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Ziina launches #UAE's first social P2P payments solution

Ziina, the UAE's first licensed social peer-to-peer (P2P) payment application, has raised a pre-seed round of $850,000. The application will help the UAE bank account holders to use their smartphones to send and receive money as easily as sending a text message. Ziina is the latest addition to the Middle East's fintech ecosystem and is capitalising on the region's rapid adoption of fintech friendly regulation. Ziina's cofounders are Faisal Toukan, CEO, Sarah Toukan, Chief Product Officer, and Andrew Gold, VP Engineering. They are joined by a strong advisory board including serial entrepreneur Samih Toukan, and Emre Tok. The founding team recently launched the start-up's operations out of Dubai's In5 tech start-up incubator.

With Islamic social finance increasingly responding to global humanitarian efforts, Muslim donors explain why they choose to give to refugees

There’s an increasing awareness of the significance of Islamic social finance and philanthropy with more organizations reaching out to potential donors. In the Middle East, three donors explain why they choose to give to refugees through the United Nations’ Refugee Agency, UNHCR’s Refugee Zakat Fund. The most important reasons for them are how widely the organization distributes aid and how transparent and honest it is. Houssam Chahine, UNHCR's regional head of private sector partnerships, says the need for Zakat and Sadaqah for refugees this year is even greater. He is confident that the Fund can raise more donations this year in support of vulnerable refugee families, because challenging times persuade people to find ways to give more.

We need responsible multifaith solidarity to fight the pandemic

On April 11, the UN-secretary general, Antonio Guterres, urged religious leaders of all faiths to unite and work together to fight the common battle against COVID-19. The call for interfaith solidarity is echoing at a time when governments are discouraging or even forbidding all kinds of public gatherings including religious festivals, rituals and large congregations. Religious leaders from Christianity, Judaism and Islam have come together to develop creative ways to provide comfort, care and worship services to individuals and families via different digital media. Multifaith unity and collaborative efforts are very much needed to mitigate the pandemic.

Egyptians pay tribute to Saudi businessman Saleh Kamel

Egyptians have been paying tribute to Saudi businessman Saleh Kamel who died in Jeddah on Monday after suffering a heart attack. Members of the country’s business, political, religious, and entertainment communities joined in mourning the passing of the prominent figure. Kamel, who was the chairman and founder of the Dallah Al-Baraka Group established part of his economic empire in Egypt including Arab Radio and Television (ART), and Al-Baraka Bank. He also used the ART Institution to fund charity projects throughout Egypt. Kamel had always been a strong supporter of Egypt and in March 2015 headed a delegation of 100 businessmen and investors at a major conference in Sharm El-Sheikh aimed at boosting the Egyptian economy.

#Qatar Islamic Bank offers family shield ‘takaful’ policy

Qatar Islamic Bank (QIB) launched its family shield takaful policy, designed to provide nationals and residents financial security during unforeseen circumstances. The product is tailor-made to mitigate financial liabilities of the family of the insured, in case of unforeseen events like death or disability. For QR75 per month, customers can purchase a family shield term takaful plan through the QIB mobile app and get takaful coverage for QR250,000. QIB continues to make all financial products and services available digitally. It offers customers the possibility to perform all daily banking needs through its mobile app at any time, from anywhere, without the need to visit a branch.

The legacy of Saudi tycoon Saleh Kamel

Saudi billionaire Saleh Kamel died on Monday and has been buried in Makkah, but his legacy is sure to endure. Even at the age of 79, despite suffering from age-related health issues, Kamel remained active and busy. After graduating, he worked at the Saudi Ministry of Finance. After 10 years with the ministry, Kamel moved to the private sector. He founded his flagship Dallah Al-Baraka Holding Company in 1969 in Riyadh. He expanded the Group's acitivity to include financial and banking services, health care, manufacturing, real estate, tourism, trading and more. Dallah Al-Baraka Group also has the honor of being chosen to clean and sterilize the Two Holy Mosques. Kamel was also a well-known investor in the media and satellite television production. He established Arab Radio and Television and formed a partnership with the Arab MBC channel. Dubbed "the father of contemporary Islamic finance", he received Malaysia’s Royal Award for Islamic Finance in November 2010. The tycoon’s wealth was estimated to be about $2.3 billion. Kamel aspired to creating jobs. He believed that all people should have dignity and that all lives are precious and deserve to be honored.

