The first Europeans to have visited Mauritius were the Portuguese at the beginning of the sixteenth century (most probably in 1510). The Dutch who settled in the island in 1598 named it Mauritius after Prince Maurice of Nassau.
Among other things, the Dutch introduced sugar cane and the Java deer before leaving in 1710 where they had found, in the mean time, a far better settling place: The Cape of Good Hope in South Africa. About five years later, in 1715, the French occupied the island, renaming it "Isle de France".
Mauritius marks a crossroad of global trade. Colonised by the Dutch, French and English in turn, with a history heavily influenced by India, Africa and China, Mauritius has a multi-cultural and cosmopolitan population of about 1.3 million inhabitants.
Mauritius ranks high in several global polls for both business and quality of life, and an abundance of new facilities are springing up all over the island, from shopping malls, restaurants, offices and factories to private schools and state-of-the-art medical centres.
Mauritius has proven an extremely successful emerging market over the past few years, and the island continues to generate high levels of investor interest. It is fast becoming a major offshore banking centre, with over 400 financial institutions now based there.
While endowed with a small, but increasingly affluent local population, Mauritius has secured preferential access to markets worth several hundreds of millions of consumers. With the EU, through the Cotonou agreement; with the US under the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act; with Eastern and Southern Africa, through the COMESA (Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa) and SADC (Southern African Development Community). Mauritius is also a member of the British Commonwealth group of countries.