The Republic of Mauritius is a small island state located about 1 900 km from the African east coast and 800 km from the island of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. It includes the main island Mauritius (1 865 km²), the island Rodrigues (104 km²) and the two archipelagos Agalega (75 km²) and Cargados-Carajos (1,3 km²). With a total state area of 2,040 km², the island state is almost as large as the German federal state of Saarland. Together with the French overseas department of Réunion, the islands of Mauritius and Rodrigues form the Mascarene archipelago.
Mauritius and Rodrigues are of volcanic origin and surrounded by coral reefs. The surface of Mauritius is a plateau located about 600 m above sea level, which represents the bottom of a volcanic crater. The surrounding mountains are the remains of the crater rim, the highest peak of the island and the republic is the Piton Rivière Noire with 828 m. The plateau is divided by numerous watercourses that run through deep gorges. The longest river is the Grande Rivière Sud-Est, which rises in the centre of the island and flows into the sea on the east coast. In the southern part of the island there are several freshwater lakes, the largest of which, with an area of 5.6 km², is Mare aux Vacoas. The coasts of the island are mostly steep and partly strongly indented. At a distance of about 200 m to 5 km from the coast there are coral reefs that surround almost the entire island. Between the coast and the coral banks there are extensive lagoons, whose water depth does not exceed 3 m. The coral reefs are located at a distance of about 200 m to 5 km from the coast.
The island Rodrigues lies about 560 km east of Mauritius and is also surrounded by coral reefs. The highest elevation here is Mont Limon with 396 m.
About 1 000 km north of the island Mauritius lies the Agalega archipelago, which consists of two coral islands connected by a sandbank. More than 20 small and uninhabited coral islands form the group of the Cargados-Carajos Islands that are located approximately 400 km northeast of Mauritius. The capital of the republic, Port Louis, lies in the northwest of the island Mauritius at the coast.
The islands have a tropical-oceanic climate, which is characterized by high temperatures all year round. In the summer half-year (December to March) the average temperatures on the coast are around 27 °C, in the highlands around 24 °C. The average temperature on the coast is around 27 °C, in the north the temperature is around 24 °C. In these months a large part of the precipitation falls: While up to 1 000 mm of rain is measured on the northwest side of the island of Mauritius, up to 4 000 mm on the southeast side. In the winter months, the average temperatures are around 21 °C on the coast and 18 °C in the highlands. Cyclones can occur from December to March.
Around 1.3 million people live on the islands of the Republic of Mauritius, which are very densely populated with just under 614 inhabitants per square kilometre. A large part of the population lives on the main island Mauritius. The largest urban settlement is the capital Port Louis with approximately 149 000 inhabitants. Further cities are Beau Bassin-Rose Hill with 109 000 inhabitants and Vacoas-Phoenix with approximately 106 000 inhabitants; both cities are located in the highlands of Mauritius.
The largest population group with almost 53 % are the descendants of the Indians who immigrated in the 19th century. 43% are Creoles descended from Europeans and Black Africans. The third largest ethnic group, estimated at 3%, is the Chinese. White Europeans (Franco-Mauritans) make up a small proportion of the population, but represent the highest income group.
The largest religious community are Hindus (almost half of the population), the second largest group are Christians (about 30 % in total, mainly Catholics). Followers of Islam, mostly Sunni, represent about 16.5 % of the population. The official language on Mauritius is English, French is widespread as an educational language, almost all inhabitants speak Mauritian, a French Creol with African and Asian elements.
Mauritius belongs to the wealthy countries of Africa. At 0.85%, population growth is comparatively low, while the average life expectancy of 76.4 years for women and 68.5 years for men is significantly higher than the African average. Social and health services are well developed. Literacy is estimated at around 85%.
According to the 1992 constitution, the island state is a democratic republic with a multi-party system. The head of state is the president (since July 2012 Kailash Purryag), who is elected by the National Assembly for a term of five years. The head of the government is the Prime Minister (since July 2005 Navin Ramgoolam), who is appointed by the President of the Republic and is responsible to Parliament. The ministers are appointed by the President on a proposal from the Prime Minister.
Legislative power lies with the National Assembly, which has a maximum of 70 members. 62 of them are directly elected by the people for a five-year term, and eight seats are reserved for representatives of minorities. The legal system is based on the French system, but some provisions of the British Common Law have also been adopted. Mauritius is divided into nine administrative districts and three archipelagos (Agalela, Cargados Carajos Shoals, Rodrigues).
Since achieving independence in 1968, the economy of the island state of Mauritius has developed positively. Measured by per capita income, Mauritius is one of the wealthiest countries in Africa.
Agriculture accounts for only about 3% of the gross domestic product (GDP) and employs about 8% of the working population. Nevertheless, the agricultural sector is quite important, as sugar cane accounts for 15% of export revenues. More than half of the agricultural land is used for sugar cane cultivation; tea and tobacco are also cultivated for export. Food for the population’s own needs must be imported.
The industry is developing positively due to a good infrastructure and low wages. Numerous foreign companies (especially in the financial sector) have settled here, attracted by tax and customs advantages. There are companies in the textile and leather processing, food and beverage production and electrical engineering sectors.
Tourism plays an important role in Mauritius’s economy and is targeted at tourists in the upper income bracket. Approximately 15% of the working population is employed in the tourism industry. The government is planning a further expansion of tourism, including on the islands of Rodrigues and Agalega.
The main export trading partners (textiles, sugar and sugar products, tea) are Great Britain, France and the USA. The main imports are food, consumer goods, chemical products, machinery and vehicles from France, South Africa and India.
The road network on Maruitius is well developed and covers a total of around 2,000 kilometres. Port Louis is an important commercial port. An international airport is located in the southeast of Mauritius near the city of Mahébourg. Currency is the Mauritian rupee.