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The Russia-Mauritius agenda: Interview with H.E. Indira Savitree Thacoor-Sidaya

Kester Kenn Klomegah



The Republic of Mauritius is an island nation in the Indian Ocean, about 2,000 kilometres (1,200 km) off the southeast coast of the African continent. It possesses a wide range of natural and man-made attractions, enjoys a tropical climate with clear warm sea waters, attractive beaches, tropical fauna and flora complemented by a multi-ethnic and cultural population that is friendly and welcoming.

These tourism assets are its main strength, especially since they are backed up by well-designed and run hotels, and reliable and operational services and infrastructures. Mauritius is one of the world’s top luxury tourism destinations. Mauritius received the World Leading Island Destination award for the third time and World’s Best Beach at the World Travel Awards in January 2012.

Mauritius is ranked high in terms of economic competitiveness, a friendly investment climate, good governance and a free economy. It has strong and friendly relations with various African and foreign countries. For instance, Mauritius and Russia have good diplomatic relations.

As part of our sustainable efforts to highlight the current Russia’s relations with individual African countries, Kester Kenn Klomegah interviewed the Ambassador of the Republic of Mauritius to the Russian Federation, Indira Savitree Thacoor-Sidaya. She discusses some of the issues on the Russia-Mauritius agenda, expresses satisfaction with the current level of bilateral relations and outlines further steps necessary to be taken to deepen Russia-Mauritius cooperation especially in trade, economic and tourism areas.

What are your Government’s priorities and expectations in the Russian Federation? And most probably in other ex-Soviet republics, do you have the same business agenda?

Our Government’s objectives are to improve investments and trade from Russia and other ex-Soviet republics interested in doing business in Mauritius. We also have a policy of openness and make it easy for eligible foreign investors and talents to work and live in Mauritius.

Foreign Direct Investment: As a small open economy, Mauritius needs foreign direct investments (FDI). Since 2009, Mauritius has been attracting more than $300 million FDI every year. The main sources have remained the traditional markets of UK, France, India and South Africa. Mauritius would wish to attract investors from the Russian Federation to invest in Mauritius and, through Mauritius, into Africa.

From an agricultural base dominated by sugarcane, Mauritius has had a sustained economic growth, diversifying into tourism, textiles and manufacturing, financial services, ICT and seafood processing among others.

The ocean economy is seen as the next driver of our growth, transforming our small island state into a 1.9 km2 Ocean State ( Seven priority areas are identified:

• Seabed exploration for hydrocarbon and minerals
• Fishing, seafood processing and aquaculture
• Deep ocean water applications
• Marine services (including marine finance, marine ICT, marine biotechnology and ship registration)
• Seaport-related activities
• Marine renewable energies
• Ocean knowledge cluster

Mauritius also has a prominent role as the gateway to invest in Africa. Mauritius has the best governance in Africa (1st in Mo Ibrahim’s Index of Governance since its creation), the easiest investment climate (1st in Africa and among Top 20 globally in World Bank’s Doing Business Index), economic freedom (1st in Africa and 8th globally in the Economic Freedom Index of Heritage Foundation/Wall Street Journal, and the Fraser Institute). With strong hard and soft infrastructure and a reputable international financial centre, Mauritius offers an ideal platform to invest in Africa.

Trade: Through membership to free trade areas such as the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and Southern African Development Community (SADC), Mauritius benefits from preferential trade access. In addition, Mauritius is a signatory to AGOA which provides duty free and quota free access for specific products into the US market. We are also in the process of signing an Economic Partnership Agreement with the EU which will provide Mauritian goods with single transformation a duty-free access to the EU.

In addition, Mauritius has a well-developed Freeport where export-oriented Freeport companies benefit from a zero-tax regime for manufactured goods exported to Africa. Taken together, these represent a preferential market access to several hundreds of millions.

Work and Live in Mauritius: Since 2005, Mauritius has carried out an in-depth reform agenda to open the economy and streamline administrative procedures. International businesses can set up in Mauritius within three working days and three categories of foreigners namely investors, self-employed and professionals are allowed to work and live in Mauritius under an occupation permit delivered by the Board of Investment.

Discuss Russia’s economic footprints in Mauritius? Is your Government satisfied with Russia’s investment interest there as compared to other foreign players such as China and India?

