After becoming independent from Britain in 1968, the country of Mauritius began a diplomatic relationship with the United States that is still important today. Mauritius, a small island nation in the Indian Ocean, has become one of Africa’s most developed and stable economies, transforming itself from an impoverished country dependent on sugar to a middle-income nation with a diverse economy. Throughout this period of growth and success, the U.S. has been an important partner and has seen great benefits from foreign aid invested in Mauritius. There are three main ways the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Mauritius.
One of the biggest priorities for U.S. foreign aid in Mauritius is maritime security: keeping the Indian Ocean safe from piracy and crime. Maritime security allows for safer trade routes and prevents terrorism that could potentially spring up in the area.
Mauritius is one of the only countries in the region with a strong program for maritime protection and has been an important player in U.S. efforts to keep the Indian Ocean secure. U.S. foreign aid in Mauritius provides security officers with training that deals with counterterrorism methods, seamanship, forensics and maritime law enforcement. Without such measures in place, shipping and trading on the high seas, which have benefited the U.S. and Mauritius, could be more challenging.
Trade and Economic Growth
Mauritius is an example of how foreign aid is a form of investment. As the U.S. used foreign aid to develop Mauritius’ economy and improve trade relations, more and more U.S. businesses invested in Mauritius and experienced great results. The U.S. and Mauritius have a bilateral trade and investment agreement and are active trading partners.
As one of Africa’s most developed economies, Mauritius has engaged in many trade agreements and embraced free-market opportunities, some of which were only made possible with U.S. foreign assistance. In 2016, for example, the East Africa Trade and Investment Hub (funded by USAID) and Mauritius’ Board of Investment signed a Memorandum of Understanding to work together in investment promotion activities. The Hub also agreed to help Mauritius take advantage of trading opportunities with the U.S. and incentivize trade in the nation.
Since Mauritius’ has grown to an upper middle-income country and U.S. brands are purchased commonly in this new market, more than 200 companies and products from the U.S. do business in Mauritius. The U.S. exports agricultural and industrial machinery, jewelry and medical instruments to Mauritius and benefits from Mauritius imports such as textiles, precious stones, processed fish and sugar. Bilateral trade between these two countries is currently valued at $337 million.
Diplomacy and Political Stability
An important sector of U.S. foreign assistance is democracy, human rights and governance. Although Mauritius is already a multi-party democracy, foreign aid to Mauritius is still used to secure future democratic peace and stability in Mauritius and throughout Africa. Political stability in Africa is beneficial to the U.S., as unstable African countries that lack strong governments sometimes become havens for terrorism, threatening national security.
One way that foreign aid is used to foster diplomacy with Mauritius is through exchange programs such as the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). This program, started by President Obama in 2010, is an important U.S. effort to invest in future African leaders. The YALI program’s goal is to educate and network young African leaders to work for a peaceful future in Africa.
Since 2010, 66 Mauritians participated in the YALI program in the U.S. and then returned to their country to start new businesses, organizations and programs. There are also Mauritians involved in the YALI Regional Leadership Center in South Africa. These centers act as hubs throughout Africa that enhance leadership skills and teach young people to play important roles in their communities. There are about 1,300 members from Mauritius in the YALI Network, which continually provides online resources for young leaders to learn the skills and connections needed to bring change to their communities and stability to their countries.
These examples demonstrate how the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Mauritius and the importance of this partnership both now and in the future.
– Alexandra Eppenauer