[photopress:zone_Mauritius_MAp_1.jpg,full,alignright]China plans to open a trade development zone in Terre Rouge, Mauritius, for more than a dozen Chinese firms, at a cost of around $730 million, making it the largest foreign direct investment in the country.
There are still no full details of the Shanxi Tianli Enterprises Business Park, but Mauritian officials say it will provide a launch pad for Chinese operations in the region.
As a member of trade blocs like the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the South African Development Community (SADC), Mauritius offers a gateway to African markets which comes to about half a billion people.
However, on the island itself not everyone is calm and contented about what is known as the Tianli project.
Tim Taylor, former chief executive of Rogers, one of Mauritius’ largest firms with interests in tourism and logistics, said, ‘It is one of these projects that … looks too good to be true. They need quite a lot of water, power, what have you. That is going to put a strain on the infrastructure.’
However the government is totally behind the project.
Finance Minister Rama Sithanen told reporters, ‘This is an investment of approximately 20 billion rupees ($734 million) over a five-year period that would create direct, indirect or induced jobs of about 40,000.’
That is a large project for a $9 billion economy with a workforce of just 550,000, Minister Sithanen said the Chinese zone will also create exports worth an estimated 6 to 7 billion rupees per year, almost 10% of Mauritius’ total last year.
There is some bobbing and weaving about how many people need to be brought in.
Minister Sithanen said, ‘We will give priority to local people but we know that we have an acute shortage of skills, so in some cases obviously we will need to recruit people from outside.’
[photopress:zone_Mauritius_2.jpg,full,alignleft]Around half of all foreign workers in Mauritius are Chinese. Unemployment on the island was 7.2% at the end of 2007.
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Sources: International Herald Tribune and Interactive Investor