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close this bookExporting Africa: Technology, Trade and Industrialization in Sub-Saharan Africa (UNU, 1995, 434 pages)
close this folderPart II. Country studies
close this folder12. Mauritius
View the document(introductory text...)
View the documentBackground
View the documentThe firms in the sample
View the documentFirm strategies
View the documentLinkage capabilities
View the documentResponse to external factors
View the documentNew technologies and exports
View the documentNote
View the documentBibliography

Firm strategies

There were a number of bottleneck factors which helped to determine firms' strategies. Access to finance (short-term and long-term) is not a problem for five of the firms: it is very easy for the jewellery firm and satisfactory for the fertilizer and knitwear manufacturers. It is rather difficult for the tuna canning firm and the cloth manufacturer. Access to managerial and technical skills is easy or satisfactory for all firms except the knitwear firm and cloth manufacturer, where it is rather difficult. Likewise access to technology is not a problem (it was rated easy or satisfactory) in all cases except for the knitwear manufacturer, where it is said to be very difficult. Access to foreign exchange does not appear to be a problem anywhere.

We must again differentiate between ISE and EOE enterprises. The type of market and degree of competition differ between import substitution and export-oriented enterprises, and a firm's strategies are influenced by the type of market in which it operates and the competition which it faces.

ISE firms

Investment strategies for the ISEs relate to more mechanization for higher productivity and up-to-date equipment to keep up with international trends, better process control and substantial investment in R&D to improve the quality of the product, and product diversification. All three ISEs give considerable attention to marketing, which is a predominant element of their strategies.

The oil refinery

The production strategy of the oil refinery seems to have been shaped by its former monopoly position and the need to ensure a regular supply of edible oil of the appropriate quality for the local market. Its marketing strategy changed following the liberalization of oil imports in 1988 and the opening of a competing refinery. Their emphasis is on adapting to changing local market conditions, with the introduction of consumer packs in the place of drums, new brands and sizes, and the development of a new public image. The firm also runs consumer promotions and trade offers. Management control processes include 'proper' qualify control and the Mauritius Standard Bureau Certification Mark.

Product development also appears on the firm's agenda: the firm keeps abreast of changes in the world edible oil industry. Technology search consists of visits to overseas refineries and membership of leading international societies. Project identification and feasibility studies are done by a team with the help of outside consultants (both local and overseas). Besides developments within the firm itself, such projects have been concerned with the creation of successful subsidiary companies for the production of metal containers and plastics. The management team does the feasibility studies.

Chemical fertilizers

The marketing strategy of the fertilizer firm is to maintain direct contact with overseas clients and to participate in fairs. The firm has recently adopted an 'aggressive marketing policy' in East Africa. On the production side, the firm's strategy emphasizes higher productivity to reduce costs (chemical fertilizers in Mauritius are subject to price control), and technology research and product development. They also employ management control processes.

The Technical manager and technical department team (i.e. the chemical engineer, mechanical engineers, draughtsman and engineering assistant) are responsible for new projects and investments. The technical manager is in overall control of a project from preparation to commissioning. In this regard he liaises with the other heads of departments responsible for production, maintenance, instrumentation and materials handling.

Internal and external linkages were said to be of equal importance, although it was clear from the answers to this question that the various firms defined these linkages in different ways. The picture which emerges is that of a fairly innovative firm, producing to international standards, with virtual control of the local market and aiming at a breakthrough in regional export markets.

Paints

The paint manufacturer, operating in a more competitive market than the other two ISEs, uses a range of marketing strategies such as advertising, public relations, sponsorship of cultural and sporting events and direct contact with buyers. The firm also participates in local and international trade fairs. Recent changes include increases in capacity, better service to customers and keeping a greater variety of products in stock. Project identification and feasibility studies are carried out by the management and financial teams. Such feasibility studies are always carried out before launching a new project or innovation.

Over the years the firm has bought four competing firms which were producing paint for the local market. New products have also been introduced. Since 1985 they have produced inks under licence for Coats SA Ltd. (through a subsidiary company). Activities also include technology search (literature search and visits to suppliers and fairs), expanding its range of products for the local and overseas market, developing internal and external linkages, and human resource development.

