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City Profiles

How an island 1/300th the size of most African countries succeeds as a tech business destination

June 24, 2014  »  City ProfilesNo Comment

Mauritius, located in the Indian Ocean, is geographically 300 times smaller than most African nations – yet it outshines most African nations in terms of ICT usage and business environment.

There’s a great spirit of innovation on the island of Mauritius. Despite its remote location nearly 2,000km off the coast of mainland Africa, the island is well-connected with international fibre capacity and the government has taken strides to ensure a high level of ICT access. There is also a strong commitment by both pubic and private sector toward making Mauritius a “Smart State.” Such focus has allowed Mauritius to outshine neighboring Réunion island (and Madagascar) as a destination for technology startups.

The World Economic Forum annual Global Information Technology Report finds Mauritius, above all, to have a high level of laws relating to ICT and VC availability. At the same time, the 2014 WEF report found economic impacts of ICT to be low (globally, at least, though still strong within the African context). Mauritius dominated most African nations in ICT indicator sub-categories. Hopefully, Mauritius can capitalize on having a fairly dense population (easier mobile coverage), immediate access to undersea SAT3/SAFE and LION cables, and a motivated government who supports tech job creation. Also noteworthy is that LTE has been deployed for nearly two years in Port Louis and Ebène though it is primarily useful around business areas.

Last week, for example, the Department of Information Technology and Communication and the telecommunications operator Emtel organized a conference on using ICT to strengthen the economy. A minister stressed how human capital that can develop the country’s economy by investing in ICTs. Such a task will take the right combination of foreign investment, a national focus on creating the right environment for tech startups, and general infrastructure improvements. All of which Mauritius has.

Recent conversions with Olivier Alais (security engineering/network design/open source software expert and co-founder of Soukeina) further support why Mauritius has potential to lead the region as center for tech business. For one, Mauritius continues to build an impressive cyber city (Ebéne). Two new business incubators will be open by the end of the summer. A national research and education network is on its way too.

AfriNIC (African Network Information Center), the regional Internet registry (RIR) for Africa, is based in Ebéne. The organization is playing a major role in pushing to improve Africa’s ICT infrastructure. They also are great at recruiting and training amazing developers. For example, the young Mauritian developer Logan Velvindron just got a prize from Google for his investment in OpenBSD, OpenSSH and OpenSSL. Some developers are also involved in AfriNIC push for IPv6 adoption.

Also at Ebène, there are (at least) two new startups to follow, Zango and PongoSoft. They are innovating everyday with Open Source Software.

Hey, if the internet isn’t working there’s always the beach!

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