The tropical island paradise where you can set up a business in an hour

Story highlights

  • Mauritius is Africa's most competitive economy
  • Liberal approach to taxation and regulation draws businesses
  • The island is a mix of Indian, African, French and Chinese heritage

(CNN)African countries are not renowned for being the easiest places to start a company, but one country is bucking this trend.

With a population of only 1.3 million, the tiny island country of Mauritius is frequently hailed as one of Africa's success stories.
    Located some 500 miles east of Madagascar in the middle of the Indian Ocean and surrounded by beautiful coral reefs and pristine beaches, Mauritius has strong cultural and commercial links to India, China and the east coast of Africa.
    The business-savvy country has used its geographical location and legacy as a trading way station to become an investment hub. Mauritius routinely tops African rankings for competitiveness and ease of doing business due to its liberal approach to regulation and taxation.
    "Today, it can take less than one hour to incorporate a company," said Ken Poonoosamy, managing director of the Board of Investment, a national body dedicated to business development.
    "In one day, if all the procedures are completed, you can start a business here," said Poonoosamy.
    Days to start a business: 6
    Days to get electricity: 81
    Days to register property: 14

    A welcoming kind of place

    Sugar cane fields, lagoons and volcanic mountains make for a stunning backdrop. The country is a tourist hotspot, with nearly a million tourists annually. The island's pristine beaches are the heart of its tourist economy, which makes over 25% of GDP, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council.
    Agriculture and manufacturing make up a sizable chunk of the country's economy. But finance, including banking and business outsourcing, is also on the rise. Medical tourism is gaining in popularity too, with many now choosing the secluded island for plastic surgery.
    Since 2005, the country has made reforms to encourage small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to grow on the island. "We are very open. We make it easy to do business here," said Poonoosamy.
    Taxes are low, with no capital gains tax and other tax relief measures, and they can be paid in a simple process online. Technology is also advanced in Mauritius as digital connections -- often an issue in mainland Africa -- are not a problem on the island, according to Poonoosamy.
    What's more the hospitality makes people feel very welcome says Poonoosamy "It is a unique lifestyle, and we have peace and security," he added.

    Cultural melting pot

    Mauritius is made up of an ethnically and religiously diverse mix of people of Indian, African, French and Chinese heritage. The business people of Mauritius today are predominantly from Europe, South Africa, India and China, said Poonoosamy.
    Part of the country's worldliness is due to the fact that it was occupied by an array of nations. The Dutch took power in 1638, followed by the French and then the British before the island's independence in 1968.
    The melting-pot of Mauritius is on display in the country's cuisine. The lively Central Market in the capital of Port Louis sees thousands of people daily shopping for global foods from cassava and pickles to chutney and dahl.

    Room for improvement

    Despite its idyllic combination of cultures and natural beauty, the country still has its drawbacks. Access to energy -- a perennial problem across Africa -- is one of the main concerns for entrepreneurs.
    The ease and reliability of registering property is a challenge, particularly where land registries are paper-based. Being able to get the title deeds to property reduces entrepreneurs' risks and gives them the collateral that most banks demand before lending to small businesses.
    But according to the British Foreign Office, Mauritius is considered "one of the most business-friendly countries in Africa" as a result of its political stability, good governance and independent judiciary.
    "Mauritius has a wealth of well-qualified financial and legal personnel and benefits from a multilingual workforce," writes the Foreign Office.
    Perhaps it's no surprise why businesses find the island an easy -- and quick -- place to get started.