Mauritius, which has had record years of attracting FDI from the EU, India and South Africa since 2006, has not witnessed significant flows from Russia. In comparison, Indian and Chinese entrepreneurs have been increasing their investments in Mauritius.

The Mauritius international financial centre, which has successfully attracted funds from India and China, loses to other jurisdictions such as Cyprus, BVI and Bermuda when it comes to Russian global funds. Yet, according to FDI Intelligence, Russians are investing in Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Seychelles and South Africa. Mauritius could be used as the platform for these investments.

Trade between Russia and Mauritius is also not very significant compared to neighboring India or China. Imports from Russia are principally manufactured goods and chemical products. There is no export from Mauritius to Russia per se. While tourism from Russia is improving, there is still a large untapped potential with less than 2% of tourists visiting Mauritius coming from the Russian Federation.

How does Mauritius also plan to engage Russia? How do you view possible trade exchanges between Russia and Mauritius now that some economic opportunities have opened for African countries to trade (export products) here?

Mauritius will need to conduct trade and investment promotion activities in Russia. Already, the Board of Investment (BOI), the national investment promotion agency is planning a mission next October. The Mauritius Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) has also been present regularly and has held meetings with its counterparts. A MoU was signed some years back between the MCCI and The Russian Chamber Of Commerce. It needs to be rekindled, reactivated….and so forth.

Finally, Enterprise Mauritius, responsible for the promotion of Mauritian exports, has Russian business community on its agenda. A MoU has already been prepared between our countries in the fishing sector.

How is Mauritius tourism business developing in Russia? Are the tourism numbers increasing compared to the previous years and what strategies would you like to adopt to further popularize your country’s recreational destinations?

Russian tourists have increased over the last three years with high occupancy rates in high-end luxury hotel such as St Regis and Four Seasons. But, I believe we still have to increase our efforts with a more aggressive marketing strategy to succeed in our goals because, it is sad to say that many Russians do not know much about this beautiful little island called Mavrici, in Russian language. More importantly, Russian visitors to Mauritius do not require visa prior to entering Mauritius.

To further promote Mauritius as a tourism destination in Russia, I led a delegation of 16 well known Russian Tour Operators, including the Vice President of RUTI (Russian Union Of Travel Industry), Mr Barzykin,Yuriy Aleksandrovich to my country. This tour was sponsored by the MTPA (Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority) and the Emirates Russia.

A  MoU in the tourism sector is also being prepared, with emphasis on cultural tourism, by the Ministry of Culture, also responsible for tourism, following two important meetings between myself and the Deputy Minister, Ms. Alla Manilova, (to be signed very soon with my country.) I have also had discussions with the General Director of Transaero, Mrs Olga Pleshkova, a couple of times in view of having more frequent direct flights to Mauritius. For the time being, Transaero is operating only during peak seasons (December to May).

In the meantime, I wish to thank the wonderful team from Aviareps, the organization that officially represents MTPA, in Russia (Mr Robert Obolgogiani, Ms Ekaterina Lenkova and Ms Victoria Mukranova) for their sustainable efforts towards promoting Mauritius as a tourism destination for the Russians. I also wish to thank the President of RUTI, Mr Shpilko Sergey Pavlovich and Mr Yuriy Schegolkov for their engagement to promote my country in the Russian Federation. 

Kester Kenn Klomegah is an independent researcher and writer on African affairs in the EurAsian region and former Soviet republics. He wrote previously for African Press Agency, African Executive and Inter Press Service. Earlier, he had worked for The Moscow Times, a reputable English newspaper. Klomegah taught part-time at the Moscow Institute of Modern Journalism. He studied international journalism and mass communication, and later spent a year at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. He co-authored a book “AIDS/HIV and Men: Taking Risk or Taking Responsibility” published by the London-based Panos Institute. In 2004 and again in 2009, he won the Golden Word Prize for a series of analytical articles on Russia's economic cooperation with African countries.

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World cannot stand idle as millions in DR Congo ‘suffer in silence’



Photo: Joseph Mankamba/OCHA-DRC

The dramatic deterioration in the humanitarian situation in the Democratic Republic over the past year has been further complicated by recent floods and health crises, the United Nations migration agency said Wednesday, appealing for urgent funding to ensure continued assistance and protection for millions in need.

