Celebrating 50 Years of Mauritian Independence


See your Sunday trip to the beach, your friendly chat with a neighbour or your child’s education in the context of the Mauritian legacy, and perhaps it will serve to stir in you a greater understanding of what half a century of Mauritian independence truly means


There are many wonderful associations that Mauritians hold with regard to their country, from something as simple as taking a stroll down one of the many golden beaches dotted around the island, through to the sense of comfort they feel when they think of their home town. The world too holds Mauritius in high esteem, if not for its paradisiacal allure then for its economic prowess – ‘Africa’s little tiger’ being the term that has been earned following years of positive growth. Yet this path of natural beauty, communal integrity and economic productivity was not a preordained destination for Mauritius.


Do not see 12 March simply as a celebration of state sovereignty, but of what has been created with this sovereignty. See your Sunday trip to the beach, your friendly chat with a neighbour or your child’s education in the context of the Mauritian legacy, and perhaps it will serve to stir in you a greater understanding of what half a century of Mauritian independence truly means…”


The 50th anniversary of an independent Mauritius marks a significant milestone for the country. A nation which for so many centuries functioned as the exploitative playground of European colonisers, reaches its 50th year of surmounting this tumultuous history. The land’s rich sugar holdings and its geographical location, which made it a pivotal trading route by providing a gateway between Africa and Asia, had attracted the attention of European powers. Successfully colonised by the Dutch, French and British from the 16th century up to independence in the 20th century, the little island endured a succession of extractive economies, coupled with slavery and indentured labour forces.

As a result, Mauritius, as with many countries across Africa that suffered from the blows which were dealt by their colonial past, was not poised to succeed. Hundreds of years of abuse by major powers, alongside inherent geographical afflictions, had left the island underdeveloped and therefore hugely susceptible to an unstable future. Indeed, seven years prior to independence, the Nobel Prize winning British economist James Edward Meade had predicted a poor future of development for Mauritius. Meade cited a number of factors including a lack of industrial diversity, haphazard weather conditions and an ever-growing population, amongst many others.

Today, Mauritius is one of Africa’s most prosperous nations. Throughout critical stages of independence, between 1977 and 2008, GDP growth averaged at around 4.6%, with 2017 averaging 3.9%. Contrary to Meade’s predictions, Mauritius expanded beyond sugar production, developing sustainable textile, tourist, healthcare and oceanic industries. Presently, advanced IT and energy technologies, as well as knowledge-based industries, are being developed at a steady rate.


The small island has achieved an unprecedented degree of social harmony. Such a plethora of cultures and ethnicities would in most places across the world generate significant fractions and irreparable divisions. Mauritius has for the most part been able to manoeuvre this multiplicity into an admirable cohesion…”


Further still, the small island has achieved an unprecedented degree of social harmony. Such a plethora of cultures and ethnicities would in most places across the world generate significant fractions and irreparable divisions. Mauritius has for the most part been able to manoeuvre this multiplicity into an admirable cohesion, with minimal levels of violence having ever plagued the country since independence, barring a handful of relatively minor riots.

These astounding achievements have been the result of a remarkable combination of prudent governance (yes, politicians aren’t all a bunch of selfish folk) in the face of a cataclysmic history, matched with a people of calibre, who do not allow stark ethnic and cultural divisions to metastasize into devastating civil wars or congregate into violent upheavals.

It is easy to overlook these accomplishments, and forget their relevance to the island’s enchantments. The preservation of natural beauty, communal spirit and economic growth through the past 50 years could not have been realised without the measures and qualities that have been persistently demonstrated by the Mauritian people.

So then perhaps it would be wise for Mauritians, on this joyous occasion, to take a moment and reflect on their own achievements, as a people and as a nation. Do not see 12 March simply as a celebration of state sovereignty, but of what has been created with this sovereignty. See your Sunday trip to the beach, your friendly chat with a neighbour or your child’s education in the context of the Mauritian legacy, and perhaps it will serve to stir in you a greater understanding of what half a century of Mauritian independence truly means.

Most importantly, however, is that this anniversary should be a day from which a view of the future is drawn. If Mauritius is to enjoy further prosperity, then she must act with the same values and attitudes that have gotten her to where she is today. If the past is anything to go by, then one can certainly hope that this will prove to be the case.

 

* Published in print edition on 9 March 2018

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