Mapping the Socio-Economic Characteristics of Mauritius Critical for its Future Economic Growth

The Mauritian Miracle

The Republic of Mauritius forms part of the African continent and is made up of four islands, namely: Mauritius, Rodrigues, Agaléga and St. Brandon. Mauritius is a true success story in Africa and has been labelled the “Mauritian miracle”. It is an upper-middle-income economy that is anticipated to grow at a rate of 4% per annum over the long term. The key sectors of its diversified economy include tourism, textiles, sugar, and financial services. These beautiful tropical island with their clear warm seas, sandy beaches and palm lined coastline and the many beautiful resorts is why Mauritius can draw over 1.4 mil people a year and make tourism the 4th biggest economic sector in the country.

Other sectors that have developed in recent years include ICT, seafood, hospitality and property development, healthcare, renewable energy, and education and training with substantial Foreign Direct Investments (FDI). Although Mauritius is dependent on petroleum for its energy needs, it is quickly becoming a leader in the use of local and renewable energy sources and is ranked 8th out of 156 countries on an energy transition index.

With the country providing free universal health care, free education up to tertiary level and free public transport for students, senior citizens and the disabled, it is ranked high on the global Human Development Index (HDI). It has the highest rank of all African countries when it comes to the World Bank’s Doing Business index. Mauritius is also ranked among the safest or most peaceful countries by the Global Peace Index. All these factors make Mauritius a country with great potential for investment.

Information key to Mauritius attracting Foreign Direct Investment

Having painted such an incredible picture of Mauritius above, it must be said that there are recognized factors that will impact on the growth of the economy in the future. This includes declining population growth, increasing levels of unemployment, declining levels of education attainment and the need to improve access to public services. The challenge Mauritius faces is its ability to continue to grow and reach the status of a high income country. To do this requires reforms to skill the labour force and improve their participation in the economy, attract highly qualified workers, improve the quality of infrastructure, improve ICT adoption and make business processes more efficient.

To be able to monitor Mauritius’ ability to improve factors that are hindering its future economic growth requires information. The most comprehensive information comes from a country’s census, which in the case of Mauritius was last done in 2011 and should be done in the next decentennial round of censuses in 2021. In the interim, household surveys can be used to supplement information needed, which Mauritius does on inbound tourism, multi-purpose household surveys, employment and earning, household, economic activity and the cost of agricultural productivity. The census being foundational as a sampling frame for the conducting of these surveys.

Information is not only needed for monitoring progress of the country but is also needed by the private sector to make informed decisions about investing in Mauritius. Information on the census and surveys should be in a mapped or geospatial format so that potential investors can determine the size and distribution of their investments. Although Mauritius provides information on their census in the form of an atlas, it is not in a digital format, reducing its accessibility for foreign investors to do the analysis they require to make decisions.

Digitizing Mauritius’ Census

For private sector companies to access information on the 2011 census requires that the ward and village council boundaries be digitized. Fortunately, Statistics Mauritius provide a wealth of information on their census and surveys on their web portal that can be accessed. With significant amounts of work, the data can be structured and joined to the digitized ward and village boundaries. Thus, enabling the attributes to be mapped. What would be far more ideal, is that Statistics Mauritius provides this information in a readily downloadable geospatial format from their web site. Even more ideal would be for the 2011 census data to be provided at the smallest spatial unit of analysis and that is the census enumeration area.

With access to the 2011 census attributes at an enumeration area level provides access to information that could allow Mauritius to quantum leap its efforts in growing its economy, improving the provision of government services and encouraging the development of malls and retail outlets. The releasing of the census Tiger files by the USA Census Bureau years ago contributed dramatically to the development of the ICT sector in that country. This census information is invaluable for private sector market research, the geocoding of household surveys and the use of small area estimation techniques to map survey variables, using population projections to update the population estimates annually as well as the use of accessibility modelling approaches to optimize the provision of government services and retail outlets.

