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Dubai 2016 | DIPLOMACY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, President of the Republic of Mauritius, on ties between Mauritius and Dubai and unique areas of cooperation.

Ameenah Gurib-Fakim
BIOGRAPHY
Ameenah Gurib-Fakim is a Mauritian biodiversity scientist and the current President of Mauritius. She obtained her PhD in organic chemistry from Exeter University and began her professional career at the University of Mauritius. She is the Managing Director of CIDP Research & Innovation, and became President in 2015.

This past September, the UAE's State Minister of Financial Affairs and Mauritius' Minister of Finance signed an agreement on mutual encouragement and protection of investments. What favorable conditions has Mauritius established and what else is being planned to attract investment?

One of the things that we have been strengthening over the past few years is the regulatory environment. We have, of course, the rule of law, which is not at present there, and for other avenues we have also strengthened intellectual property procedures. Essentially, what we are trying to put in place are very strong institutions, because Africa, as President Obama said, needs strong institutions, not strong men. This is what we have to do; work through institutions and build strong institutions to address economic fundamentals. We are really reinforcing the existing law and trying to make it as easy for doing business as possible. Being nimble-footed is going to be critical, especially for the economy and the size of the country, but we want to capitalize on the strategic position of the country to really make a difference.

Dubai recently launched Dubai Science Spark in a bid to become the most innovative and vibrant science community in the Middle East. What innovative approaches could be drawn from Dubai's example and implemented in Mauritius?

We know one of the ambitions of Dubai's government is to promote the Emirate as a hub for medicine and research in biodiversity. We could use institutions in Dubai for furthering testing and a multicentric trial with big corporates. What we have done is capitalized on the genetic diversity of our people to carry out a clinical trial, and this has worked for us. We need to be able to look at niche areas in biotech, be it an ocean economy or in biodiversity, renewable energy, or even water, for example, where we can find small niche projects that we can start collaborating on, establishing comfort and confidence.

In what ways could Mauritius and Dubai cooperate in their efforts to empower women in all areas?

There are so many ideas that can be floated, and if we look at Africa's agriculture sector, it is comprised largely of women. Dubai's strategy for Africa focuses somewhat on agriculture; this is an area where we can work together to address, for example, the post-harvest area where Africa is weak and, with the technology and positioning of Dubai, it could be used as a flagship to empower women. If women grow products and find ways of adding value post-harvest, this will be a very niche area. Another area where I think Dubai has experience will be for recycled water; water is no longer a resource that we can afford to waste. Much recycling can be done, bottling this water and exporting it. All these are areas where women can play a role. We also need to stress the need to empower women through entrepreneurship, not just in the area we have mentioned, but into new emerging areas of ICT, biotechnology, and big data. Women need to be empowered in all of the areas that will empower them not just to be able to go out to work, but also to operate from home, if the infrastructure is there. Many women can start their business from home. There are many niche areas where women can go. It all comes back to the qualification and capacity that a woman has been able to develop and get in terms of a quality education. These are areas where women can join forces with Emirati women and make a difference.

On November 17, HH Sheikh Mohammed received you and other African leaders during the AGBF2015. What were the most important topics discussed in this meeting?

We discussed collaboration and partnership in areas where Dubai is very strong and it can, to some extent, take many of the countries by the hand. Dubai has shown strength in the logistics, transport, and hospitality sectors, through a culture of leadership and discipline. This is the type of culture that we want to promote and collaborate on.

How would you assess your collaboration and partnership with the Emirates Airlines? Do you hope to establish a similar relation with DP World?

Emirates Airlines has been in Mauritius for over 20 years now, and it has been instrumental in opening the capacity to bring in more passengers because we have at least two A380s landing in Mauritius, and the flow of passengers filtering through Dubai has come from many parts of the world, such as Russia and China. What Dubai and Emirates has been able to do for us has been ensuring access to all of this. Increasingly we are referring to working in partnership with Dubai in very much the same way we have done so far with Emirates and they have been helping us a lot to see the emergence of that tourism sector. When the tourism sector is developed, so too are all related industries such as the food industry.