The Role of Cultural Diplomacy in the Mauritian Culture
Interview with EDB Mauritius representatives Mrs. Jeetha; Boojhawon and the Embassy’s First Secretary Ashwin RuheeFebruary 26th, 2020
Berlin, Germany – On 12 February 2020 the Economic Development Board Mauritius (EDB) held a round table seminar co-organized by the Afrika Verein der deutschen Wirtschaft. The goal of the seminar was to strengthen the African-German bridge that will offer many opportunities for both sides. After the seminar, two team members of Berlin Global, Verna de Lange and Benie Boda, had a discussion with the EDB Mauritius representatives Mrs. Jeetha and Mr. Boojhawon and the Embassy’s First Secretary Mr. Ashwin Ruhee about the role of cultural diplomacy in their country.
What do you personally think about cultural diplomacy?
Cultural diplomacy is something very important. This is for all cultures and is quite international. Focusing on culture as a main to promote culture is very important, it is a matter of personal identity. When we try to market Mauritius, the main focus will be the culture besides the beautiful island and the beautiful beaches. Also, tourists are looking for other facets than the beauty of the country. So, as minister of culture, we do a lot of activities, for example, having a discussion with the Foreign Office about having a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Mauritius and Germany in order to finally have a good affinity.
In which way do you think cultural diplomacy is important for your country?
Cultural diplomacy is even more important for us Mauritians because we are multi-cultural, multi-faceted. This means that we have a mix of culture with a population that is coming from diverse origins, for example, India, China, France, the United Kingdom, Madagascar, Mozambique, and some of the island of Gore. It is a Carrefour of cultures, for example, Africa meets Europe or Africa meets Asia and that is why we have outstanding cuisine in Mauritius (smiles). Mauritius is as a mini-United Nations and that is one of our strengths that is reflected in so many ways. This can be in the way we dress, the way we interact with people, how we live together, and the main thing our language, which is creole. Harmony is in one word our main focus that has built our country.
Would you say that the task of the embassy, which is focusing on cultural diplomacy, is different from organizations like EDB that focuses on promoting the national brand?
We could say that it goes hand in hand. For EDB, of course, the focus is investment. We need to “sell” Mauritius in a whole package with all the facets. For the embassy, it is a broader picture. You have the culture, you have the diplomacy, the role of strengthening the nation on a smaller scale and on a bigger scale it is more interacting with other countries. This means we need to promote Mauritius wherever we get the opportunity. EDB, for example, its mean focus is the bigger countries like India, South Africa, some countries in Europe which are all our main trading partners, and which is also reflected in the culture. So, we have an expert in the part of nation branding topic and experts in EDB for the investment topic. It is a serious teamwork.
Focusing on tourism is also an important topic for EDB. How do you think tourism can help to improve the cultural diplomacy of your country?
Tourism can help in many ways. For example, a first visit can be staying at a hotel and go to the beach. The second visit can be more like exploring the island, meeting people, tasting the food, and have different interactions to know the culture which is very important. That is why we still have many French and German tourists over the past forty years who keep coming on a regular basis. Also, the time of staying is getting longer especially from the German tourists. In terms of investments, Germans are also here very present. The reason is that they get to better understand our business environment and see the potential of the country and its potential to invest. The other reason is the safe environment and political stability. Things are going very smoothly which prevents conflict.
What impact do you want to realize, in Berlin, Germany or in your country?
The sky is the limit, so everything. Both countries are dealing with trade in a good way, and Mauritius is quite present in Germany. So, the exchange between Mauritius and Germany is only getting bigger. We are a quite small country, so we must take any opportunity or chance to make ourselves more visible. For example, the embassy tries to make EDB come to Germany at least five to six times a year. And it is not only investment trade, but also the long-lasting friendships between different cities from which we can learn. One of the embassy’s project is to connect the Mauritius cities. We have for example a connection agreement with France, in other words, we have a cultural affinity with the country. So, we are also working on a better collaboration between the different cities. Another project in the near future would be an exchange of parliamentarians with Germany, which we are working on.
What can Germany learn from your country and can you learn from Germany?
We learned many things from Germany, one page would not be enough. It is the mindset, the way they do things, and of course the cars. Anything with engineering and machinery Germany is one of the best. Also, the focus on small and medium enterprises is now the same in Mauritius but on a smaller level. An important thing to add is to have communality of interest, this means having shared values. So, respect for the rule of law, respect for basic human rights, and much more. It is when you have shared values it becomes easier to do things. Finally, we are also planning on integrating the German language in different universities to facilitate the connection between Mauritius and Germany. And we hope that in the future, Germany will open an embassy in Mauritius.
What has been the embassy’s biggest achievement so far, and where have been some struggles?
I will not talk about struggles because diplomacy is a long-term project. Looking in the cultural field I can say that having an MoU with the Afrika Verein der deutschen Wirtschaft is one of the achievements, another achievement will be an assignment with BMW. In the field of trade and investment, it would be an achievement to have an agreement with the Mauritius Chambre of Commerce. At this moment we have many agreements because the more you have the better it is for a country, and it is a win-win situation for both parties. Of course, this is all a long procedure.
What are other ways you as an embassy could represent your country and its culture?
We try to participate in all the big trade fares in Germany. For example, the investment forum, the International Tourism Conference, a reception for our National Holiday on the 12the of March. Each year we also participate at a jewelry fair with the Mauritian delegation manufacturing in Munich, and we also participated at COMPAMED in Düsseldorf which is the main exhibition fair for medical devices. So, we are really looking for a specific trade and investment possibilities to enlarge Mauritius' opportunities.
How would you picture or describe your country in the future, or how do you want it to be?
“First of all, a destination for any business as well as a destination to relax.” Mrs. Jeetha
“I would say that people in Mauritius are already kind of happy. And I ask Mauritius to be even happier. We are a small nation with a diverse economy and still, we are able to live happily, so we need to continue to sustain that effort.” Mr. Boojhawon