Islamic Banking

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New products, standards buoy Islamic trade finance business

Islamic trade finance is poised for change with the launch of new products and common standards. Islamic banks have been laggards in trade finance but some see a business opportunity here. According to the General Council for Islamic Banks and Financial Institutions (CIBAFI), digital tools such as blockchain can support this by helping to lower costs and speed up sharia-compliant transactions. Islamic trade finance is estimated at around $186 billion, compared to the $4.4 trillion worth of trade finance activity in Muslim-majority countries. Some firms are now introducing digital Islamic trade finance platforms. Emirates Islamic Bank has already launched its online supply chain tool. There is also a push towards standardisation of practices. The Bankers Association for Finance and Trade (BAFT) and the International Islamic Financial Market (IIFM) are developing standard documentation for both Islamic-funded and unfunded trade finance deals.

How Islamic finance can manage rupiah stability

According to the Jakarta Interbank Spot Dollar Rate, the rupiah dropped to a new low of 14,418 against the US dollar on July 3. In the last few weeks, all emerging markets showed an increase in foreign currency volatility. Since April 2018, there has been capital outflow from the Indonesian bond market amounting to almost US$1.9 billion. Solving this problem can be done in two steps. First, sensitivity to capital outflow must be reduced by reducing dependency toward it. Second, capital inflow is needed that is less sensitive to global externalities. Islamic finance may contribute to financial stability, as all transactions must be asset-backed. The principle of risk-sharing between counterparties will help prevent excessive risk-taking. Islamic finance can also help create rupiah stability through its various sharia-compliant instruments, which could attract global investors.

Official Launch of the IFSB Islamic Financial Services Industry Stability Report 2018 at the Astana Islamic Economy Forum

Astana International Financial Centre (AIFC) officially launched the sixth edition of the Islamic Financial Services Industry (IFSI) Stability Report 2018. The Secretary-General of the IFSB, Dr. Bello Lawal Danbatta highlighted some of the key findings of the 2018 Report, particularly the rising domestic systemic significance of Islamic finance in many key jurisdictions. According to the report, the global IFSI has returned to a robust growth of 8.3%, following two years of growth stagnation. While Islamic capital markets marked a strong performance in 2017 on the back of sovereign sukuk issuances, some underlying weaknesses persisted from the previous year, including those in the corporate sukuk market. The takaful sector continues to face challenges as a result of stiff competition from larger and more established insurance companies.

Savings Status Quo Challenged As 79% Of Shariah-Compliant Accounts Now Beat The Market

Gatehouse Bank surveyed eight different types of account: easy access, 1, 2, 3 and 5 Year Fixed Term and 30, 60 and 90 Day Notice accounts. It found average returns on Shariah-compliant savings products trumped their mainstream counterparts on all account types bar one, easy access. Overall, the average rate on Shariah-compliant products was 1.54% while the average for mainstream accounts was 1.29%, a difference of 0.25%. All but three of the 14 Shariah-compliant accounts surveyed beat the market average. Shariah-compliant savings accounts in the UK are growing in popularity, amongst both Muslim and non-Muslim savers. According to Gatehouse Bank CEO Charles Haresnape, what we’re seeing is the emergence of a genuine challenge to the UK savings establishment.

IFSB launches 2018 financial services industry stability report

The Islamic Financial Services Board (IFSB) has launched the 2018 Islamic Financial Services Industry (IFSI) Stability Report. The Secretary-General of the IFSB, Dr. Bello Lawal Danbatta, highlighted some of the key findings of the 2018 Report, particularly the rising domestic systemic significance of Islamic finance in key jurisdictions. The study found that the global IFSI has returned to a robust growth of 8.3%, following two years of growth stagnation. In addition, the IFSI surpassed the $2 trillion mark as of the end of 2017. The report also states that the growth of the industry in 2017 was actively driven by all three sectors of the IFSI, but with a significant contribution by the performance of the Islamic capital markets boosted by Sukuk issuances from sovereign and multilateral institutions.

#China’s support is critically instrumental in developing Islamic finance

While China and Arab countries discuss ways to develop their bilateral ties, #Kazakhstan aims to become a new global financial hub. At the newly established Astana International Financial Center (AIFC) an economic event was carried out between July 3rd and 5th to talk about the main issues of global finance. Experts have emphasized China has a priority role in the global economy and that China’s support can be very instrumental in the development of Islamic Finance. Kazakhstan has also positioned itself to take advantage of China’s Belt and Road initiative as it strived to draw investors from Central Asian countries as well as from the Arab world. Lawyers have also stressed that because the newly formed Astana International Exchange will be operating under the principles of English common law, it will create even more opportunities for collaboration between Central Asian countries and the Arab world.