“The humanitarian situation in the DRC is at breaking point as is our capacity to respond due to extremely limited funding,” said Jean-Philippe Chauzy, said the head of operations for the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM) in the country.

“The stories that Congolese, who have been forced from their homes, are telling us are bone-chilling. They have been through so much already – torture, rape and murder of their loved ones – we cannot stand idly by as they suffer in silence,” he added.

Speaking exclusively to UN News, Mr. Chauzy said: “If we don’t get that level of funding then, there are people who will die. I have to be clear with this. People will die.”

He said that the severe malnutrition rates in the Kasai have increased by 750 per cent largely because the people in the region have been displaced so often, three planting seasons have been missed.

Across the country, some 4.3 million remain displaced, of them 1.7 were forced from their homes last year. In 2018, over 13 million are feared to be in need of humanitarian assistance throughout the country. Children, young men, women and ethnic minorities are among the hardest hit, and nutrition, food-security and protection greatest needs.

Particularly worrying is that an estimated 4.7 million women and girls could be exposed to gender-based violence in crisis stricken areas.

However, in face of such daunting challenges, IOM’s response appeal is severely underfunded. Since the release of its appeal, only $3.5 million was received in 2017 and only 47 per cent of the overall inter-agency Humanitarian Response Plan (for 2017) was funded.

“Funding levels are at their lowest for many years, with DRC seeming to have ‘fallen off the map’ for many donors, at a time when we are facing vastly increased humanitarian needs,” added Mr. Chauzy, hoping that the same does not continue through 2018.

The UN agency has appealed for $75 million to urgently meet the growing needs of displaced Congolese and the communities hosting them in the eastern and south-central provinces of North and South Kivu, Tanganyika and the Kasai.

Its interventions in 2018 will focus on camp coordination management; displacement tracking; shelter and non-food items (NFIs); water, sanitation and hygiene; health; and protection.

According to IOM, a revised inter-agency Humanitarian Response Plan is to be released Thursday, 18 January.

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Second Sudanese National Conference on Inclusive Education



©UNESCO: Second Sudanese National Conference on Inclusive Education: Stage. Ministry of Social Welfare, Khartoum, Sudan, 17/12/2017

On 17 December 2017, the UNESCO Khartoum Office in collaboration with the Ministry of Education (MoE), Ministry of Social Welfare, the National Council for People with Disability (NCPD), National Commission for Education, Science and Culture, and OVCI (International NGO with Italian origin) organized the Second National Conference on Inclusive Education, which took place in Khartoum, Main Hall of the Ministry of Social Welfare. The first National Conference on Inclusive Education took place in June 2016.

More than 60 professionals working with disabled Sudanese students from different government bodies (including 18 Heads of the Special Needs Departments in MoEs from all the states of Sudan), academics and NGOs discussed different actual issues of their work.

The opening ceremony was welcomed by Dr. Awadia Alnigoumi, the director of the Special Needs Department in MoE, Dr. Ibtisam the director of the Quality Assurance Department in MoE, Dr. Rashid Eltigani, the general director of the National Council for People with Disabilities in Khartoum state, Dr. Layla Abdelazim Karrar, the head of the Special Needs Department in the Faculty of Education of the University of Khartoum, Dr. Eman Abdallal, National Center for Curriculum and Education Research, Mr. Nadir Babiker, the education officer of the NCPD, Mr. Bader Eldin Ahmed Hassan, the Secretary General of the National Council for People with Disability, and Ms. Asya Abdalla, the Minister of Education.

In the first session of the conference, Her Excellency the Minister of Education announced the decision of the president of Sudan to dedicate 2018 as the year for People with Disability. She thanked UNESCO for the efforts made in the inclusive education sector and the significant support the Ministry received; she requested to see more work in 2018. Her Excellency promised to finalize the establishment of the remaining Special Needs Departments in the remaining states. Mrs. Asya Abdalla encouraged the participants to have active discussions and continue their support and collaborations with partners, to create technical job opportunities and support the inclusive education directorate.

