The story of our tomorrow
I am honoured to have been asked by Business Magazine to contribute to the 2023 Business Yearbook. I was the Editor of the first edition of Business Yearbook Magazine 30 years ago, and that foundational exposure to the needs and potential of business enterprise, influenced my career in the public and private sectors, both here and in the UK and Europe. It helped me understand the realities of business, the complexity of government and private sector dynamics, the importance of a thriving and economically sustainable business community and the people of a country who are simultaneously citizens, consumers, employers and employees.
When given free rein and 1,300 words, it’s tempting to be self-indulgent and list all that we have achieved over the last 30 years and talk merely about the past from my perspective. Instead, I want to talk about our future, and leverage the lessons I have been privileged to learn from working in the public sector which gives a deep insight of the people, their thinking and way of doing things, international organisation – the complexity of navigating in culturally diverse and political environment, academia – which can be theoretical but intellectually rich and stimulating, and the private sector – which has to deal with reality that can be very brutal such as the 2008 financial crisis or the pandemic.
Businesses know that while we can learn from the past, we cannot dwell on it, because the future comes at us fast. It is the future that holds our greatest opportunities and our greatest threats. It is with this perspective that I want to take a proverbial look in the rear-view mirror before looking to our road ahead and considering some of the key strategies we need to adopt to help us survive and succeed in the future.
Innovation – embrace it, adopt it, invest in it
Businesses which constantly review what they are doing and how they are doing it and then embrace innovation are the businesses which survive and prosper. Successful businesses embrace change rather than Changing it. Mauritius has come a long way in the last 30 years, but our trajectory and development are not written in stone. Successful businesses understand that past achievements and proĆts don’t pay tomorrow’s bills.
Technological change has never been this fast and will never be this slow again.
When I was at Business Magazine in the early 1990s, there was no internet or email, no Google; instead we had Macintosh, pen and paper. Nowadays technology seems limitless – YouTube, Virtual Reality, Artificial Intelligence and so much that didn’t exist when the magazine started. In 30 years’ time, the technology we use today will be obsolete.
The things our children and grandchildren will see, the jobs they will do, and the industries they will work in will be as surreal to our 2023 eyes as Star Trek was to our 1993 eyes.
We cannot be content to compare ourselves with how we were, or how others are, but with where Mauritius could be. The world is more dynamic than it’s ever been, foundations that we thought were given are moving, technology is changing daily and human talent is no longer bound by geography. We must be proactive and embrace change, run towards it. Like successful businesses do.
Talent – Develop, Train, Retain, Attract
In the last 30 years the nature and range of Mauritian business has expanded. Business owners – small and large – have embraced change and it is this entrepreneurial drive that has improved the lives of so many. In the next 30 years, it will be the vision of our political leaders and the ambition, drive and success of our entrepreneurs that will provide the fuel for Mauritius to prosper.
But for this to happen, we need a sustainable pipeline of talent – skilled and qualiĆed people to work in our businesses, who earn well and spend locally. We need a generation of talent that will start new businesses. We need to invest in our young people and the question to ask is whether our education and training system is adapted to our today and our tomorrow. Are our youth getting the right training to develop a critical mind, are they equipped with the right skills and attitude when they enter the workforce?
Next, we need to retain them by providing them with fair and equal career opportunities. We are exporting the one thing we shouldn’t be proud of exporting – our best and brightest business and political leaders of the future. Many of our best young brains study abroad and never return – only returning for holidays or family events.
As our businesses develop and grow, they need increasing numbers of skilled and qualiĆed people. At the same time, other countries are in the same position and we have to compete in the increasingly competitive international market for talent. It’s understandable and good that our young talented professionals learn and beneĆt from living and working abroad, as I did and so do my children, but we need them to choose to return and contribute towards building tomorrow’s Mauritius.
We need to attract these smart, young Mauritians back by creating opportunities and the right environment for them to feel valued. It’s not just about money; young professionals have fantastic and exciting career choices all over the world these days. Let’s make no mistake. We are competing against the world – not our history or where we were 5 years ago.
Marketing Mauritius – Telling our stories, old and new
Innovation and Talent are two critical areas that are key to our success as businesses and as a country, but it is not enough. Every business owner knows this. We need to market Mauritius. Around the world people recognise the name of our country and they associate it with pleasure, leisure, beautiful beaches and friendly people. All these things are true. But we are so much more than that and we need to become so much more than what we are now.
We need to tell the world that Mauritius is also a great place to work, invest and live. Dubai successfully and consistently sold their story as a business hub and now it is one. Singapore has transformed itself in the last 58 years. We have to dream big, aim for the John F. Kennedy “the moon shot”.
Mauritius tops almost all global rankings for Africa. But we are in danger of being too complacent, other countries are moving fast and we could and ourselves as laggards rather than the leader that we have been. We have to articulate and chase big dreams and then focus on reaching them.
Social Justice and a fairer society for all
Undoubtedly, we need to aim for and trigger a quantum leap in terms of economic progress to establish the country as an attractive business destination, but this rising tide must lift all boats, small and big. Every citizen needs to feel they have a fair share of the pie. The “left behinds” is bad for social harmony and as businesses we need to grow our corporate and social footprint to ensure that the poor and vulnerable are part of our current and future story.
Bringing integrity and values back into our lives
Finally, let me say a few words on something that I care deeply about – integrity. We are living in an era where people are increasingly demanding, and rightly so, transparency, accountability and integrity. We must be able to restore trust in public life. But rather than criticising politicians and political leaders, we need to start with ourselves Ćrst. The story of our tomorrow is in our hands, and it is up to us to write that story so that our children come back. Let us join hands and build livelihoods and a legacy for the next generation.