Free Trade Agreement: Mauritius, the bridge between Africa and Asia

July 15, 2023 - 9 min read


With a strong network of strategic Free Trade Agreements, Mauritius consolidates its position as the trade and investment platform between Africa and Asia.

Mauritius Trade Agreements with African countries through the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). The island nation also has Free Trade Agreements with China, India and Pakistan.

Together, these Free Trade Agreements play an important role in the economic and social development journey of Africa, and a great opportunity for African and Asian countries to leverage on their respective strengths with Mauritius being the pivot of this happening. On one side, Africa being the breadbasket for raw materials (food and mining amongst others) and, on the other side, Asia being the largest manufacturing economy and exporter of goods. In the middle of the two continents, we have Mauritius channelling inflows and outflows of trade and investment.

Through a comprehensive and mutually beneficial trade agreement between the member states, the African Continental Free Trade Area aims to boost intra-African trade. It covers trade in goods and services, investment, intellectual property rights and competition policy.

On the other hand, Mauritius Trade Agreements with China, India and Pakistan strengthen the bilateral relations, easing barriers to trade in goods and services, investment and economic cooperation.


Mauritius: the ideal platform for trade and business between Africa and Asia

Positioned at the junction between Asia and Africa, the two Free Trade Agreement are a milestone for Mauritius. Indeed, the country positions itself as the platform for Chinese exports into the mainland Africa, and vice-versa. For instance, through the setting up of a Trading Company or a Freeport Company, entrepreneurs and existing businesses can take full advantage of Mauritius’ Free Trade Agreements.

The African opportunity

It is expected that the advantages of the African Continental Free Trade Area will be more readily accessible in jurisdictions like Mauritius when we consider the country’s higher degree of ease of doing business. It will therefore open up a market of over 1.3 billion people, with a merged gross domestic product (GDP) of US$3.4 trillion, and attract Foreign Direct Investments from China and the rest of the world.

The African continent represents 2% of global trade while 17% of African exports are intra-continental, in contrast with 59% for Asia and 68% for Europe. According to Florie Liser, Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for African Affairs, if Africa was to increase its share of world trade from 2% to 3%, that slight boost would have the potential to generate approximately US$70 billion of additional annual revenue for the continent.

LDCs 1Non-LDCs 2G6 countries 3
Full liberalisation90% of tariff lines90% of tariff lines90% of tariff lines
10-year phase down5-year phase down15-year phase down
Sensitive products7% of tariff lines7% of tariff linesNot yet determined
13-year phase down (current tariffs can be maintained during first 5 years – phase down starting in year 6)10-year phase down (current tariffs can be maintained during first 5 years – phase down starting in year 6)
Excluded products3% of tariff lines3% of tariff linesNot yet determined

1 Least Developed Countries

2 Non-Least Developed Countries

3 A group of 6 member states consisting of five LDCs (Ethiopia, Madagascar, Malawi, Sudan, Zambia) and Zimbabwe

The countries with which Mauritius can trade on preferential terms under the African Continental Free Trade Area are:

Member States

  • Egypt
  • Sao Tome and Principe

Customs Union

  • Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC)

Cameroon, Chad, Congo Republic, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon

  • East African Community (EAC)

Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda

  • Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)

Nigeria, Niger, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Mauritania, Sierra Leone, Gambia, Togo, Cabo Verde and Mali

  • Southern African Customs Union (SACU)

Eswatini, Namibia and South Africa


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Mauritius is also a signatory to two of Africa’s most extensive trade blocs: the Southern African Development Community (SADC – 16 African states) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA – 21 member states). The COMESA and the SADC Free Trade Agreements are the pillars of the African Economic Community. Member States trade on a duty free, quota free basis (subject to satisfying the respective Rules of Origin). Therefore, exports from, as well as imports to, Mauritius are completely exempt from customs duties.

At the confluence between the Asian and the African continents, Mauritius is an enticing and cost-effective trade and business hub, where operators are able to leverage Free Trade Agreements and make goods accessible to a market of 36 member states and more than 900 million people (COMESA: 560 million – SADC: 345 million), and a combined GDP of over USD 850 billion. Businesses and entrepreneurs involved in intra-Africa trade, or willing to reach African markets, and that use the Mauritian jurisdiction can benefit from trade gains, economies of scale, increased returns, market enlargement and optimised costs.


The Asian opportunity

And similarly to the African Continental Free Trade Area, these Free Trade Agreement also represent a significant opportunity. By setting up their structures in Mauritius, entrepreneurs and businesses from member states of the African Continental Free Trade Area (listed above) can, under certain conditions, gain preferential access to the Asian market of more than 2.5 billion customers, allowing them to export goods and services.

