As trade grows increasingly fragile, countries like Mauritius, which enjoys duty free trade with the U.S. under a deal that’s not currently under attack, stand to take more share of the apparel manufacturing market.
Mauritius, an island off the coast of Southeast Africa, has been called the most innovative nation in the Sub-Saharan Africa region, quality has been touted as first rate, and the country recently launched an air freight rebate initiative that would reduce costs to the European market by 40 percent.
In short, Mauritius is working to reestablish itself as an apparel sourcing power, and companies are taking notice—brands like Zara, Adidas, Levi’s, Calvin Klein and Mango are just some already producing there.
Why source in Mauritius?
In a world where every day in the production cycle counts as customers look for quicker deliveries, supply chain disruptions can pose major problems—especially those related to political instability or worker discontent, which can lead to strikes. Neither of these issues have plagued the manufacturing sector in Mauritius.
What’s more, the country is known for its investment-friendly regulatory requirements and an established rule of law. The official language in Mauritius is English, which can improve the ease of communication for buyers and brands sourcing there.
The World Bank ranked Mauritius first in Africa for 2016 in terms of ease of doing business there, and it was also ranked first in Africa in the World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report for 2015.
Technological drive for quality products
State-of-the art infrastructure and forward-thinking factories have also made Mauritius an attractive option for innovation as the country upgrades its apparel production offering.
Mauritius sits in a “golden triangle” connecting Asia, Africa and Australia, and some consider the country will become the business capital of Africa.
Operators in Mauritius have invested in new technology to decrease production cycle times and many companies are vertically integrated. Many Mauritian apparel and textile manufacturers are flexible with order quantities and add value via their contribution to the design of the products, according to Enterprise Mauritius division manager Geerish Bucktowonsing.
“Today, certain companies can deliver samples in shorter time due to automated CAD [computer aided design] systems they have invested in for patternmaking,” Bucktowonsing said. “Further to other investments like automated handling systems, some companies are also adopting lean manufacturing.”
Of the more than 1,500 products Mauritius exports to more than 150 countries around the world, textiles and apparel are the leading export.
Mauritius has a 40-year history of making textiles and apparel and was once one of the largest producers of knitwear. Over those years, the country has evolved from its initial cut, make, trim capabilities to vertically integrated manufacturing for value-added, sophisticated product.
The textile and apparel industry in Mauritius consists of facilities for spinning, knitting, and weaving and finishing for dyed and printed fabrics, denim fabrics and for knit-to-shape items.
The country’s main product lines include knitwear, T-shirts, shirts and trousers.
Investments in advanced production technologies, like computer aided design and manufacturing, printing services and automated dyeing systems, have positioned Mauritian manufacturers to supply a wide range of quality garments in a shorter time frame.
Mauritius enjoys preferential trade access to the rest of Africa, the U.S. and Europe.
The country’s main export markets are Europe and the U.S.. In 2015, Mauritius exported 39 percent of its textiles and apparel to Europe (21 percent to the U.K.), and 24 percent to the U.S. market.
The EU is currently negotiating an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with 11 African nations, including Mauritius, but for now Mauritius enjoys duty free access for its EU-bound exports under an interim EPA.
To further facilitate trade, Mauritius recently launched a Speed-to-market Scheme, an airfreight rebate initiative that would reduce costs to the European market by 40 percent.
Mauritius can also trade its textiles and apparel with the U.S. duty free under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). The AGOA agreement was just renewed for 10 years in 2015.
AGOA, according to Enterprise Mauritius, has been a catalyst for trade with the U.S. as more than 6,400 products can benefit from the duty break. As part of AGOA, Mauritius also benefits from the Third Country Fabric provision, which allows it to use yarn from anywhere for its textile goods and still export to the U.S. duty free.
Mauritius is also a member of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), which became a free trade bloc in 2000, representing a market of more than 400 million people. Membership within the Southern African Development Community (SADC), has contributed to positioning Mauritius as a major supplier of garments to South Africa as well.
The country also has bilateral trade agreements with Pakistan and Turkey in place and its exports benefit under the Generalized Scheme of Preferences (GSP), providing it preferential access to the U.S., EU, Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland and Turkey.
“Our operators have over the last 40 years earned a good name as a reliable sourcing destination, especially when it comes to adherence to international norms and on-time delivery,” Bucktowonsing said.
Labor + Compliance
The workforce in Mauritius is known for being savvy and peaceful. Many Mauritians are bilingual in English and French, which can ease communication.
Most manufacturers in Mauritius adhere to social compliance standards, some are adopting eco-friendly ways of production, becoming WRAP certified, Fair Trade certified, and most also meet technical compliance standards, including Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) regulations, and some meet organic standards, with Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certifications.
“Our operators have over the last 40 years earned a good name as a reliable sourcing destination, especially when it comes to adherence to international norms, workers welfare and on-time delivery,” Bucktowonsing said.
Enterprise Mauritius is the country’s national export promotion agency, and for further inquiries about sourcing in Mauritius, contact: Geerish Bucktowonsing, division manager, at email@example.com. The CEO of Enterprise Mauritius, Arvind Radhakrishna, will be leading a delegation comprising of nine Mauritius enterprises to participate in Sourcing at Magic, 2017. Radhakrishna says the primary objective is to showcase Mauritius’ savoir faire with regard to apparel production and to note that under AGOA, Mauritius exports textile and apparel duty free to the U.S.. The U.S. remains a major market for Mauritius apparel exports and as such, through participation in Sourcing at Magic, the group’s main goals will be market expansion, especially in the West Coast of the U.S. Participation in Sourcing at Magic ensures consistency of marketing presence in the U.S. and further contributes to the positioning of Mauritius as a leading exporter of competitively priced, quality textile and apparel products.