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Islamic Finance a Catalyst for Driving an Integrated Islamic Economy

Islamic Finance a Catalyst for Driving an Integrated Islamic Economy

New growth opportunities for Islamic banking, finance and investments identified at the 3rd Annual Middle East Islamic Finance and Investment Conference (MEIFIC 2013)

More than 250 Islamic finance and investment leaders gathered in Dubai for MEIFIC 2013

Ahmed Bin Sulayem, Executive Chairman of Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC).

Ahmed Bin Sulayem, Executive Chairman of Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC).

Dubai: United Arab Emirates: 17th April 2013: The 3rd Annual Middle East Islamic Finance and Investment Conference (MEIFIC 2013) which was held today at the Dusit Thani, Dubai, saw more than 250 leaders in the international and regional Islamic banking and finance industry engage in critical discussions that focused on building the Islamic economy and strengthening Islamic finance’s links to the real economy. Co-located with the 8th Annual World Takaful Conference (WTC 2013), the event was opened with a special inaugural address by Ahmed Bin Sulayem, Executive Chairman of Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC).

The inaugural session was immediately followed by a special keynote address by Tayeb Abdulrahman Al Rais, Secretary General of the Awqaf & Minors Affairs Foundation. The session was chaired by Dr. Alberto Brugnoni, Chairman of the Board at ASSAIF. Discussing the role of AWQAF in supporting the Islamic economy and how AWQAF and Islamic finance can play a key role in overall economic and social

Tayeb Abdulrahman Al Rais, Secretary General of the Awqaf & Minors Affairs Foundation

Tayeb Abdulrahman Al Rais, Secretary General of the Awqaf & Minors Affairs Foundation

development, Tayeb Abdulrahman Al Rais noted that “historically, Awqaf has played an important role in achieving the goals of the community. Whether it is driving economic development through the establishment of education facilities; catering to the needs of students and teachers; taking care of orphans and the sick; or launching other welfare initiatives. The creation of endowments also led to job opportunities, infrastructure enhancement and economic diversification. These consolidated benefits significantly contributed to poverty alleviation and enriched the quality of life within communities.”

He also said that “while the fundamental needs of our society have not changed, increase in population is straining social services, as governments seek to control escalating welfare costs. Although many people have benefitted from higher standards of living, created by rising wealth, there are still millions who live in poverty. For many of them, Awqaf could provide a lifeline.”

Delegates at MEIFIC 2013

Delegates at MEIFIC 2013

However, he also noted that “the administration of Awqaf, in many countries is inefficient. Funds, which could be used for the betterment of society, languish in bank accounts and investments deliver low returns. For Awqaf to be effective, it needs to be guided by an efficient institutional system that delivers sustainable revenues, that benefit not only today’s needy but also help secure benefits for generations to come.”

A major highlight of MEIFIC 2013 was the high profile keynote power debate that assessed new growth opportunities for Islamic finance and discussed new strategies for stepping up the pace of growth and innovation in Islamic finance. The power debate session, chaired by Dr. Sayd Farook, Global Head Islamic Capital Markets at Thomson Reuters and featuring Moinuddin Malim, Chief Executive Officer of Mashreq Al Islami; Amr Al Menhali, EVP, Head of Islamic Banking at ADCB Islamic Banking; Rajashekara V. Maiya, AVP & Lead Product Manager at Finacle, Infosys; and Anouar Adham, Head of Asset Management at QIB – UK, analyzed how Islamic finance institutions can scale-up to better meet the needs of the real economy.

Speaking at the power-debate session, Dr. Sayd Farook, Global Head Islamic Capital Markets at Thomson Reuters said that “Dubai and the United Arab Emirates already occupy an enviable position when it comes to the development of the Islamic economy and its multiple sectors. Besides being the birthplace of contemporary Islamic finance, Dubai is in a leading position to capitalise on its existing strengths as the third most popular travel destination for global Muslims, one of the top three primary sukuk issuance sources and immense logistical influence over the halal food processing and logistics market via DP World that commands 60 cargo terminals across six continents. Yet, the Islamic finance industry has not fully capitalised on the links between the various Islamic economy sectors and Shari’a compliant capital, in line with the comprehensive vision of the Islamic economy that His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Prime Minister and Vice President of the UAE and the Ruler of Dubai has advocated.”

“The Islamic finance industry has immense potential to capitalise on the value that could be generated by identifying the full value chain in areas such as Halal food processing through a structured and well executed strategy”, he added.

Commenting on their participation at the event, Amr Al Menhali, EVP and Head of Islamic Banking at ADCB Islamic Banking said that “the Islamic finance industry is currently witnessing rapid transformation and continues to undergo significant change as the market moves from its niche status and gains a stronger foothold as an integral part of the financial system. With the rapid internationalization of Islamic finance and new jurisdictions – even non-Islamic, now embracing Islamic finance, the industry is experiencing even stronger growth momentum, especially given the increasing awareness of Islamic finance and its benefits of being more closely linked to real economic activities. The Middle East has been at the centre of Islamic finance activity and the region is viewed as one of the more mature markets. With a young, fast-growing population; robust macroeconomic factors and the boost in government spending and large infrastructure projects, major economies in the region, particularly the UAE, are witnessing promising signs of economic growth and it is now time for the region to further grow their Islamic finance capabilities. In addition to developing sophisticated products, improving distribution channels, which would certainly assist in increasing the market share of Islamic finance, the real opportunity is to create an integrated Islamic economic system by further strengthening the linkage of Islamic finance to real economic activities.”

Speaking to the media along the sidelines of MEIFIC 2013, David McLean, Chief Executive of the Middle East Islamic Finance and Investment Conference noted that “the global Islamic banking growth story continues to be positive, growing 50% faster than the overall banking sector. The Ernst & Young World Islamic Banking Competitiveness Report 2012 which was launched at the 19th Annual World Islamic Banking Conference (WIBC 2012) last December in the Kingdom of Bahrain noted that global Islamic banking assets are forecast to grow beyond the milestone of $2 trillion by 2014. The Report also noted that in some key markets of the GCC Islamic banking assets are now over 50%. With 10 of the world’s 25 Rapid Growing Markets having large Muslim populations, there are tremendous growth opportunities for the Islamic banking and finance industry not only in terms of retail, SME, trade finance and wealth management but also by playing an increasingly important and central role in supporting the development of a holistic Islamic economic system.”

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