For me, it alludes to a process, an aspiration and, at the very least, a project that strives to help transform a landscape into a sustainable, economically viable one that offers a better quality of life for all.
Different countries around the world have each customised their own version of the smart city. In Europe, Sweden, Germany and France have focused on eco-friendly, sustainable practices, while Hong Kong and Singapore have chosen to push the depths and boundaries of technology instead.
On the tropical island of Mauritius, smart cities are the means of transforming the country into a fully-fledged international business and financial hub. To get the ball rolling, the Economic Development Board, under the aegis of the Prime Minister’s office, launched an ambitious economic development programme in 2015, known as the Smart City Scheme.
To successfully compete with other thriving global economies, Mauritius needs to show the world that they have ideal conditions for foreigners to work, live and invest. A total of eight cities across the island have been earmarked for smart-ification – transforming them into new intelligent cities, with all the bells and whistles of other smart cities around the world.
The Mauritian version of the smart city is focused on urban ecosystems in the form of mixed-use developments that help integrate office, business, residential and leisure components. It’s a coherent master plan focusing on innovation, sustainability, efficiency and quality of life and, in essence, is the live, work, play concept that many South Africans living in exclusive residential estates have come to know and enjoy.
One city ripe for smart picking is Moka, situated at the heart of the island, 12km from the capital city of Port Louis, and strategically positioned near major highways for quick access to the aerotropolis precinct. Historically speaking, Moka is both the name of a district and of the local village, and it already attracts almost 12,000 people who play a substantial role in progressing the country’s economy. The Moka area is comparable to what Canal Walk is to Cape Town city centre.
More than 70% of the purchasing power and 40% of the workforce in Mauritius lives within a 10 km radius of Moka. As a result, the area has experienced a real estate development boom over the past few years. Moka is in the midst of an exciting growth period as more and more residential and mixed-use estates are being developed. Spearheading this revolutionary change is ENL, which started farming sugar in 1821, and has been an important player in Mauritius’ economic development for nearly two centuries by constantly diversifying its economic activities – most recently by turning to property development.
So what differentiates Moka Smart City from any other such city on the island? For one, it already exists and is a much more attractive, smarter and competitive place to be living and working. Brighter, faster and better connected, this is smart living like nothing Mauritius has ever seen before.
By making better use of local resources and offering an improved quality of life, the developers have managed to create real economic opportunities. The expectations of families and businesses are constantly evolving, and the new and environmentally responsible, smarter Moka meets them head on with more than 260 plots of land created, and 200 apartments and duplexes already built.
For locals, their home is now a place that promotes harmony with nature, inspires a healthy lifestyle and community living, and is both welcoming and accessible for all to enjoy. As a result, residents now have access to world-class healthcare facilities, a number of private and state English and French schools for children of all ages, an international Curtin University campus with approximately 2,000 students currently studying, and leading-edge business amenities and office space with the latest technology.
Inspired entertainment and everyday leisure is made easy with the island’s largest shopping mall in close proximity, and an upcoming lavish country club as well as improved transportation systems, including a bigger, more modern bus terminal and a detailed citizen engagement programme. In the years to come, Moka Smart City will have new landscaping projects too, such as a linear park, called La Promenade, which will cross the city from east to west.
Another key focus for ENL is the creation of contemporary residential projects accessible to both locals and foreigners, and various options are available. Take Les Allées d’Helvétia for example, a residential development within close proximity to schools, a shopping centre and a sports centre. It offers the right balance between a quality outdoor living experience, and the benefits of a well-managed and planned semi-urban development.
For a more chic and contemporary lifestyle, there is Bagatelle Les Résidences – Belle Rive. Here, space and privacy is of utmost importance with ample-sized and well-thought-out living spaces that are set nearly eight metres from each other in an incredibly low-density environment (there are only 22 units – 20 apartments and two penthouses in total). The three-bedroom units have a total surface area of between 158 and 364 square metres, while some of the ground-floor apartments have a private garden, and the penthouses each have a heated swimming pool.
It is just one step in letting the wider world know that Mauritius is open and ready for business. Foreigners have always been attracted to the warm waters, pristine beaches and year-round sunshine of this tropical island destination, so the struggle for Mauritius has never been how to attract them, but how to keep them from leaving.
Favourable property laws mean that any person, including non-citizens, can acquire a built-up residential property in Mauritius. A non-citizen acquiring a residential property within specific property shemes for a sum exceeding US$500,000 is eligible to apply for a residence permit for themselves and their immediate family. For investors, there is also a consistent growth trend of 6% on rental yield and a 7% capital gain.
ENL has also done their bit by addressing previous development and investment challenges. They are building a central business district,that includes a state-of-the art cultural centre with improved fibre optic connectivity, to help promote innovation, and expanding the local knowledge hub. Four new precincts are already home to 50 established companies, representing 10 sectors and employing more than 1,000 people.
From an environmental perspective, developed urban infrastructure with sustainable energy sources and green building practice guarantee longevity and the conservation of green areas, while energy saving and waste water recycling ensure a cleaner, softer approach to life and business.
The City aims to attain accreditation from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for Neighbourhood Development, a US certification system that demands compliance with detailed specifications on infrastructure standards laid down by the United States Green Building Council. One such demand is that the development site must include at least one LEED-certified building, and the new PwC Mauritius headquarters currently under construction in the Central Business District at Telfair Square will be just that.
When fully completed, Moka Smart City and the other seven like it, will undoubtedly contribute to creating somewhat of a new Mauritius – one that can confidently compete globally with other smart countries all vying for foreign businesses and investment.
Of course, the biggest benefactors will always be the residents and locals who get to enjoy a better standard of living. Finely landscaped, business-friendly and oozing productivity, there is no reason why they would not be proud to call Moka Smart City their home. Mauritius can look forward to a promising future and be known for more than just her beaches, weather and food.