With regard to management control processes, standards are set for each type of paint. This was the first paint manufacturer to obtain the MS3 (highest rating) from the Mauritius Standard Bureau.

EOE firms

The industry and market structures within which EOE firms operate are very different from those facing ISE enterprises. EOEs face world-wide competition and sell on open markets. This conditions their strategies.

Tuna canning

The tuna canning firm uses chain production and markets its products through an intermediary. The firm's production capacity has been increased but there has been a considerable drop in world prices for canned tuna. The firm is responding by investing in updated technology. Information about new technology is obtained from suppliers and other foreign firms. The firm's objective is to look for more remunerative markets and possible new products. It has an 'independent approach' regarding internal and external linkages.

Performance is gauged in relation to yield (quantity of canned tuna produced per tonne of fish) and output, while quality is checked regularly to conform to buyers' specifications. Wastage is negligible. Provision is made for feedback and corrective action through inspections, reports and factory and management meetings.

The chief operating officer is responsible for new projects. Feasibility studies are done by the relevant departments: i.e. the trading department does the market studies, the production department the technical studies and so on. Each divisional manager is responsible for the preparation, design and commissioning of projects which relate to his division.

Knitwear

Adaptation is the normal condition of knitwear producers. The knitwear manufacturer in our sample has invested in high technology and R&D, with an increasing proportion of fashionable knitwear in its total output. Owing to rising labour costs, the firm has introduced more efficient and better-performing machines and relocated part of its production of basic knitwear to Madagascar. The firm devotes much attention to the search for new and improved technologies. Technological improvements are the responsibility of the directors and heads of departments together with the technical team. The head of a department identifies a new project with the help of his subordinates. Responsibility for project preparation and design lies with the head of department under which the project falls, while feasibility studies are carried out at the appropriate level. It is the selling price of the article which 'decides' the feasibility of the project.

Both the chain approach and the polyvalent team approach to the organization of production are used. The firm's marketing is by direct contact with buyers, with production capacity rather than sales opportunities seen as the limiting factor.

The firm is paying more attention to strengthening external linkages. It has an active training policy (comprising both in-house and outside training) and an R&D department which is very active.

Cloth manufacturing

The firm's investment strategies relate to product diversification and R&D. The firm uses the chain approach with specialization in production, although its aim is to introduce the polyvalent team approach. In its marketing strategy, the firm uses direct contacts with prospective buyers, participation in local and international fairs and publicity. The firm's marketing strategy is being completely revised following the collapse in sales described above. The aim is to increase the customer base both locally and abroad.

The firm is continually required to come up with imitations and adaptations because it is expected to offer new customers what they have been buying elsewhere. At the same time the firm must adapt to fashion trends. The firm is not actively searching for new technologies but keeps itself informed through overseas business contacts.

Product development is largely a matter of changes in design. The CAD and technical management departments are fully trained and equipped to conceive and develop new designs and qualities. Changes in designs and the development of new products are done in close collaboration with the marketing commercial division following customer demands and fashion trends. Projects are identified by a team of two or three persons with overseas experience in the relevant field.

The firm is devoting more attention to internal linkages: its aim is to establish excellent communications and team spirit throughout the entire plant. External linkages take the form of contacts with all the textile-related companies in Mauritius. However, we must bear in mind that this firm faces severe financial difficulties following the collapse of its sales on the export markets, and is currently in receivership. According to our latest information, it may have ceased to operate altogether.

Jewellery

The jewellery firm produces jewellery to specifications received from its French partners. The emphasis is on fine craftsmanship, rather than volume of output. The firm has invested in high technology and uses the polyvalent team approach whenever it is possible.

As mentioned before, the jewellery firm is a small, specialized unit in which the general manager directly supervises various stages of operation. The local firm contributes capital, its experience in jewellery and high-precision operations (watch repairs) and experience in the management of similar ventures. All other aspects, including marketing, are looked after by the French partners. There is little real innovation. Change is limited to imitations and adaptations and technology search is primarily carried out by the French partners.

Project identification is done by a team, while a single person is responsible for feasibility studies, project preparation and commissioning. New products are tested with the firm's 'test workers'. The firm provides both in-house and external formal training.