(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)
|Introduction||Although known to Arab and Malay sailors as early as the 10th century, Mauritius was first explored by the Portuguese in 1505; it was subsequently held by the Dutch, French, and British before independence was attained in 1968. A stable democracy with regular free elections and a positive human rights record, the country has attracted considerable foreign investment and has earned one of Africa’s highest per capita incomes. Recent poor weather, declining sugar prices, and declining textile and apparel production, have slowed economic growth, leading to some protests over standards of living in the Creole community.|
|History||The first record of Mauritius comes from Arab and Malay sailors as early as the 10th century. The Portuguese sailors first visited it in 1507 and established a visiting base leaving the island uninhabited. Three ships of the eight Dutch Second Fleet that were sent to the Spice Islands were blown off course during a cyclone and landed on the island in 1598, naming it in honor of Prince Maurice of Nassau, the Stadtholder of the Netherlands. In 1638, the Dutch established the first permanent settlement. Because of tough climatic conditions including cyclones and the deterioration of the settlement, the Dutch abandoned the island some decades later. France, which already controlled the neighboring Île Bourbon (now Réunion) seized Mauritius in 1715 and later renamed it Île de France (Isle of France). Under French rule, the island developed a prosperous economy based on sugar production. This economic transformation was initiated in part by governor François Mahé de Labourdonnais.
During their numerous military conflicts with Great Britain, the French harboured the outlawed “corsairs” (privateers or pirates) who frequently took British vessels as they sailed between India and Britain, laden with valuable trade goods. In the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815) the British set out to gain control of the island. Despite winning the Battle of Grand Port, Napoleon’s only naval victory over the British, the French lost to the British at Cap Malheureux three months later. They formally surrendered on 3 December 1810, on terms allowing settlers to keep their land and property and to use the French language and law of France in criminal and civil matters. Under British rule, the island’s name reverted to the original Mauritius.
In 1965, the United Kingdom split the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius to create the British Indian Ocean Territory in order to use the strategic islands for defence purposes in co-operation with the United States. Although the Government of Mauritius agreed to the move at the time, subsequent administrations have laid claim to the islands stating that the divestment was illegal under international law, a claim recognised by the United Nations.
Mauritius attained independence in 1968 and the country became a republic within the Commonwealth in 1992. Mauritius has been a stable democracy with regular free elections and a positive human rights record, and has attracted considerable foreign investment earning one of Africa’s highest per capita incomes.
|Geography||Location: Southern Africa, island in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar
Geographic coordinates: 20 17 S, 57 33 E
Map references: Political Map of the World
Area: total: 2,040 sq km
land: 2,030 sq km
water: 10 sq km
note: includes Agalega Islands, Cargados Carajos Shoals (Saint Brandon), and Rodrigues
Area – comparative: almost 11 times the size of Washington, DC
Land boundaries: 0 km
Coastline: 177 km
Maritime claims: measured from claimed archipelagic straight baselines
territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200 nm or to the edge of the continental margin
Climate: tropical, modified by southeast trade winds; warm, dry winter (May to November); hot, wet, humid summer (November to May)
Terrain: small coastal plain rising to discontinuous mountains encircling central plateau
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Indian Ocean 0 m
highest point: Mont Piton 828 m
Natural resources: arable land, fish
Land use: arable land: 49.02%
permanent crops: 2.94%
other: 48.04% (2005)
Irrigated land: 220 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 2.2 cu km (2001)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 0.61 cu km/yr (25%/14%/60%)
per capita: 488 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: cyclones (November to April); almost completely surrounded by reefs that may pose maritime hazards
Environment – current issues: water pollution, degradation of coral reefs
Environment – international agreements: party to: Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: the main island, from which the country derives its name, is of volcanic origin and is almost entirely surrounded by coral reefs
|Politics||Mauritius is a parliamentary democracy based on the United Kingdom model. The head of state of Mauritius is the President, who is elected for a five-year term by the National Assembly, the unicameral Mauritian parliament. The National Assembly consists of 62 members elected directly by popular vote, with between four and eight further members appointed from “best losers” election candidates to represent ethnic minorities, if under represented after the elections. The government is headed by the prime minister and a council of ministers.
The Government is elected on a five-year basis. The most recent general elections took place on 3 July 2005 in all the 20 mainland constituencies, as well as the constituency covering the island of Rodrigues.
Historically, elections have always had a tendency to adhere to a system comprising two major coalitions of parties.
In international affairs, Mauritius is part of the Indian Ocean Commission, the Southern African Development Community and the Commonwealth of Nations and La Francophonie (French speaking countries) amongst others. A more complete list can be found in the main Politics of Mauritius article.
In 2006, Mauritius asked to be an observing member of Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP) in order to become closer to those countries.
|People||Population: 1,274,189 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 23% (male 148,573/female 143,859)
15-64 years: 70.1% (male 443,968/female 449,670)
65 years and over: 6.9% (male 35,269/female 52,850) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 31.5 years
male: 30.6 years
female: 32.3 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 0.8% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 14.64 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 6.55 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: -0.09 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.99 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.67 male(s)/female
total population: 0.97 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 12.56 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 14.94 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 10.06 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 73.75 years
male: 70.28 years
female: 77.4 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.83 children born/woman (2008 est.)