Knowledge in Port Louis

Port Louis, Mauritius, leapfrogs within the knowledge economy sector through smart cities, education hubs and environments of transparent intermediacy.

Ebene Cybercity, a high-tech office park and smart city located 15 km outside the centre of Port Louis
The island nation of Mauritius has been extensively covered as Africa’s leading knowledge economy, see the recent article in the Domus Future African Cities supplement, Port Louis: headquartering Ideas.
Perhaps this achievement has been greeted with insufficient astonishment because Western models of knowledge economies such as the Emilia Romagna region, Silicon Valley or Seattle are tightly-knit into broader ecosystems of universities; state, military and privatized research; vast industrial demand for innovation; and global markets.


By contrast, Mauritius seems to have leapfrogged these developments and extracted their common essence, which is the ability to identify intellectual property and transact it. In some sense being a microeconomy on an island, off the African coast, has forced a refinement to essentials and an orientation outward towards client networks in India, China, France and the United Kingdom amongst others, whose appetite is to interact with sub-Saharan Africa on all dimensions of intellectual property.

The effect of this clever positioning within a node, part global part regional, has been to turn the harbour capital city of Port Louis into the progenitor of a number of edge cities niched in advanced services sectors, financialization, I.P. packaging and export, characteristic of knowledge economy brokerage rather than knowledge economy generation. Once more a pioneering African city has understood the reliability and robustness of cooperative networks beyond its own state and territorial control and has sufficient confidence in these to establish its future as their mediator.
Perhaps a style is emerging for African cities and the kinds of economies and markets they host in which territorial control is far less important than the ability to attract and disseminate people and expertise, and with them key relationships. Hence the impression given by cities such as Port Louis, but also by Kigali and Lagos, of pursuing new opportunities without demanding undue assurance: there is a confidence that once a city facilitates an opportunity, appropriate takers will arise to make full use of it. In this sense Africa’s cities seem to be advancing towards new ventures as supply rather than demand-driven.
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