Dr. Aiman Badri, the education officer in UNESCO, convoyed the greetings of UNESCO Representative to Sudan, Dr. Pavel Kroupkine, and assured the full support of UNESCO to the efforts of the federal Ministry of Education to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially SDG4 on quality education. He enumerated the several books and training programs developed in 2016-17 for integrating disable children to usual classes of basic schools – achieved with the Special Needs Department in MoE. Dr. Aiman confirmed that the 2018-19 plan of the UNESCO Khartoum office includes further development of inclusive education in Sudan, and that UNESCO Khartoum together with UNICEF and WHO work on joint plans and projects to support MoE, focusing on designing the resource room for disabled students, its technical materials and the technical teacher training.

The second session headed by Dr. Aiman Badri, included a presentations about new special needs degree program and curricula (Dr. Layla Karrar from University of Khartoum), and about new developments in the legislations and laws relevant to people with disabilities (NCPD).

Dr. Bader Eldin Ahmed Hassan, the director of the National Council for People with Disabilities, headed the third session – with presentations about ground experience of inclusion of children with disability in ordinary school in frameworks of a project funded by EU (Mrs. Silvia Bonanomi, the director of OVCI Sudan), and about results of efforts of the Special Needs Department in MoE (Dr. Awadia Alngoumi).

At the end of the conference, the participants discussed and agreed on recommendations for focusing their work in 2018-19. The recommendations aimed to

The certification in the technical and vocational education and its compliance with the general education system for disabled students

  • Completing the resource rooms’ technical guide and assistant technical teacher training tools.
  • Eliminating differences of service quality – between the Khartoum state and the other of Sudan
  • Strengthening approaches / methods / tools of inclusive education available in Sudan

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Boko Haram attacks, human trafficking threaten progress in West Africa and Sahel



The security situation in West Africa and the Sahel remains of grave concern, the United Nations envoy for the region said Thursday, warning that while there had been progress on the political front over the past year, there had also been a worrying upsurge in Boko Haram attacks.

“Following a notable decline in Boko Haram attacks in the first half of the year, there has been an uptick in the number of incidents since September last year, with a peak of 143 civilian casualties alone in November 2017,” said Mohamed Ibn Chambas, Special Representative and Head of the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS).

In his repotrted a fivefold increase in the use of children as suicide bombers by Boko Haram, reaching some 135 cases in 2017.

Updating the Council on Mali, he said that terrorists launched a complex attack on the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission’s (MINUSMA) positions in Kidal, which resulted in one peacekeeper’s death, while three Malian soldiers were killed by a landmine and another by terrorists in Niono. Additionally, two separate attacks on security posts were registered in Burkina Faso near the Malian border.

“The attacks in Mali as well as within the Mali-Niger-Burkina Faso tri-border area are mainly attributed to A1-Qaida affiliated groups and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara,” he stated.

Turning to Niger, he noted that because of an increasing number of security incidents, the government has dedicated 17 per cent of 2018 public expenditure to the security sector – compared to 15 per cent last year.

“This has, however, triggered demonstrations in Niger’s capital given the expected detrimental effects on the delivery of social services,” he asserted.

The UN envoy pointed out that while 700 Boko Haram abductees have recently escaped, the group continues to kidnap people and that, overall, more than two million displaced persons “desperately” await an end to the Lake Chad Basin crisis.

Commending the efforts of the Multinational Joint Task Force operating in the region, he stressed that the comprehensive response of the region to address the Boko Haram threat “must be supported by the international community.”

He explained that in the Sahel, the Group of Five (G5) – Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger – had made significant progress in operationalizing its Joint Force, including by establishing its military command structure and Force headquarters in Sevarÿ and conducting its first military operation with French troops in late October.

Additionally, in line with Security Council resolution 2391 (2017), consultations among the UN, European Union (EU) and G5 are ongoing regarding the conclusion of a technical agreement on supporting the Joint Force through MINUSMA.

“The past six months have seen substantive progress in the efforts to reinvigorate UNISS,” he said, noting that a support plan would be shared with national, regional and international partners to harmonize approaches and canvass for effective support to the Sahel “in line with national and regional priorities, the UN Agenda 2030 and the AU Agenda 2063.”

Meanwhile, he noted that migration has become one of the most lucrative activities for criminal networks across West Africa and the Sahel.

“Stemming human trafficking must continue to be a top priority in 2018 as recently underscored by Secretary-General Guterres,” he affirmed.

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