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Mauritius is Sub-Saharan Africa’s Most Innovative Nation

Mauritius may have slipped nine places in the global innovation rankings for 2015 but it’s the most innovative country in Sub-Saharan Africa.

That’s according to the 2015 Global Innovations Index (GII), published Wednesday by Johnson Cornell University and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), which surveys 141 economies and uses 79 indicators to determine rankings.

Things are starting to look up for the Indian Ocean island nation, which had to cut its growth forecast from 4.1 percent to 3.8% for 2015, due in part to a feeble performance by its once thriving textile industry.

Now, the government is hoping its recently announced plan to invest in manufacturing operations will result in a “second economic miracle.”

“Few countries can progress without a sustainable manufacturing base,” said Sir Anerood Jugnauth, Mauritius’ prime minister, as he delivered the first economic speech of his latest term in office last month and announced a 12 billion rupee program ($401 million) to spur growth. “Manufacturing today accounts for about 18 percent of our economy and we aim to increase its share significantly to 25 percent within the next three years.”

While textile exports exceeded $170 million in 2014, the country’s national debt spiraled to $3.8 billion and the economy averaged growth of around 3 percent, which Jugnauth blamed on nearly a decade of rule by his rival, Navinchandra Ramgoolam, as well as an appreciating rupee.

“Once again, we inherited a disastrous legacy,” he continued. “During the past nine years, the country had a poor leadership that sank the economy. We inherited a country where corruption, nepotism and fraud had become the operating culture.”

Mauritius earns most of its foreign currency from exports of clothing and textiles, mostly to Europe, but the weak euro has forced the government to set its sights closer to home.

“We stand great chance to emerge as a truly competitive economic partner for Africa,” Jugnauth said, noting that MoUs (Memorandum of Understanding) have been signed with Ghana, Senegal and Madagascar and negotiations are ongoing with the Ivory Coast and Zambia.

He added, “We have already provided the necessary support mechanisms to attract more players in high-precision engineering, food processing, pharmaceutical products, jewelry and watchmaking, light manufacturing and other fast-moving consumer goods, among others.”