meeting of a mosaic of people from India, China, Africa and Europe began a process of hybridization and intercultural frictions and dialogues, which poet Khal Torabully has termed “Coolitude”. This social reality is a major reference for identity opened to otherness and is widely used in Mauritius where it represents a humanism of diversity. Conflicts arose between the Indian community (mostly sugarcane laborers) and the Franco-Mauritians in the 1920s, leading to several – mainly Indian – deaths. Following this, the Mauritius Labour Party was founded in 1936 by Maurice Cure to safeguard the interest of the laborers. Maurice Cure was succeeded a year later by Emmanuel Anquetil who tried to gain the support of the port workers. After his death, Guy Rosemont took over the leadership of the party.
Struggle for independence
The meeting of a mosaic of people from India, China, Africa and Europe began a process of hybridization and intercultural frictions and dialogues, which poet Khal Torabully has termed “coolitude”. This social reality is a major reference for identity opened to otherness and is widely used in Mauritius where it represents a humanism of diversity. Conflicts arose between the Indian community (mostly sugarcane laborers) and the Franco-Mauritians in the 1920s, leading to several – mainly Indian – deaths. Following this, the Mauritius Labour Party was founded in 1936 by Maurice Cure to safeguard the interest of the laborers. Maurice Cure was succeeded a year later by Emmanuel Anquetil who tried to gain the support of the port workers. After his death, Guy Rosemont took over the leadership of the party.
he first general election was held on 9 August 1948 and were won by the Labour Party. This party, led by Guy Rozemont, bettered its position in 1953, and, on the strength of the election results, demanded universal suffrage. Constitutional conferences were held in London in 1955 and 1957, and the ministerial system was introduced. Voting took place for the first time on the basis of universal adult suffrage on 9 March 1959. The general election was again won by the Labour Party, led this time by Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam. An independence campaign gained momentum after 1961 when the British agreed to permit additional self-government and eventual independence. A coalition composed of the Mauritian Labour Party (MLP), the Muslim Committee of Action (CAM) of Sir Abdool Razack Mohamed, and the Independent Forward Bloc (IFB) – a traditionalist Hindu party – won a majority in the 1967 Legislative Assembly election, despite opposition from Franco-Mauritian and Creole supporters of Sir Gaetan Duval QC’s and Jules Koenig’s Mauritian Social Democratic Party (PMSD).
The contest was interpreted locally as a referendum on independence. The election was won by a small margin. Constituency No. 15 was key to the victory by the pro-independence coalition. The MLP led alliance was able to win this constituency only due to the support of the CAM. Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, a very popular medical practitioner who tremendously helped and supported the poor and the workers’ community, MLP leader and chief minister in the colonial government, became the first prime minister after independence, on 12 March 1968. This event was preceded by a period of communal strife, brought under control with assistance from British troops. The communal strife that preceded independence led to around 300 deaths. British rule ended on 12 March 1968 with the Mauritius Independence Act 1968. The British monarch, Elizabeth II, remained nominal head of state as Queen of Mauritius.
In May 1975, a student revolt that started at the University of Mauritius swept across the country. The students were unsatisfied with an education system that did not meet their aspirations and gave limited prospects for future employment. On 20 May, thousands of students tried to enter Port-Louis over the Grand River North West bridge and clashed with police. An act of Parliament was passed on 16 December 1975 to extend the right to vote to 18-year-olds. This was seen as an attempt to appease the frustration of the younger generation. The next general election took place on 20 December 1976. The Labour Party won 28 seats out of 62 but Prime Minister Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam managed to remain in office, with a two-seat majority, after striking an alliance with the PMSD of Gaetan Duval.
On 12 March 1992, twenty-four years after independence, Mauritius has proclaimed a republic within the Commonwealth of Nations. The last Governor-General, Sir Veerasamy Ringadoo became the first President. This was under a transitional arrangement, in which he was replaced by Cassam Uteem later that year. Political power remained with the Prime Minister. In February 1999, the country experienced a brief period of civil unrest. Riots flared after the popular singer Kaya, arrested for smoking marijuana at a public concert, was found dead in his prison cell. President Cassam Uteem and Cardinal Jean Margéot toured the country and, after four days of turmoil, calm was restored. A commission of inquiry was set up to investigate the root causes of the social disturbance. The resulting report delved into the cause of poverty and qualified many tenacious beliefs as perceptions.
In the 2005 election, Navin Ramgoolam, leader of the Labour Party, was brought to power after making an alliance with the Parti Mauricien Xavier-Luc Duval (PMXD) and other minor parties. Navin Ramgoolam was again elected in May 2010. In December 2016, the Parti Mauricien Social Démocrate (PMSD) left the coalition government in protest against the government’s decision to introduce a prosecution commission bill. The bill was intended to transfer the power to prosecute from the DPP (Director of Public Prosecutions) to an appointed commission made up of three judges. Because of the PMSD exit, the bill did not through and the PMSD leader, Xavier Luc Duval, replaced Paul Bérenger as leader of the opposition.