Saudi Islamic banks’ financial metrics sound, says Fitch Ratings

According to Fitch Ratings, Saudi Islamic banks’ financial metrics deteriorated mildly in 2019 but remained sound. As for conventional banks, the rating agency noted that the impaired financing ratios continued to increase in 2019. Islamic banks have lower impaired financing ratios and financing impairment charges than conventional banks due to their lower proportion of corporate banking. Islamic banks’ profitability remained above conventional banks’ in 2019. Strong deposit growth at Islamic banks in 2019 allowed their financing/deposits ratio to drop below their conventional peers’. Saudi Islamic banks remain well capitalised, with an average Common Equity Tier 1 ratio of 17.8% at end-2019. According to Fitch, if the current economic disruption continues, weaker asset quality and profitability are likely to put pressure on capital.

The Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector signed a collaboration MoU with FINTERRA Pte Ltd

Mr. Ayman Sejiny, the CEO of The Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD) and Mr. Satesh Khemlani, the Managing Director of Finterra, signed a Memorandum of Understanding to achieve sustainable business growth. Both organizations have common beneficiaries and share similar social impact development goals. The collaboration with Finterra is based on its highly powered blockchain solutions for Islamic social finance under the names of SadaqahChain®, WAQFChain® and ZakatChain®. The MoU was digitally signed during a virtual signing ceremony. The parties will explore opportunities of blockchain in OIC member countries in close collaboration with national licensed crowd-lending/crowd-funding operators.

#Philanthropy in emerging market countries and the opportunity for radical transformation

The global coronavirus crisis has exacerbated existing inequalities and laid bare the fissures in our societies. If philanthropic actors were able to ignore this state of affairs before, they no longer can. If we are to first survive, then thrive, we can no longer afford to shy away from supporting radical changes in the world. "The Role of Philanthropy in Society" study demonstrates the transformative potential of philanthropy. The study reveals a charitable impulse that is rooted historically and culturally in all of the countries in the study. Funding for progressive work does exist, but is limited. In all of these countries it has traditionally come from foreign funders. One of the major developments in emerging market countries has been the rise of corporate philanthropy. Common to all country papers emerging from the study is a mistrust of NGOs by donors who see civil society as unaccountable. Individual giving holds promise, as well as community philanthropy.

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Sheikh Saleh Kamel deceased

Sheikh Saleh Kamel was among the founding fathers of the modern Islamic banking industry and founder of the Albaraka Group.

May Allah accept his deeds and reserve a place in Jannah.

Inna Lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji'un

AAOIFI concluded first global Islamic Finance Virtual Forum on COVID-19

The Accounting and Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI) organized its first Islamic Finance Virtual Forum on "Covid-19 Economic Implications, Islamic Finance and the Way Forward". It was organized in collaboration with Islamic Research and Training Institute (IRTI), College of Banking and Financial Studies (CBFS) and Minhaj Univeristy. The forum's three sessions were attended by more than 1,200 people while thousands more joined by live streaming on multiple online channels. Shaikh Mufti Taqi Usmani, Chairman of the AAOIFI Shari’ah Board delivered his keynote speech which highlighted the importance of riba-free system. Distinguished session panelists emphasized that the power of ideas has a greater impact compared to the power of size. It was suggested that a long term socially-driven Waqf sukuk would be a good idea for a sukuk issuance and called for a collective effort to work out a revenue generation aspect of it.

Dubai Islamic Bank donates AED16 million to Zakat Fund projects

The Dubai Islamic Bank donated AED16 million to the Zakat Fund. Abdullah Aqeeda Al Muhairi, Secretary-General of the Zakat Fund, praised the bank for its donation as well as for its positive humanitarian and charitable role in improving the life of needy people. He also called on Islamic banks and institutions to follow the initiative of the Dubai Islamic Bank to provide zakat money to deserving groups and help the Zakat Fund achieve its goals.

Pandemic may force GCC banks to cut dividends, drive future M&A

Banks in the Arabian Gulf could be forced to scrap 2020 dividends as profits plunge in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The region's lenders are unlikely to require additional capital should loan defaults soar, despite facing headwinds related to the impact of COVID-19 and lower oil prices. According to S&P Global Ratings, the 23 banks in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have assets totaling $1.5 trillion at 2019-end and can absorb up to $36 billion in extra provisions before their capital bases start to erode. S&P sees that a significant deterioration in the finances of some banks could spur a second wave of consolidation among Gulf lenders. However, bank analysts are more skeptical, citing a lack of plausible potential takeover targets in Gulf countries except for the UAE, which is still overbanked.

