Mahen Govinda, Partner at ABAX spoke to MIFC Newsroom on how Mauritius IFC is a diversified economy and is geopolitically well positioned to act as an investment and trading bridge between Africa and Asia.   He has competencies in the fields of technology and finance. He has worked in various sectors ranging from Education, eGovernment, Investment Promotion and Global Business in Mauritius. He serves on the board of international companies and funds. Mahen has also overseen the implementation of the ISO 27001 and ISAE 3402 certifications at ABAX.

Mauritius Is a Place for Consolidation of Investment for A Fragmented Market

How do you think the  new identity of  Mauritius IFC is an opportunity to increase the leverage of Mauritius a financial services destination? 

There is a general consensus in Mauritius that the jurisdiction has all the attributes to become an International Financial Centre.  Mauritius has a diversified economy and is geopolitically well positioned to act as an investment and trading bridge between Africa and Asia. Mauritius has also built, over the years of being the investment structuring platform for India, an eco-system for the structuring of regional headquarters for enterprises doing business in Africa. When you look at Africa today, you have 54 different countries and Mauritius can be a place for consolidation and centralisation for investment and trade for a fragmented market. Mauritius could therefore attract multinationals and pan-African enterprises which will centralise functions such as treasury management, sales and marketing, procurement and shared services. These multinationals will generate direct and indirect economic activities and will definitely contribute to employment creation in the country.  In the medium to long term, we would see more enterprises listing, raising bank financing and corporate bonds in Mauritius. 

Mauritius should also have a clear plan to attract the primary decision makers such as the investment managers, fund managers, wealth and asset managers to set up shop on the island and to be physically present in the jurisdiction. It is important that more front office activities move to Mauritius and for that we should adopt a clear policy of attracting talents on the island who in turn will generate value added economic activities as well as additional employment. Finally, the concept of Mauritius IFC has to be strongly marketed to ensure we can communicate to the world that Mauritius is effectively a diversified economy and it can host and house regional headquarters.

What are the competitive edges of Mauritius as a Financial Centre?

The role that Mauritius can play for the region, especially for Africa, is the same role Singapore has been playing for Asia-Pacific. It is a place of consolidation of investments for a very fragmented market.   Mauritius can provide the same level of service compared to other jurisdictions such as Luxembourg, Singapore and Netherlands, and furthermore at a more competitive price. As I mentioned before, we already have the eco-system in place for serving global businesses. Coupled with this, the fact that we are bilingual puts us in a unique position to service both English and French speaking African countries. 

As an IFC for Africa, Mauritius would face strong competition from the UAE for the very obvious reason that Dubai has built a diversified set of free zones with very strong connectivity to practically all African countries. Mauritius remains very competitive for Africa from a strategic perspective yet it has to improve its connectivity, especially with Africa. 

ABAX has been an international provider of corporate management and advisory services for the last two decades.   What currently is your company's edge?

For years operators in our industry have been focusing on multinationals and funds structuring in Mauritius for investment into India.  ABAX was however amongst the very first to look toward Africa for business. Today the biggest share of business is Africa-driven, both in terms of source and destination of client investments. Additionally, we have now fully-fledged operations in Dubai and we are also offering services in Singapore. We are building up our network of representative offices with the latest one being in Ivory Coast which will complement our offices in South Africa, Kenya and London.  We are also now in a position to provide an integrated set of advisory, corporate and business services to a wide range of clients operating in various industries. We have a clear strategy of moving up the value chain with advisory services in Tax, Legal, Corporate Finance Advisory, ICT, Financial Analysis, Governance and Board Services. We also have a very strong team for Fund Administration services with an emphasis on Africa-focused funds.

Finally, as an operator in the Mauritius IFC, what synergies can be developed with revamped parastatal organisation, the Financial Services Promotion Agency, in promoting Mauritius as an International Financial Centre?

    I believe it is important to have a proper communication plan targeted international press and road shows with the business community in major cities to present the Mauritius IFC and the advantages that it can offer for the region. Moreover, I think charity starts at home. There is lot of communication that also needs to be done locally, in the press, in schools and universities. For instance, emphasise should be laid on Mauritius as an onshore and mid-shore industry, where one can do business from Mauritius and not necessarily through Mauritius.

Finally, FSPA needs to work closely with the financial services industry associations so that we can speak the same language and we all portray the Mauritius IFC in a unified manner.  

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.