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Mauritius

The History of Mauritius Island and its Rise to a Super African Economy

Colonial History of Mauritius Island

If the colonial history of Mauritius Island is anything to go by, then Mauritius has got to be one of the most desirable countries in the world. The island was colonized by Arabs, Portuguese, French, Dutch and British nationalities. The Island of Mauritius was first discovered by Arab sailors in the 9th century and dubbed Dina Arobi. The Arabs found the island uninhabited at the time. The Arabic nautical charts are some of the earliest evidence of Arab occupancy on the islands.

In 1505, Don Pedro Mascarenhas, a Portuguese sailor, discovered the island and named it Cerne. He was later accorded the title, Viceroy of Portuguese-India.

In 1507, the Portuguese sailor, Diogo Fernandes Pereira, named the island Ilha do Cisne (The Island of the Swan). In 1528, Rodrigues Island was named after another Portuguese navigator, Diogo Rodrigues.

In 1958, the Dutch settlers discovered the island through the southeastern side and called it Warwyck Haven (now Grand Port). Mauritius was initially colonized by the Dutch and named Mauritius after Mauritz de Nassau, the Prince of Holland. The rule lasted from 1958 to 1712.

In 1713, the French accessed Grand Port bay and colonized the island. They named the bay Port Bourbon and the island Ile de France. With Port Louis as the headquarters, Mahe de Labordannois ruled from 1735 to 1746. The French established a naval base in the Indian Ocean. They also stimulated a robust sugarcane economy. The French Revolution of 1789 weakened the French reign on Mauritius Island.

The French rule was contested by the British in August 1810 during the famous Battle of Grand Port. The British contest succeeded in December 1810. They conquered the island in 1814 during the Napoleonic Wars via the Treaty of Paris. Mauritius became a British naval base and later an air station during World War II. Prime Minister Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam ruled Mauritius until March 1968, when the country gained independence from the British.

History of Mauritius Island
The Battle of Grand Port: Image by Wikipedia

Administrative units in Mauritius

The Government of Mauritius advocates for a capitalistic economy in all its administrative districts. The nine districts on the island are Grand Port, Pamplemousses, Flacq, Black River, Moka, Savanne, Riviere du Rempart, Planes Wilhems, and Port Louis, which is the capital city. Famous towns and cities in Mauritius include Port Louis, Beau Bassin, Mahebourg, Charamel, Blue-Bay, Curepipe, Phoenix, Flic en Flac, Bel Ombre, Grand Bay, and Graneretraite. All these towns have been instrumental in developing a thriving economy.

Population, Religion, and Languages are spoken on Mauritius Island

The Republic of Mauritius has a population of about 1.37 million people with Indians forming the bulk of the population. The populace is multiracial as a result of colonization by different nationalities. The main religions practiced in Mauritius include Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism.

The harmonious living and stability of the island make it highly desirable to live in.

English is the official language spoken on the island. Mauritian Creole is a popular language used that borrows many French words. Due to the presence of other nationalities, you may hear languages used in South Africa, Chinese, French, Hindi, Hakka, Marathi, Tamil, Bhojpuri, Urdu, Telugu, and Mandarin.

Art and culture

The history of Mauritius Island is largely represented through art and culture. Mauritius boasts of two known UNESCO World Heritage sites.

  1. The Le Morne Brabant Cultural Landscape. This isolated island gave refuge to runaway slaves (also called maroons) between the 18th and 19th centuries.
  2. The Aapravasi Ghat. These are the ruins of the former Immigration Depot in Port Louis. In this building complex, “the British colony initiated the great experiment” on indentured labor. Indentured labor mainly comprised Indians who were sent to work on British-owned plantations.
Le Morne Brabant
Le Morne Brabant: Image courtesy of VYMaps.com

The Black River Gorges National Park is set for approval as a third heritage site.

 Museums and galleries

The art of painting gurus like Vaco Baissac, Henri Le Sidaner, Raouf Oderuth, and Malcolm de Chazal is displayed in the Mauritius Institute, Palace Theatre, Port Louis Theatre, and Mauritius Archives. Gabriel Wiehe is a bigwig in illustration and graphic design. Mauritius “post office” stamps are among the scarcest postage stamps globally. They are displayed in the Penny Museum.