#Saudi Arabia raises $1.53bln in local sukuk -statement

Saudi Arabia has raised 5.755 billion riyals ($1.53 billion) in sukuk. The first tranche of the sukuk issue is 3.8 billion riyals, and the total tranche size is 6.549 billion, maturing in 2025. The second tranche has a size of 1.95 billion riyals, and a total tranche size of 10.296 billion, maturing in 2030.

First sharia crypto exchange opens in #UAE

A new sharia-compliant crypto exchange has announced plans to launch in the UAE. Sustain Exchange hopes to offer sharia-complaint and ethical services to give Muslims a space in which to invest in the crypto market. An initial coin offering is planned for June and security tokens issued during the offering will serve as the key to accessing the exchange’s services. Sustain Exchange will introduce an independent sharia advisory to maintain compliance with sharia principles. To this end it has appointed an Islamic fintech scholar to its board, Mifti Faraz, director of Amanah Finance Consultancy.

#Bangladesh’s first digital crowd-funding platform Ekdesh launched

Bangladesh launched its first digital crowd-funding platform Ekdesh for raising funds and disbursing them as zakat or financial aid. Information and Communication Technology Division State Minister Zunaid Ahmed Palak inaugurated the platform via an online inauguration program. People of the country can donate to the prime minister’s relief fund, the Islamic Foundation, or other non-government organizations through this platform to help the poor people or small businesses. Several organizations like Brac, Bidyanondo Foundation, Center for Zakat Management, Centre for Rehabilitation of the Paralysed (CRP), and Sajida Foundation have already joined the platform.

Rules amended to facilitate Sukuk-II issuance

Pakistan's Power Division has amended the Energy Sukuk Rules aimed at facilitating issuance of Rs 200 Sukuk-II through Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSE). On May 6, 2020, the government approved a new mechanism/criterion for disbursement of payments to the power generators. The Power Division has to disburse Rs 300 billion (Rs 200 billion + Rs 100 billion) through CPPA-G to Power sector entities including the power generators in private and public sector for system operation during the summer season.

Islamic Finance and Prospects for Weathering COVID-19

COVID-19 continues to have profound implications for the global economy. All around the world, the lockdown has contributed to rising unemployment, reduced incomes, and increased food insecurity. Private sector workers and the self-employed are disproportionately affected by the downturn. Many experts warn that this could be severe and long-lasting. The pandemic has highlighted the need to rethink the provision of healthcare services. New conversations on supply chains and critical infrastructure are also required. To this end, sukuk could provide innovative and sustainable sources of finance for recovery. Pandemic sukuk can leverage Islamic practices, such as zakat and waqf, to develop financial mechanisms that target both recovery and sustainability. Potential target investors could include companies and diaspora communities.

International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation releases 2019 Annual Development Effectiveness Report

The International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC) released its 2019 Annual Development Effectiveness Report (ADER). In 2019, ITFC approved US$5.8 billion trade financing. Of this, US$5 billion was disbursed towards improving the livelihoods of millions of people in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Disbursement in Asian and CIS member countries of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) stood at US$2.6 billion, while in African OIC countries, total disbursements amounted to US$2.4 billion. In 2019, ITFC signed framework agreements worth US$4.8 billion with 9 countries and mobilized US$1.2 million through grants for trade development interventions in agriculture, financial institutions, capacity building and trade promotion.

Gulf banks could see second wave of mergers after pandemic dust settles

The impact of the novel coronavirus on the global economy is growing and continues to shock the markets. S&P Global Ratings acknowledges a high degree of uncertainty about the rate of spread and peak of the COVID-19 outbreak. It comes as no surprise that the pandemic will halt the growth of GCC Islamic and conventional banks this year as they focus on preserving asset quality rather than business expansion. The delay of Expo 2020 for Dubai and potential cancelation of the pilgrimage season for Saudi Arabia, may result in a stronger impact on the regional economies. When the dust settles and the full effect of current conditions on banks’ financials is visible, there could be a second wave of mergers and acquisitions in the region.

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