Empowering Rodriguans: A journey into the world of exports

23 January 2024
Rodriguans export eworkshop

In a collaboration between the Economic Development Board, Mauritius (EDB), and the Commonwealth Secretariat, in December last year, a pioneering initiative for the "Rodrigues Export and Market Development" project was launched.

This venture, supported by the Rodrigues Regional Assembly (RRA) aims to help the island venture beyond its domestic market and step into the global export arena.

Rodrigues Island is an autonomous outer island of the Republic of Mauritius that has, until now, primarily exported within Mauritius. The Rodrigues Export and Market Development project seeks to change that by elevating the export readiness of the manufacturing sector. It also aims to position local products in international markets by improving product and process quality standards, enhancing trade connectivity, and fostering awareness of export market requirements.

Speaking about the Rodrigues Export and Market Development project, Mr. Yawar Qazi Naeem, Trade Competitiveness Adviser at the Commonwealth Secretariat said:

"The Trade Competitiveness section of the Commonwealth Secretariat is primarily focused on improving export development in our member countries through the development of strategies, national trade policies, and capacity building for Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs).

"Yes, there is a need for increasing the production of products, but market access is also critical in addition to other things, such as strengthening and expanding the technological and managerial capacities of MSMEs; developing and equipping entrepreneurs to take advantage of the opportunities the markets offer and providing a platform for networking and linkages among MSME’s."

Building Entrepreneurial Export Skills

In 2023, the Trade Competitiveness Section of the Commonwealth Secretariat conducted a scoping visit in Rodrigues.  Following the preliminary findings, the project scope has been defined into different phases, which are scheduled to be implemented over the next three years.

The project kickstarted in Port Mathurin, Rodrigues, in December 2023 marking the commencement of its inaugural activity, centred around the development of "Entrepreneurial Export Skills." This initial phase included comprehensive enterprise assessments and a tailored training program catering to over 50 entrepreneurs. The successful execution of this first activity is expected to conclude by February 2024.

Mr. Sanjay Matadeen, Senior Lecturer at the Middlesex University Mauritius Branch, assumes the roles of project consultant and trainer. The skills acquired under his guidance are indispensable for achieving effective overseas market penetration and fostering an ingrained export culture among Rodriguans.

Support institutions for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) collaborated in launching the training programme, including SME Mauritius Ltd, Invest Rodrigues, MRIC, DBM, Registrar of Companies, and Polytechnics Mauritius Ltd.

Conducting 20 enterprise visits to gauge export readiness and production structures, Mr. Matadeen was joined by Mr. Yawar Naeem, Trade Adviser at the Commonwealth Secretariat, and Mr. Geerish Bucktowonsing, Industry Director at the Economic Development Board (EDB).

Various sectoral activities involve entrepreneurs in Handicrafts, Seafood processing (dry Octopus and Salted fish), Beekeeping, Honey production, and speciality exotic food production.

The Export Skills Training programme

The training programme spanned three days, focusing on key modules:

  • Export Process
  • Understanding Export Markets
  • Designing/Making Products for Exports
  • A successful case study by Seskel Enterprise Ltd on exporting salted fish to the UK.

Additionally, an information dissemination session was organised with SME support institutions in Rodrigues, aiming to familiarise participants with diverse services, support mechanisms, conditions, and schemes available to Rodriguan entrepreneurs. Mr. Oliver Ng, Director of Seskel Enterprise Ltd, shared the company's experience in adopting HACCP norms and exporting to the UK. Mr. Vishal Taukoor from Dodo Traders UK Ltd explained the steps and conditions of UK market requirements.

The programme also engaged new graduates and students from Polytechnic Mauritius Ltd enrolled in the Logistics Programme.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the project were, Mr. Johnson Roussety GOSK, Chief Commissioner and Commissioner for Industrial Development at the Rodrigues Regional Assembly, Mr. Yawar Qazi Naeem, Trade Competitiveness Adviser at the Commonwealth Secretariat and Mr. Geerish Bucktowonsing, Director (Industry, SMEs, Freeport & Logistics) at EDB Mauritius.

Mr. Johnson Roussety OSK emphasised the full support of the Rodrigues Regional Assembly Government for this project. He said:

“Entrepreneurs should focus on standards, norms and hygiene requirements to provide higher quality products to foreign buyers. I invite entrepreneurs to emphasise the value addition of products and job creation, and the regional government will give the necessary support to get access to industrial space and land as well as facilitate the permit process.”

Mr. Bucktowonsing said:

“This project will sow the seeds for industrialization in Rodrigues and the emergence of new exporters.  Foreign buyers are also looking for products, which are ecological, and environment friendly. Rodriguan products can fit into this market segment and position in premium markets.”

Mr. Yawar Qazi Naeem, said:

“Rodriguan MSMEs form a crucial part of this Commonwealth family, and I invite the Chief Commissioner and the Rodriguan entrepreneurs to stand at the forefront of these intra-Commonwealth discussions."

Media contact

  • Rena Gashumba  Communications Adviser, Communications Division, Commonwealth Secretariat
  • T: +44 7483 919 968  |  E-mail