As a beautiful paradise in the Indian Ocean, Seychelles competes with many other island nations across the globe from South East Asia to the Caribbean as well as nearby countries. Nevertheless, you have managed to position yourselves at the top of tourist destination worldwide. What about the business sector here?
I think we are doing very well in the business sector. We have a lot of business opportunities stretching from not only tourism but renewal energy, fisheries; blue economy to be precise. We also have a good financial services sector which is blooming at the moment. The Government is pushing towards encouraging the private sector to take the lead especially the locals; by empowering SME’s to grow but we always realize the important of FDIs. With the good collaboration that the private sector has with the public sector, we can bring in even more investor opportunities focusing on diversification, innovation, and value creation but taking into consideration equilibrium between conservation and development. .
So the financial services sector is the third pillar of the economy?
The financial services sector has proven to have very good potential and continues to grow and flourish. Government has frequent consultations with the industry and by having this good collaboration we expect the sector to improve further. In fact, it is anticipated that this year new bills will be finalized and legislated which will in turn cater for new products.
What are the advantages of the financial services sector in Seychelles for investors?
Seychelles is strategically located between the two major trading blocks boosting a politically stable environment and remains a safe haven from terrorists. We are fortunate to be in a jurisdiction that also has skilled labor force which speaks English, French, and Creole making it the ideal choice to incorporate an international business company, license fund, register trust, register Yacht/Vessels, secretarial services, corporate director, nominee shareholders and other corporate services required.. Communication is made easy with our adult literacy rate at 96%. In addition to these benefits, other advantages for investors would comprise of:
• Excellent sea and air connectivity from major hubs such as Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Johannesburg and Sri Lanka ;
• No foreign exchange restrictions;
• Favorable Time Zone;
• The main population centres being well outside the cyclone belt.
How do you plan to communicate all these to investors now that the international crisis is starting to resign? How are you attracting investors?
Any good means possible. E-biz for instance. We have a team dedicated to marketing our jurisdiction but we do collaboratively with other governmental and private bodies. The SIB continues to maximize Seychelles’ exposure through our partnership with our embassies worldwide, our participation in overseas forums and distribution of our collaterals. We are also revamping our website which is considered the first tool and point of contact for investors; thus making it more user friendly is a must. Additionally, this year we will be targeting business individuals through our partnership with our local airline Etihad Air Seychelles, of which they preview our ads onboard as well as magazines. Another major milestone will be Seychelles featuring in the world renowned publication, the China Economic Review; so we definitely are trying to bring globalization closer to us.
Renewables and green energy are sectors which you want to diversify in. Is there another sector on which you are presently focusing?
Our fisheries sector. There are many potential in this sector for instance in aquaculture. Nevertheless, we are aiming to expand this sector by focusing mostly on value creation and looking into the possibility of creating new markets by branching out into under exploited species and at the same time safe guarding the ones currently being marketed. However our overall aim is to focus on opportunities from all sectors but; in a sustainable way.
One of your competencies is to partner up with international businesses and with local ones. Could you elaborate more on which type of partners you are considering right now or which region of the world you are trying to partner with?
Our traditional partners have always been from Asia, Middle East and Europe however, we are now in the process of conducting a market study to determine which areas will be advantageous and reap maximum return. Alternatively, to date we have seen an inflow from various origins which is very promising as it’s always better to have a little bit of Seychelles globally rather than in specific regions. With regards to our local partners, SIB is emphasizing on collaborating with small businesses, giving them opportunities to grow and be exposed to the external market.
A consequence of this new economic chapter following the economic crisis, is the fact that we are seeing a lot of startups coming up internationally, but also here. How is the environment here for startups and are you getting foreign startups to establish themselves here?
There are plenty! We have observed the likes of renewable energy, fisheries, financial services, trading businesses and professional services. The environment is stable and setting up a business is relatively easy. As shown in the 2017 Ease of Doing Business Report, Seychelles is ranked 7th out of the 55 African Countries and 93 in total. Further improvements are in the pipeline in relation to our doing business laws, policies, guidelines and processes. It is also good to mention that Seychelles have favourable tax regimes for investment in the Tourism, Agriculture, Energy and Fisheries sectors and has a financial centre with no foreign exchange restrictions.
The number of startups that you are having here could also be related to the fact that you are very well placed in the Doing Business Database. You have a position of 89 out of 189, so the red tape here is not a problem. Do you think there are still some things that could be done in this regard, to reduce the red tape?
I don’t think red tape is a problem here at SIB because the period of time for us to respond to a query ranges between 2 to 30 working days. We also have our website www.sib.gov.sc which has all the readily accessible information. The business environment can be better if we improve our laws, guidelines and processes.
Another way to make it better is to engage with international actors and private entities. We know that SIB collaborates with Eden Island and Air Seychelles, as well as with embassies. What kind of collaborations do you have with international actors and private entities so as to push forward?
These collaborations differ with different actors. We provide embassies with publications (soft and hard copies) and our website/social media links for maximum visibility. We also join forces to organise or attend investment forums. Partners such as Eden Island and Air Seychelles also assist us in increasing our visibility on their media platforms. We also have MoUs with overseas Investment Promotion Agencies, principally to exchange relevant information, assist in capacity building programmes and matchmaking.
What message would you give to the people who would want to invest but for some reason only see Seychelles as a touristic destination?
Seychelles is not just sun, sand and sea, we are also champion in environmental preservation which brings about many investment opportunities in the green economy. We also advocate sustainable investment which basically strikes the balance between conservation and development.
As a woman at the top of a sector that is key in unleashing the economy of Seychelles, what will be your message to other entrepreneurial woman in the world?
The theme for International Women’s Day 2017 was “Be Bold for Change”; a motto that has inspired me, in turn; enable me to empower others to take the lead in a man’s world especially now that everyone is gender conscious. Women should not be scared to be at the forefront of investment. They should remove the perception that women should be at home taking care of the house and family. Never under estimate your ability as a woman!