Blue-Penny-Museum
The Blue Penny Museum: Sourced from thecrazytourist.com

Literature hub

The island is blessed with prolific writers such as Nobel Peace Prize holder of 2008, J. M. G Le Clezio. Other writers include Malcolm de Chazal, Khal Torabully, Amanda Devi, Dev Virahsawmy, Marie Therese Humbert, and Aqiil Gopee. In the quest to popularize the Creole language, Dev Virahsawmy has written poetry and plays in Creole. The Le Prince Maurice Prize is occasionally awarded to encourage and reward stellar literature work.

Music and festivals

The island is home to the Sega music genre. You can also find Bhojpuri songs, Indian classical, and Western classical.

Sega Dance in Mauritius
Sega Dance: Image courtesy of themagicoftraveling.com/

Festivals held on the island represent multiple ethnic communities and religions practiced.

  • Hindus celebrate Maha Shivatree, Thimithi, Divali, Holi, Durga Puja, and Raksha Bandhan festivals.
  • Grand Bassin Lake is a cultural site where Hindus make offerings during the Maha Shivatree festival.
  • Muslims celebrate Eid ul Fitr, Eid ul Hajj and Eid ul Adha.
  • Christians celebrate Christmas, Pere Laval, and All Saints Day.
  • The Chinese have the Chinese Spring Festival.
  • Tamil celebrate Thaipoosam Cavadee.
  • Other public festivals to celebrate culture and history include Abolition of Slavery Day, Republic Day, Labour Day, Arrival of Indentured Laborers Day, and Sunburn Beach Festival.

The Economic History of Mauritius Island

Mauritius has a conducive and supportive economic environment that supports healthy business competition and investments. It is strategically located between Africa and Asia, covering a substantial economic bloc.

The island uses the Mauritian Rupees (MUR) as a currency unit.

Tourism is the fourth top income earner in Mauritius. Tourism promotes major shopping in Grand Bay, Balaclava Ruins, Flacq Market, Poncini Jewelry, Mauritius Glass Gallery, Good lands Village, Historic Marines boat factory, and Port Louis.

Imports and exports (sugar, sugarcane, textile, tea, tobacco).and bunkering ships at St. Louis Port promote a robust port industry.

Port Louis
Modern-day Port Louis: Image by shermanstravel.com

Transport

Traversing between the islands and within can be facilitated by sea, air, rail, and road network. Sea travel involves boats, yachts, and submarines. Tram is a light rain line dubbed the Metro Express. Within the island, you can use car rentals, buses, taxis, trains, helicopters, and light aircraft. The main airport is the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport, found at the Plaisance.

Technology

Ebene City in Mauritius is the central headquarters of the African Network Information Centre (AFRINIC). AFRINIC is Africa’s internet registry and connects multiple optical cables. They include South Africa Far East Cable (SAFE), Lower Indian Ocean Network Cable (LION), and the Mauritius-Rodrigues Submarine Cable.

The History of Mauritius Island in Regional and Global Accolades 

The cultural biodiversity in Mauritius has heavily contributed to its success. All the nationalities on the island united to form a peaceful place where they could all co-exist. Over the years, the Republic of Mauritius has topped regional and global charts for being one of the most aggressive economies in the world. The country has been merited on many fronts, including business, environmental care, and national peace. The following are some of the notable recognitions:

  • The only African nation with full democracy
  • The only African country with a high Human Development Index
  • Africa’s most competitive and advanced economy in Africa
  • The most peaceful nation as per the Global Peace Index
  • It was endorsed in 2011 by World Health Organization (WHO) as the second country with a high air quality index.
  • In 2019, it was ranked #100 out of 172 countries in the Forest Landscape Integrity Index
  • The most spectacular deep-sea fishing globally and hosts the Marlin World Cup every March
  • Won the World Leading Island Destination and the World’s Best Beach Award during the World Travel Awards ceremony.
  • One of the largest exclusive global economic zones with a coverage of 3 million square kilometers
  • Ranked number 9 globally for having a free market economy.
  • It has a hybrid legal and regulatory framework. It provides tax holidays to boost some economic sectors.
  • Mauritius was dubbed the Success of Africa for transforming a plummeting agricultural economy into a robust and advantageous agrarian sector.
  • It has an excellent record in advocating for Human Rights, making it the most stable democracy in Africa
  • It is among the top African nations with high per capita income with 32000 offshore entities. It is among Africa’s wealthiest countries.
  • The highest population density in Africa and number 21 globally.

The Success of Africa

Despite being the most populated African nation with a history of intense slavery, Mauritius has proven that cultural inclusivity and hard work can yield remarkable economic strides. Today, millions of people stream to this island to explore its stunning geographical features and benchmark strategic economic policies.