Once the data is provided in a geospatial format, the data can be value added to include a variety of indices. A simple example is the conversion of total population to population density, which is defined considering the size of the geographic area of wards and village council areas. This data is not included as a map in the 2011 Census Atlas so is not available unless the data is provided in a digital format. To create the population density variable the digital data has to be projected into a suitable coordinate system and an area variable calculated in square kilometres. Only then can the population density be calculated.

Mapping indices using Mauritius’ 2011 census

A comparison of total population and population density for wards and village councils on the two largest islands of the Republic of Mauritius, namely Mauritius and Rodrigues, shows the similarities and differences. When mapping total population many of the larger wards and village councils are colour coded red but when population density is used it shows only those areas where there are high concentrations of people. It is in these areas that private companies would want to focus their attention in developing their businesses or government should concentrate initially in the provision of services. It also adds more context to the distribution of the population on the island of Rodrigues.

The variables on the number of males and females in a census are key variables. However, the mapping of these two variables does not always give the desired understanding of gender. Using the sex ratio, which is the proportion of males to females as a percentage, gives some invaluable insights. Areas coloured red on the map show wards and village council areas where there are more males than females. In the general population there is usually more females than males.

Areas dominated by males are areas where there is usually some form of economic activity that draws the males to those area seeking employment. For example, commercial and industrial developments, fishing ports and holiday resorts. In Mauritius, females dominate in the more inland areas often around the larger agricultural areas while the dominance of men is very much associated with the coastal areas of Mauritius. Both for the private sector and government, having this information is invaluable in looking at available labour and the development of policies.

The economic dependency ratio is the ratio of the non-working population (ie 0-14 and 65+ years of age) to the working population (ie 15-64 years of age). This indicator is an invaluable summary of the age profile of the Mauritian population in 2011. More importantly, it tells how large the working population is and how many people of non-working age are dependent on them to generate revenue for them to have sustain livelihoods.

It is interesting to note that the south west corner of Mauritius island has the highest dependency ratio. By overlaying the census data on satellite imagery it is possible to get a reason for this and points to isolated high per capita residential developments with a predominance of elderly retired people along the coastline but also under developed areas in the hinterland with a higher than normal number of infants, children and the elderly. Similarly, Rodrigues is quite underdeveloped across the whole of the island suggesting that the economically active are few as they have probably moved to Mauritius in search of employment. Other indicators can be generated from census information, such as the labour participation ratio, to see how many of the economically active population (ie 15-64 years of age) are actually working.

Advancing the mapping of censuses in Africa

The fact that Mauritius has a socio-economic atlas and provides much tabular data, reflects their sophistication when it comes to censuses. On a continuum of country sophistication when it comes to censuses and the provision of information in Africa. Mauritius is above the norm. Unfortunately, Mauritius is like many other African countries in that the census information is not in an easy to access geospatial format at the most detailed spatial level possible.

There is no doubt that making census information easily available in a geospatial format advances the ability of the government and private sector organizations to use it to make informed decisions. Whether this be about social programmes and the provision of services by government or optimizing the provision of retail facilities, it is critical that this information be available and accessible so that the analysis and mapping can be done. The provision of information of this nature will enable Mauritius to encourage local and Foreign Direct Investment and put it on an economic path to becoming a high income country.

About the Author

Craig Schwabe is a geospatial specialist and focuses on the development of geospatial data for South Africa and Africa. He has assisted in the development of census geospatial datasets for South Africa and the Republic of Tanzania. As part of the AfricaScope team he has sourced census data for countries across Africa. He has been an adviser to multilateral and multinational organizations in the development and use of geospatial data in Africa, including the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) in defining the fundamental geospatial datasets for Africa. Craig has published several reports, books, chapters and scientific papers as well as presented papers at a number of national and international conferences. He assisted Statistics South Africa in publishing Using the 2001 Census: Approaches to analysing data.


Statistics Mauritius. 2015. Census 2011 Atlas. Port Louis, Mauritius.

Svirydzenka, K. and Petri, M. 2014. Mauritius: The Drivers of Growth-Can the Past be Extended? IMF Working Paper WP/14/134

Wikipedia. 15 May 2020. Mauritius Available from: [Accessed: 16 Mat 2020]