Hon Sunil Bholah, Minister of Business and Cooperatives,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am happy to be among you today for the Workshop on 'Quality Standards ' which is funded by the European Union.
Let me thank both the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Regional Cooperation and the Ministry of Business and Cooperatives, for having taken the initiative to enhance export competitiveness of businesses in Mauritius.
This is in line with the spirit of economic cooperation under the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the European Union and the Republic of Mauritius.
This Workshop is a good example of the solid partnership between Mauritius and the European Union to support private sector development, particularly small and medium enterprises (SMEs), with the primary objective of creating better conditions for economic growth.
The European Union considers SMEs and entrepreneurship as key to ensuring economic growth, innovation, job creation, and social integration.
This is in coherence with the Prime Ministers' strategic vision as underlined in the National Export Strategy of Mauritius.
Over the past few years, the European Union has paid increasing attention to supporting SMEs in Africa.
The new EU approach, as highlighted last year at the EU-Africa Summit in Côte d'Ivoire, is to encourage EU businesses to invest in Africa to bring know-how and technology transfer, thereby boosting the private sector, SMEs and entrepreneurship. This is in line with the EU Economic diplomacy initiative.
The EU is also partnering with Mauritius on trade issues in order to help it reap the full benefits of the Economic Partnership Agreement.
Trade is a key driver of sustainable development which brings about gainful job creation and economic growth.
This is why we are putting more and more effort into supporting trade, entrepreneurship and an innovative private sector in Mauritius.
Various EU programmes complete each other:
This entails the setting up of an Electronic Platform for application and processing of various business licences and permits to enhance the ease of doing business.
Our support also aims at providing an enabling business environment that promotes transparency and predictability of the regulatory framework.
This modern and efficient practice will not only reduce the time and cost to the private sector, but will improve transparency, decrease possibilities for red-tape and corruption which would enhance good governance.
Here I would like to mention that the EU is currently providing technical support on improving service delivery of public institutions involved in regulatory and certification procedures. This will enable to reduce the cost of doing business and enhance trade facilitation.
Several initiatives are on-going to enhance SMEs development and in particular to the Mauritian agro-businesses on the need to adopt internationally recognised food safety systems and identification of Geographical Indications for Mauritian agro-based products.
Today’s event is a step in the right direction and is an ideal platform to better communicate and discuss concretely how we can jointly improve entrepreneurship.
Quality products are essential for the protection of consumers. Food safety is also important for the protection of consumer health. Producing quality products also contributes to environmental protection.
Technical regulations and standards are important and vary from country to country. The provisions under the EPA ensure that there are no obstacles for compliance to regulations, standards, testing, inspection and certification procedures.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Mauritius has a sizeable Small and Medium Enterprise (SMEs) sector contributing about 40% of GDP and employing about 55% of the workforce.
But Mauritian SMEs also face challenges in terms of improved quality, productivity and value addition.
Mauritius, being a member of COMESA and SADC, can take full advantage of the European Union financing to build regional value chains and better target regional markets.
Last year, under the EU funded SADC Trade Related Facility, the European Union has provided nearly MUR 60 million (EUR 1.4 million) to the Mauritian Government focusing primarily on enhancing productivity and development of regional markets for SMEs.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Regional Cooperation should ensure coherence and coordination for EU support projects that are implemented at both national and regional level so that SMEs can reap the maximum benefits.
Let me end by recalling that economic growth, SME development and job creation are not only important for the sake of the economy, but also to ensure growth that trickles down to everyone in society.
We all have a responsibility to work together to create an enabling environment to provide long-term opportunities for growth.
Our support is there to make a difference.