The Republic of Mauritius is an island nation in the southwest Indian Ocean off of Africa’s southeast coast. It sits 900 km east of Madagascar. Additional islands are also part of the country, including Agalega, Cargados, Carajos, and Rodrigues.
The island was uninhabited until the 1600s when it was first ruled by the Dutch and later the French. During the Napoleonic Wars, Britain controlled the area until its independence in 1968. Port Louis is the capital and the country’s area is 2,040 sq. km. Mauritius is a parliamentary republic that is part of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, the African Union, the Southern African Development Community, La Francophonie, and the Commonwealth of Nations.
Its economy is considered upper middle income. French, English, and Mauritian Creole are main languages spoken in the country. English is the only official language, but Mauritian Creole is the most widely used. The current population of Mauritius is 1,270,454 as of March, 2019, based on the latest United Nations estimates. Most people are of Indian descent. It is the only nation in Africa with Hindu as the major religion.
The island is best known as the only home of the dodo, which was sighted by Europeans around 1600. Due to its weight and lack of flying ability, it was easy prey for Europeans and became extinct within 80 years.
The country was uninhabited until Europeans settled it in the 17th century. Swahili, Arab, and Malay sailors knew about the islands by the 10th century. The Dutch established a settlement in 1638. After 100 years, the Dutch abandoned the settlement because of cyclones and its overall deterioration. France took control of it in 1715. A prosperous economy based on sugar production developed.
During the Napoleonic Wars, the French surrendered the island to the British. The surrender’s terms allowed them to keep their property, land, language, and legal system. In 1968, the island became independent from Britain.
Politics and Government
The Republic of Mauritius is a parliamentary republic. The Prime Minister is the Head of Government, while the President is the Head of State and Commander in Chief. The President is required to uphold and defend the Constitution of Mauritius and ensure that the institutions of democracy and rule of law are protected, the fundamental rights of all are respected and the unity of diverse Mauritian nation is maintained and strengthened.
The government is usually elected every five years, the last election took place in 2012 as President Sir Anerood Jugnauth resigned. Rajkeswur Kailash PURRYAG was elected president in July 2012. The current office-holder is Barlen Vyapoory who is serving on an acting capacity following Ameenah Gurib-Fakim’s resignation. The President’s official residence is the State House. There is no standing army and all military and security functions are performed by the 10,000 personnel under the Commissioner of Police.
Mauritius is part of the Mascarene Islands along with Reunion and Rodrigues. Undersea eruptions 8-10 million years ago formed the islands. The islands are not volcanically active. The highest peak is Piton de la Petite Riviere Noire at 828 meters.
There is a tropical climate with southeast trade winds. The winter from May to November is warm and dry. From May to September, Anti-cyclones affect the country and cyclones do so from November to April.
Districts and Dependencies
The nine districts in Mauritius are Black River, Flacq, Grand Port, Moka, Panplemousses, Plaines Wilhems, Port Louis, Riviere du Rempart, and Savenne.
Rodrigues is a separate island that gained autonomy from Mauritius in 2002. Other islands that are part of Mauritius are Agalega and Cargados Carajos.
Mauritius has also claimed territory that is part of other nations, such as Tromelin Island and Chasgos Archipelago.
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 inflation rate picked up to 6.9% in February 2018, compared to 1.3% a year earlier. The main price increases affected vegetable products as local supply was hit by bad weather. However, the central bank’s core inflation measure, excluding more volatile items (such as food), remained under control at 2.9% in January 2018.
Mauritius has achieved steady and strong growth over the last several decades with it’s sound and prudent banking practices helping to mitigate negative effects of the global financial crisis. These sound governance and economic policies have resulted in a more equitable distribution, increased life expectancy, lowered infant mortality, and a much – improved infrastructure. The economy rests on sugar, tourism, textiles and apparel, and financial services, but expansion is looking to areas of fish processing, IT, communications technology, and hospitality. $1 billion has been invested into the banking sector alone.
The only transport methods inland are buses and taxis. Students, seniors, and the disabled have been able to transport for free since 2005. The capital has always had traffic problems, which make transportation difficult. Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport is the major airport in Mauritius.
Mauritius has free education for children born there from pre-primary through secondary. Based on education reforms in 2006, students must gain high marks in order to be admitted to National Colleges.
Mauritius’ population is estimated at 1,270,454 (2019). There are many ethnic groups including those from India, continental Africa, France, and China.
48.5 percent of the people are Hindus, 26.3 percent Roman Catholic, 6.4 percent other Christians, 17.3 percent Muslim, 1.5% Other.
Most of the Hindu and Muslims are from Indian descent and the Christians are typically Franco- Mauritians and Mauritian Creoles.
The constitution does not mention an official language and the citizens speak Mauritian Creole, English, French, and an ethnic language. The official language in Parliament is English, but the chair may be addressed in French as well. English is generally accepted as the official language, but Creole is the most widely used.
Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Urdu, Marathi, Hakka, Bhojpuri, and Gujarati are also spoken. Most Mauritian are bilingual if not trilingual.
Mauritian culture blends Creole, Chinese, Indian, and European aspects. Meals are commonly a combination of cuisines.
Rum production is widespread. The Dutch first introduced sugarcane in 1638. The French and British fully exploited the potential for sugarcane production.
Local music is known as the sega and has African roots. Goat-skin percussion instruments are used. The songs usually depict slavery or other social inequalities.
Mauritius was the fifth nation to issue postage stamps in 1847. The earliest stamps, the Red Penny and Blue Two Pence, are some of the most valuable stamps in the world.
There is also diverse literature in Creole, French, and English. The 2008 Nobel Prize in Literature recipient, Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio, lives on the island part of the year and is of Franco-Mauritian origin.
There are varied recreational activities. Water sports, deep sea fishing, windsurfing, surfing, water-skiing, and yacht cruising are available activities. Tamarin Bay is a world famous surfing location.