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Mauritius can lead the Green Funds towards Africa

The leadership of ENL Group, along with representatives from various clusters of the Mauritian conglomerate, recently held an official interaction with economic and financial media from Mauritius and the region. The event marked the first press meeting of the new Chief Executive, Gilbert Espitalier-Noël, succeeding Hector Espitalier-Noël. Gilbert Espitalier-Noël took the opportunity to assess the economic environment and to share his social and economic vision. 

Describing ENL Group as a forward-thinking entity deeply rooted in Mauritius’ cultural and social fabric, CEO Gilbert Espitalier-Noël touched upon topics such as economic resilience post-pandemic, the challenging job market, brain drain, and the critical issue of beach erosion. He emphasized Mauritius’ potential to represent small island states and guide Green Funds towards Africa. Additionally, Gilbert Espitalier-Noël announced the group’s decision to venture into tea production and outlined ENL’s strategy to expand its regional and international activities.

“Economy: Difficult to find a non-performing sector”

CEO Gilbert Espitalier-Noël began his presentation by acknowledging the surprising and rapid economic recovery post-Covid. He highlighted the robust performance of various sectors, including manufacturing, agriculture, tourism, finance, construction, and offshore services. He commended the collaborative public-private efforts during the pandemic and stressed the need for a well-defined national strategy to attract foreign talent.

“It’s an outstanding surprise for businesses and all stakeholders. It’s truly fascinating to observe the remarkable resilience of the Mauritian economy amidst Covid. This isn’t a catchphrase, I’m not stating this merely to appease, but when matters progress positively, I reckon it ought to be acknowledged. During this period, we’ve experienced extraordinary public-private cooperation, and the appropriate actions were undertaken at the right moment, thereby enabling businesses, particularly within the tourism sector, to stay afloat. Otherwise, we would have been doomed. Had someone predicted five years ago that we would be closing hotels for 18 months while preserving jobs and so forth, I would have deemed it exceedingly challenging to accomplish,” notes the CEO of ENL.

“Crucial to anchor a National Strategy for foreign talent”

Addressing concerns about brain drain and the challenges of retaining skilled individuals, the CEO discussed the shift in the employment landscape, where companies now struggle to recruit and retain talent. He expressed apprehensions about the aging population, declining demographics, and the importance of developing a clear national strategy to attract and retain foreign talent.

“We advocate that we should emulate Singapore, that we ought to be open, yet when it pertains to embracing openness, it appears we encounter issues. We consume considerable time in reaching there, in pinpointing the type of resources we desire, the foundation on which these resources can be procured, and so on. Foreign resources are crucial for companies. It serves no purpose for the sugarcane to flourish if there aren’t individuals to nurture and harvest it, even in the presence of machinery. Agriculture is unfeasible without manpower. It’s absolutely vital to have a widely accepted and firmly rooted national strategy. We grapple with a significant brain drain issue in the financial services sector. It’s a substantial concern. Youngsters are relocating to Luxembourg, Dubai, and so forth. We observe this scenario at Rogers Capital. Dozens depart since they encounter intriguing opportunities elsewhere, which furnishes them with international exposure. We must have the ability to offset these departures with replacements. We’re also confronted with a demographic issue. The population is ageing. There’s an ever-decreasing number of Mauritians in the workforce. We perceive this trend in the tourism sector as well,” cautions the CEO of ENL.

“Serious issue of beach erosion”

CEO Gilbert Espitalier-Noël expressed deep concern about beach erosion, labelling it a grave economic and social problem. He emphasized the economic impact on tourism, a crucial sector for Mauritius, and the societal importance of beaches to the local population. He urged for a clear and comprehensive national response to address the issue, emphasizing the need to protect not only the coast but also the beaches themselves.

