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Monday, 21 September 2015

Call to dispel Islamic banking misconceptions in Oman

Muscat: There are some misconceptions about Islamic banking in Oman, which need to be dispelled through raising awareness about this sector, says a senior official at Bank Nizwa.

“Perhaps many market participants believe that Islamic banking is just a way to ‘Islamise’ interest and they keep comparing Islamic banks to conventional banks,” Dr Jamil El Jaroudi, chief executive officer of Bank Nizwa, told ‘Times of Oman’ in an exclusive interview.

“At Bank Nizwa, it is not only our belief, but also our commitment to build Islamic banking true to its core based on Sharia,” said the official at Oman's first dedicated Islamic bank.

El Jaroudi noted that they do not want to simply replicate what is out there in the conventional banking and continuously try to innovate and build an industry based on Sharia objectives, and not necessarily just to be Sharia-compliant.

“However, during the initial phase, we do have to provide alternatives to the current conventional products to suit the demand of customers. This process will take time. In the meantime, we can help to re-design the basic concept of finance based on Sharia, which is more equitable to all rather than only based on debt,” he said.

‘Social philanthropic’

“Another misconception is that Islamic banking is similar to a social philanthropic entity. Accordingly, why do Islamic banks ask for profit margins and fees and this is why knowledge about this industry is imperative to succeed,” the official added.

“Yes, there are ethical and social obligations but above all, Islamic banks are commercial and profit oriented businesses owned by investors who chose to put their wealth at work in a Sharia-compliant manner,” El Jaroudi explained.

Asked what Islamic banking provides should do to help enhance the performance of this sector, the CEO of Bank Nizwa said that they need to grow to a certain size to be able to compete on equal footings, meaning good services and good returns to both clients and investors.


“Islamic banks need to be protected, may be incentivised as well, until it gets there because the ultimate beneficiary is the economy of Oman,” he said.

In addition, El Jaroudi said that Oman can learn from the Islamic finance experience of its neighbouring countries as well as other countries in the Far East and other regions.

“Oman has the advantage of seeing and learning from the experiences of the other markets, be it good or bad. If you look at Oman’s Islamic banking regulations, it is very much influenced by this, in addition to choosing what Oman decides is right for its market,” he said.

“However, learning does not stop here. Now we need to dig more into the main benefits of Islamic finance to economies in general and be prepared to modify or add what benefits the Sultanate the most,” El Jaroudi stated.

(Times Of Oman / 20 September 2015)
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Islamic finance prospects in Africa highly promising

JEDDAH —  A newly-released report “Islamic Finance in Africa: A Promising Future” by the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD) takes an in-depth look at the tremendous growth opportunities for Islamic finance to flourish in the region. The new report was released during the Africa Islamic Finance Forum 2015 in Abidjan.

The report is being published as the global banking community comes together to define a transformative new landscape to integrate Islamic finance into the mainstream. 

Once of interest only to a niche market of Muslim investors, Islamic finance is now venturing beyond its traditional sphere, and is slowly gaining widespread acceptance in Africa.

The birthplace of a quarter of the global Muslim population, the report highlights that Africa features a potentially strong demand for Islamic financial services and products. 

While still comparatively under-developed, Islamic finance is expanding in many parts of the region, and is now present across most of North Africa and in many countries of East and West Africa, particularly those with sizeable Muslim communities. 

One of the recommendations of the report is that Islamic finance can act as the catalyst in mobilizing funding into Africa, thereby resulting in economic growth and sustainable development. 

It is estimated that the region needed $93.0 billion per year to finance large-scale infrastructure and manufacturing projects, while external funding is also needed to offset ballooning fiscal deficits. 

Meanwhile, 2 billion adults remain unbanked globally, and currently, sub-Saharan Africa alone accounts for as much as 17.0% of the world’s unbanked adults. 

In addition, there is a significant funding potential opportunity for Islamic banks in view of the increasing emergence of small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) across Africa. 

In light of relatively low-income levels, a large informal sector and the prevalence of small businesses in Africa, Islamic microfinance is also a growth area worth looking into.

The report also highlights notable progress in the sukuk sector, where recent developments have seen governments focusing more on creating a more enabling environment for sukuk issuances. 

Some countries which have issued sukuk include Gambia, Sudan, Senegal and South Africa, while Ivory Coast is lining up to issue its debut sukuk at the end of the year. 

Moving forward, several countries such as Tunisia, Egypt and Morocco have expressed keen interest in tapping the sukuk market for infrastructure financing and have finalized or are in the midst of finalizing their legal frameworks to promote sukuk issuances. 

Although the Islamic financial services industry in Africa is currently dominated by the banking and sukuk segments, growth potential remains in the asset management and takaful spheres. 

In its key recommendations, the report underlines that to capture the tremendous potential, the regional industry must overcome various challenges which are broadly similar with challenges faced in other parts of the world. 

These include challenges on the regulatory front such as regulatory inconsistency, the shortage of qualified human capital, the lack of awareness and financial literacy by many end-users and consumers, and a conducive business landscape which will support the growth of Islamic finance. 

(Saudi Gazette / 20 September 2015)
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