I am Mauritian. Mo ene morissienne. I know my country and its people, I know its limitations, but I also know its untapped potential. And this is precisely why I can talk about our need to innovate, as a country.
In Mauritius, when we think about innovation, we visualise a lone genius (a Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs type) coming up with an amazing idea out of the blue, which will completely disrupt the world and change billions of lives around the globe. We hear stories of young technology geeks in the US making significant discoveries or developing amazing new products and becoming billionaires after a few months, and we wish we could do the same. However, most of us Mauritians are working in private organisations or in governmental bodies where, well… (and it’s so unfortunate) we can look right, left and center, it’s difficult to see or imagine any of our current colleagues becoming the next Zuckerberg!
We therefore tend to see innovation flourishing in countries like Silicon Valley, China, France or Singapore, but we tend to stay quite pessimistic when it comes to rethink our own country in terms of innovation: “we need to take into account the local political/economical/social context of Mauritius”, “we need to be realistic, we are far from being Singapore”, “how do we even start?” or “let’s start with a first initiative by copying that idea I read about, then we will see if it works”.
Today, we are celebrating the 50th year of Independence of our country. We can choose to focus on the recent political scandals, or our slowing economic growth rate, rising consumer prices or pick any social and environmental issues we care about, but I hope we choose to focus differently.
The capacity of the human mind to build innovative solutions, that address human needs globally is endless. Think of the iPhone how it allowed the smartphone to create a massive impact on humanity. Think of inventions like Skype coming from small countries like Estonia. Invention needs no land, labour and capital, which are traditional constraints. Innovation’s only constraint is creative, and we as a nation are some of the most creative people on the planet.
Today, I see a lot of my compatriots claiming their love for our country and voicing out their pride to be Mauritian. And I hope that beyond today, we can continue to focus on what we love about Mauritius, all the inner capabilities of our people, and how blessed our country is. When we start to see these problems as opportunities, when we ask “why not?” and “how might we be part of the solution”?, we all become innovators.
Vive Moris! Happy 50th Independence Day Mauritius!