Blockchain platform-as-a-service for Islamic finance launched

Blockchain experts ArabianChain Technology and Curiositas will offer blockchain-based smart contracts and legal automation for Islamic finance products. The 'Wethaq' platform is targeting Islamic capital markets, acting as a platform-as-a-service for financial institutions, fundraisers and investors to use in the trading of sukuk products. Wethaq is expected to see issuance of its first Smart Ijara in the first half of 2019. The joint venture will combine Curiositas' legal automation and financial engineering expertise with ArabianChain's Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) Protocol and smart contracts. According to Dimitrios Vourakis, Managing Director of Curiositas, Wethaq separates the essential structuring services provided by financial institutions from additional services such as custodianship and payments, and offers the latter on its automated platform.

A new term is born: Shariah #fintech, and it has quite some potential

#Indonesia’s Deputy Finance Minister Mardiasmo said at the third Annual Islamic Finance Conference that fintech will play an important role in Islamic finance. Shariah fintech is a new buzzword to describe the venture of financial technology into Islamic finance. The status quo is that few Islamic banks have been open to adapt new technologies, but many scholars in Shariah boards are challenged in this particular case of progress meeting tradition. The result is that not Islamic banks are the drivers for Shariah fintech, but startups, entrepreneurs and inventive enterprises. In Indonesia online microfinance services are part of this new wave of Shariah fintech. Some Shariah fintech startups are focusing on agri-finance platforms, Islamic crowdfunding, peer-to-peer lending and mobile payment applications, while others are developing blockchain solutions for Islamic finance services, automated halal investment, trading platforms and robo-advisers.

Banks want 'costly' Islamic banking regulations adjusted

Banks in Uganda have petitioned the central bank to review key regulations in Islamic banking to make it less costly for the banks. According to Patrick Mweheire, the chairman of Uganda Bankers' Association (UBA), the current regulation requires that a commercial bank that applies to offer Islamic banking must have its own sharia panel comprising nine muftis. Mweheire suggested that UBA should instead have one panel which can be used by all its members when advancing Islamic banking products to the public. UBA CEO Wilbrod Owor said there were a lot of issues in the sector that affect them and need their attention: money laundering, terrorism finance, and digital technologies etc.

South America is on radar of Islamic finance

South America isn’t known to be a popular region for Islamic finance. However, there have been some activities to approach it as a new frontier. The first foray Islamic finance has made on the continent was into Suriname. Last year, the Central Bank of Suriname approved Islamic finance products and services in the banking sector and the first Islamic bank in the country, Trustbank Amanah, started operations on December 7, 2017. The other South American country opening up is Guyana. The Islamic Development Bank sees Guyana as a major oil and gas producer in the future when industrial development kicks in. In a first step the country received $900mn in financial and technical assistance from the Islamic Development Bank over a three-year period, commencing in 2018. The money will be used for development of Guyana’s economic infrastructure, the establishment of Islamic banking institutions is planned for later.

Why Islamic finance is yet to realise its full potential in #Kenya

Kenya's Islamic finance industry is over a decade old but is yet to realize its full potential. The uptake of Shariah compliant financial products has been adversely affected by the absence of supportive legal and regulatory infrastructure, lack of skilled Islamic finance professionals, poor perception and lack of awareness. One other challenge is the lack of harmonisation of the Shariah standards. Industry stakeholders need to undertake a comprehensive training of the Shariah scholars and enhance public awareness in Islamic finance. Aqeel Consulting takes the initiative to organise a technical workshop for the Shariah scholars between July 11 -12, 2018 at the Windsor Golf Hotel and Country Club.

BoG must use Islamic banking to promote financial inclusion – Dubai Chamber

The Head of Dubai Chamber-Ghana Office, Cyril Darkwa, is encouraging the Bank of Ghana (BoG) to see Islamic banking as a way to promote financial inclusion in the country. Mr. Darkwa stated that this type of finance is being utilised by banks, companies and start-ups to tap into the large unbanked population in Africa. An executive member of the Ghana Muslim (GM) Ambassadors, Dr. Abubakar Muhammad Marzuq, said Islamic banking will be of great benefit to the country as a whole. He said although regulations are necessary to attract investors, awareness is more important to ensure a vibrant Islamic banking regime. He therefore called for effective collaboration between the Islamic banking industry and the media in order to create awareness.