“We, as Mauritians, frequently stroll on our beaches or traverse the coastal roads. It’s obvious to anyone who walks along the beachfront by the Trou-aux-Biches hotel that the beach has significantly altered from what it was just a few years ago. The same observation applies to the Ambre hotel and numerous others, including Saint Géran. This list is extensive. Our public beaches are likewise impacted. Periodically, this matter of beach erosion resurfaces in discussions relating to hotels, often framed as an economic issue. Yet, it also presents a social challenge. Visiting the beach is an integral part of life for Mauritians, and the prospect of losing our beautiful shores – Belle Mare, Blue Bay, Flic-en-Flac, among others – places us in a precarious situation. The struggle lies in determining an effective solution to this predicament. Despite years of deliberation, we’re yet to reach a definitive decision,” the CEO underscored during the media Q&A session.

Tea Production and sustainable agriculture

In his presentation, the CEO Gilbert Espitalier-Noël underscored three pivotal sectors for ENL Group: agriculture, energy, and profits. He announced the group’s foray into tea production, leveraging lands in the high regions of Mauritius. He also highlighted ENL’s commitment to sustainable agriculture through the brand Feel Good, addressing concerns about excessive pesticide use.

“We are fortunate to have lands in the highlands of Mauritius, in areas like Valetta, Dagotière, Quartier Militaire, etc., which are wetlands and not very conducive for sugar cane cultivation. However, these are the regions where tea grows best. There is a strong governmental strategy, where the government is highly committed and encourages tea farming extensively. We are in touch with Mauritian authorities, as well as authorities and farmers in Kenya, which is a renowned tea producer. We are about to embark on the initial phase of a tea plantation spanning approximately 450 arpents. We’re discussing a significant volume of tea that is strategic for the country and will eventually reduce imports. It’s also about giving new life to these wetlands, where sugarcane no longer thrives. Large-scale tea farming is important. It’s a testimony to our commitment in agriculture, where we are here to stay, even if, occasionally, it might seem like we’re removing sugarcane to build. We are in agriculture and will continue to be in this sector for a very long time,” explains the CEO.

“Mauritius can lead Green Funds towards Africa”

CEO Gilbert Espitalier-Noël identified energy as another strategic sector, emphasizing Mauritius’ goal of achieving 60% renewable energy by 2030. He proposed Mauritius as a potential model for Small Island Developing States in creating a holistic ecosystem, including green funds directed towards Africa to address climate challenges.

“Numerous funds exist, and Mauritian banks are actively pursuing them. These banks are being approached by various entities such as green funds and adaptation funds among others. To secure these funds, we need to present tangible plans and clearly defined KPIs that meet all social and environmental requirements. However, there’s more to it than just meeting these criteria. Mauritius has a unique opportunity to become a hub for green funds, acting as a conduit to direct these funds towards the African continent. With our robust, credible reputation and well-structured management, backed by years of experience, we are ideally positioned to seize this opportunity,” elaborates the CEO.

Strategic focus on regional expansion

CEO Gilbert Espitalier-Noël disclosed ENL Group’s strategic focus on existing clusters and expertise, with a regional and international expansion strategy. He highlighted the group’s presence in Seychelles, Morocco, Kenya, India, and Madagascar, emphasizing the importance of internationalization for ENL’s growth.

“We have a number of activities and we should be able to accelerate, while remaining cautious. It’s within the African environment that we plan to grow. We believe that internationalisation is important for us,” specifies Gilbert Espitalier Noel.

Record profits of MUR 3 Billion

Addressing the financial aspect, Gilbert Espitalier-Noël proudly announced record profits of Rs 3 billion as of June 30. He credited the outstanding performance of various sectors within the group, particularly hospitality. He expressed optimism about the ongoing financial year, projecting continued success.

“The various sectors of the group each have remarkable performances. Particularly the hospitality sector, which brings many positive results for the group. The automotive sector is doing very well. We have a financial year that ends on June 30th and we are halfway through the year in a few weeks. The current year is shaping up to be just as good as the one we’ve experienced,” he states.

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