By Zeenat Moorad
Over the last 18 months, South African franchising giant Famous Brands (FBR) has doubled its presence in Mauritius, in hopes of cashing in on the strategically located island nation which has emerged as a competitive destination for foreign investment.
According to the World Economic Forum's latest Global Competitiveness report Mauritius was one of two sub-Saharan African economies in the top half of the Global Competiveness Index rankings.
The country has in three decades transformed from a mono-crop sugar dominated economy, to a services-orientated one, with a growth rate of 3% per annum.
Located off the southeast coast of the African continent, Mauritius is ranked 54th on the index this year, up one place since 2010, and is the second-highest ranked country in the region after SA.
"The country benefits from strong and transparent public institutions, with clear property rights, strong judicial independence, and an efficient government," the report noted.
Famous Brands chief executive officer Kevin Hedderwick told I-Net Bridge/BusinessLIVE, that the group had expanded its brand repertoire quite rapidly in Mauritius.
"We had just Steers and Wimpy, then we added Fishaways and we're now in the process of adding Debonairs Pizza and Mugg & Bean.
"From an economic point of view Mauritius has performed well - it has a very stable economy and government and lots of tourism opportunity," he said.
The Mauritian government earlier this year embarked on a tourism drive aimed at increasing the number of tourists to two million per annum.
And Famous Brands is not the only local player in the food space eyeing the country.
In September, Ocean Basket Holdings through a Master Licensee opened an Ocean Basket restaurant at the new Bagatelle Mall in the heart of Mauritius, between Port Louis and the emerging Cyber City growth zone.
A Master Licensee is granted the right to serve as the group's agent in a territory, where they manage the business on behalf of the group, in exchange for a royalty payment for use of the group's intellectual property and business systems.
PedroDe Sambentoa, a director at Ocean Basket told I-Net Bridge/BusinessLIVE that the interest to open in Mauritius actually came from Mauritian developer ENL.
"There was demand for the brand. There's also a South African presence with an established expat community," he said.
Ocean Basket aims to open four more stores within the next five years in Mauritius.
De Sambento noted that the group was also extending its footprint in the Middle East and Africa.
"We're opening in the Dubai International Airport terminal; we'll then be adding another one [store] in the city centre in the second quarter of 2012." An additional 'two or three stores' were planned for 2013.
"In terms of Africa our first Nigerian restaurant will open in March next year and we're looking at Mozambique and Angola," he said.
Ocean Basket is a franchise company, wholly owned by four partners in SA. It has 135 restaurants in SA, four in Cyprus, three in Namibia and two in Zambia.
In June, at the African National Congress (ANC) Progressive Business Forum in Grand Bay, Mauritius, Dr Mathews Phosa, treasurer-general of the ANC said Mauritius was a serious business and commercial destination.
"Mauritius... [is] a gateway to Asia, Australia and Africa... the result is that investors from all major capital-exporting countries of the world are successfully doing business with it [Mauritius]," he said.
The core objective of the forum's visit was to mobilise businesses in Mauritius and in SA to trade globally, to enter new markets, show innovation and soften economic boundaries. According to Phosa 30,000 global companies were doing business in Mauritius.
This week, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the World Bank said that for the fourth year in a row, Mauritius was the easiest place in sub-Saharan Africa for an entrepreneur to do business, with a global rank of 23.
The country trumped France, Chile and Switzerland.
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