By extrapolation and with the recently signed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the Mauritius-China Free Trade Agreement is, for African business people, a stepping-stone into the Asian continent. Moreover, the Free Trade Agreement intends to create new investment, as well as the protection of investors and their investments.

For more information on Mauritius’ Trade Agreements with the 3 Asian countries, click on the links below:


Example of the Mauritius-China Free Trade Agreement

The Mauritius-China Free Trade Agreement also covers more than 40 service sectors, including financial services, professional services, ICT and telecommunication, and health services. Mauritius based companies will also be able to establish businesses in China as wholly owned entities and through partnerships with Chinese people.

Mauritius benefits from duty free access on the Chinese market on over 7,000 products. We will also see the phasing-out of tariffs on 723 additional tariff lines over the next 5 to 8 years (as from 1st January 2021). For instance, China has liberalised tariffs on main Mauritian export product to Beijing over 5 years. This means that business operating from Mauritius have preferential access on 96% of the Chinese tariff lines, and the duties applicable on 88% of these tariff lines are eliminated. On the other hand, 94% of Chinese goods will enter Mauritius duty-free.

The Free Trade Agreement covers key export products including rum, frozen fish, noodles and pasta, biscuits, fresh fruits, juices, mineral water, clothes, watches and leather products.

Furthermore, the Free Trade Agreement will create new opportunities for companies (in sectors such as electronics, Information and Communions Technology, hardware assembly, pharmaceuticals and chemicals) to broaden the manufacturing base of Mauritius.

Mauritius the bridge between Africa and China

According to the African Continental Free Trade Area, 90% of goods exported between African countries and Mauritius will enter the destination country duty-free. Concerning the Mauritius-China Free Trade Agreement, 96% of goods categories made in Mauritius will enter China duty-free, while 94% of goods categories produced in China will enter Mauritius duty-free.  The rules of origin must be catered for and analysed.


How can businesses take advantage of these Free Trade Agreements

The AfCFTA will undoubtedly boost the attractiveness of Africa. Leveraging its solid Financial Services sector, its position as the best place to do business in Africa (World Bank), and its ecosystem that facilitates and safeguards foreign investments towards the continent, the Mauritius International Financial Centre can significantly contribute to this new impetus.

Click here to know more about Offshore Companies in Mauritius

Through the setting up of a Trading Company in Mauritius, businesses can take advantage of the set of Free Trade Agreement Mauritius has with African countries and China subject to rules of origin. Indeed, a Trading Company can trade goods and/or services from one country to another, and benefit from:

  • Competitive Tax rates and exemptions;
  • Being present in a recognised International Financial Centre; and
  • The banking systems and banking facilities (trade financing, LCs, etc.).


A Freeport Company allows businesses to take advantage of the Freeport facilities (e.g. warehousing, processing, and distribution) in Mauritius for trading and shipment. The Mauritian Freeport legislation provides investors with the access to a cost-effective logistics platform that boasts a number of advantages:

  • Exemption from custom duties on all goods and equipment imported and used exclusively in the zone;
  • 0% corporate tax;
  • 100% foreign ownership;
  • Reduced port handling charges for goods destined for re-export;
  • Possibility to sell up to 50% of re-export value to the local market (under certain conditions);
  • Strategic location at the junction between Africa, Asia, the Middle-East, and Australia;
  • Modern facilities (infrastructure, transhipment, warehousing, processing and distribution);
  • Presence of major airlines and shipping lines;
  • Free repatriation of profits;
  • Skilled labour;

Preferential access to the COMESA and the SADC markets, to US markets through Africa Growth & Opportunity Act (AGOA) and European Union Market.


By promoting investments, the Free Trade Agreement can also open doors for the setting up of Private Equity Funds. A form of alternative investment, it us a pooling of funds, from selective investors, that invests into private companies and that promotes impact investing.

Click here for more information about Private Equity Funds


Mauritius: the ideal jurisdiction for doing business

Furthermore, the Mauritius International Financial Centre is a well-regulated and compliant jurisdiction, recognised among the global business community.

Mauritius: the ideal jurisdiction for doing business


How can we help you do business in and from Mauritius, and benefit from these Free Trade Agreements?

Sunibel accompanies you in setting up and managing your corporate entity in Mauritius. Our services include:

  • Advisory, structuring and setting up of your Trading and/or Freeport Company;
  • Administration of your corporate structure;
  • Corporate administration and other services;
  • Accounting and bookkeeping (including tax filings);
  • Provision of company secretarial services;
  • Provision of registered office address and sourcing of staff;
  • Assistance in listing on the Stock Exchange; and
  • Assistance with Occupation Permits and relocation, amongst others.
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