Launch of #Malta Islamic Finance Association

Malta Islamic Finance Association (MIFA) was officially launched on 26th June 2018 by Parliamentary Secretary for Financial Services, Digital Economy and Innovation Silvio Schembri. The present government headed by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat fully supports and endorses all efforts for establishing Islamic Finance in Malta. Malta Islamic Finance Association aims to liaise with governments, quasi-governmental institutions, multilateral organizations, standard setting bodies, agencies and regulatory authorities. The Governing Council of MIFA has appointed Mr. Reuben Buttigieg as President of MIFA and Sheikh Bilal Khan as Secretary General of MIFA for the first term.

East Africa rides the Islamic finance train; #Uganda next to join

Countries in East Africa are increasingly joining the Islamic finance industry as their Muslim population grows and demand for Shariah-compliant banking and finance rises. In Ethiopia the central bank is planning to develop Islamic finance in order to improve financial inclusion, while Somalia’s central bank has given licences to six Islamic Banks and two takaful companies. Both Tanzania and Kenya have recognised the potential of Islamic finance, in Rwanda Islamic finance made its debut in 2016 with an Islamic microfinance Institution. Only Burundi, South Sudan and Eritrea don’t have ambitions to set up Islamic banks. The latest regional entrant in the Islamic finance sector is Uganda. Finance minister Patrick Ocailap said that a framework for the implementation of Islamic banking in the country has been developed and will be operational by October 2018.

AIFC: Development of Islamic Finance

Astana International Financial Center (AIFC) aims to be the driver of the Islamic finance development in Kazakhstan. For this, the AIFC is strengthening its capacity building by establishing the Bureau for Continuing Professional Development. AIFC managing director Yernur Rysmagambetov said two programs habe been launched. One of them is aimed at the training of specialists for the banking sector. The second program is focused on literacy of the end users on Islamic finance. The corporate sector is the main customer of the Islamic banks in Kazakhstan. Attraction of the retail customers in the Islamic finance is another trend of the past years.

#Morocco's Islamic 'Participatory' Banks: 71 Agencies and MAD 1.1 Billion in Loans

Since the launch of Islamic 'participatory' banks in July 2017, more than 71 agencies have joined the non-interest banking program throughout Morocco. Abdellatif Jouahri, the governor of Bank Al Maghrib (Morocco’s central bank), said the participatory banks have granted a total of MAD 1.1 billion in loans. Jouahri highlighted the special interest that murabaha is especially attractive for both real estate and automobile customers. The governor stressed that Morocco is preparing to issue its first sukuk in July 2018, which will complement the services offered by participatory banks. While the order approving the takaful circular has already been finalized, the legislative texts are still being finalized.

ESG podcast: Securities Commission #Malaysia outlines plans for green Islamic finance (part 2)

In this podcast Zainal Izlan Zainal Abidin of Securities Commission Malaysia speaks about the country's strategy for socially responsible and sharia-compliant investing. He talks about the challenges in making Malaysia a global Islamic finance centre. He sees great potential for Malaysia as it rolls out new products, such as a sukuk ETF. Zainal believes the gradual harmonizing of Sharia definitions will fuel more cross-border transactions between Malaysia and the Middle East.

We can’t wait for Islamic Banking - bankers

In #Uganda more than half of the 24 licensed conventional banks have expressed interest in providing Islamic banking products. The latest to show interest is EXIM Bank. Raj Banerjee, the deputy chief executive of EXIM bank, said they cannot wait to offer this service to their wide range of customers. At the moment they are going about installing the software and assembling a team that will be directly involved offering the Islamic Banking. Mr Banerjee believes this will be good for everybody. The bank is preparing to launch its Sharia compliant products as soon as the proposals are approved by the Bank of Uganda.

Group roots for deepening of Islamic finance

In #Kenya a lobby group has called for the review of regulations governing Islamic banking and Sharia'h compliant products offered by conventional banks so as to resolve the issue of interest rates. The group, Bayt-ul-Maal has commenced gathering signatures to petition Kenyan Muslims scholars to deliberate and craft a modern day Bayt-ul-Maal (Islamic Treasury) catering for the needs of Muslims. They embarked on a door-to-door campaign sensitizing the Muslim community on the importance of Bayt-ul-Maal. The group claims that since February this year debate has raged concerning the validity of Islamic banking and Sharia'h Compliant windows, as offered by some conventional banks.

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