East Africa has recently seen a surge in investments from Mauritius, with banking, insurance, agriculture, telecoms, trade as well as the oil and gas sectors receiving most of the capital.
Global consultancy firm Binder Dijker Otte says that investors from the Indian Ocean island nation are also eyeing the retail, real estate and hospitality sectors.
“There is a certain ease of doing business for Mauritian operators in East Africa, with the rule of law and a strong private sector making the region attractive,” said BDO experts.
Kenya has attracted the largest number of investors, with data showing that the islanders have invested over Ksh10 billion ($100 million) in the country, mostly in financial services and the sugar sector.
President Uhuru Kenyatta was recently in Mauritius on a four-day state visit where he met Prime Minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth. They agreed to jointly support private sector investments in the two countries, by reducing the bureaucratic procedures required to set up businesses.
“We can facilitate you to ensure that you prosper and our nations prosper so as to create jobs,” President Kenyatta told the Mauritius-Kenya Business Forum in Port Louis.
During the visit, the two countries re-signed the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement, which a Kenyan High Court had ruled as unconstitutional in March, citing a failure to conduct due diligence. The agreement is meant to ensure that the income earned by investors from the two countries is not taxed twice.
The Mauritius Union Assurance Company Ltd, the largest listed insurer by market capitalisation of $90 million, plans to boost its Kenyan investment by $30 million, through the acquisition of a local insurer.
“This investment is a sign of our confidence in the Kenyan economy and the greater East African region,” said Ashraf Musbally, the firm’s chief executive in charge of East Africa.
In 2014, MUA entered the region by acquiring Phoenix Trans Africa Holdings, with controlling shares in its subsidiaries in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda. The transaction was valued at $22 million.
In 2017, the State Bank of Mauritius Holdings Ltd acquired the troubled Kenyan lender Fidelity Commercial Bank through its subsidiary SBM Africa Holdings Ltd. Last year, SBM concluded the acquisition of Chase Bank, a mid-tier lender that had been put under receivership.
In Uganda, Mauritius Telecom Ltd expressed interest in acquiring a majority stake in Uganda Telecom Ltd last year. But the telco was later acquired by Nigerian telecom giant Taleology Holdings, which however, failed to raise 10 per cent of the $70 million by the January 26, 2019 deadline. The deal collapsed, forcing Kampala to go back to the market to shop for another buyer.
In Tanzania, Australia’s General Petroleum Oils and Tools Pty Ltd acquired a 50 per cent interest in AAA Drilling Ltd (AAA Mauritius), a wholly owned Mauritian subsidiary of the Australian-based mining and energy company, Intra Energy Corporation. The Tanzanian subsidiary, AAA Tanzania, plans to expand its operations in the region.
In Rwanda, several Mauritian investors have expressed interest in investing in the country. Last year, Bank of Kigali sold a 30 per cent stake in its general insurance business to Swan Insurance of Mauritius for an estimated Rwf860 million ($948,276). JurisTax, a Mauritian financial services firm, also plans to enter the Rwandan market.
Last month, Mauritian cyber security firm Secure Services (Mauritius) Ltd started operations in Rwanda, targeting insurance companies and other financial institutions.
Proxifresh, another Mauritian company, exports Rwandan French beans.
Mauritian firms are already in the sugar sector in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Ivory Coast.