Islamic finance industry's upward trajectory highlighted at GIES
The Global Islamic Economy Summit 2015 (GIES) embarked on its second and final day of high-level debates and discussions around the Islamic Economy, building on the momentum of a successful and well-attended opening day.
On October 5 and 6, the summit, which was held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, convened over 60 speakers and leaders of the Islamic Economy at Madinat Jumeirah. It was held in partnership with the Dubai Islamic Economy Development Centre (DIEDC), Dubai Chamber (DC), and Thomson Reuters .
After a strong start to the summit, the second half of the first day featured a session on strategies to promote global relevance and inclusion within Islamic finance, led by Professor Datuf Rifaat Ahmed Abdel Karim, CEO of The International Islamic Liquidity Management Corporation in Malaysia. The session addressed ways to combat financial exclusion and promote affordable access to financial services, and was moderated by Wissam Fattouh, Secretary General of the Union of Arab Banks, with inputs from notable panelists representing Fitch Ratings, Boubyan Bank and Beehive Group.
Professor Abdel Karim, in his keynote address, highlighted the Islamic finance industry's upward trajectory, with projections of the market size reaching $3.25 trillion by 2020. Despite this growth, he cautioned that the Islamic finance industry is weak in the area of financial inclusion, an area that has gained importance as a policy objective both in traditional and Islamic finance. Given that financial inclusion and its attendant ideals of economic justice are very much aligned with the Islamic Shariah, he noted that financial inclusion should be central to Islamic finance and stressed that a lot more must be done to achieve this.
Other sessions on the first day covered diverse topics such as mapping the demographic dividend opportunity of the Islamic Economy, and the fast-growing Halal food and travel sectors. The final session of the day covered the institution of the awqaf, with an esteemed lineup of panelists - including Tayeb Al Rais, Secretary General of Awqaf & Minors Affairs, and Hussain Al Qemzi, CEO of Noor Bank - who discussed the challenges arising from balancing the returns on waqf assets with the social benefits they provide.
Hussain Al Qemzi began his keynote address by demystifying the concept of the waqf, an Islamic endowment system, and one of the oldest in the world. He elaborated on the history of the waqf, its beginnings, and its objectives, the latter mainly being the alleviation of poverty and helping the needy, regardless of their religion. He touched on the challenges of growing and managing waqfs, and the policies needed to sustain them and protect the beneficiaries that depend on them.
The experts reconvened on the morning of October 6 and addressed topics such as the inclusion of Islamic economy in corporate strategy agendas, in the first session of the day. A subsequent session tackled the expansion of the Halal industry and the issues that arise as a result around standards, regulatory frameworks and accreditation, led by Abdulla Al Maeeni, the Director General of Emirates Authority for Standardisation & Metrology.
Abdulla Al Maeeni commented in his keynote address that there is a need for standardisation across the Halal sector, as it plays a vital role in growing the industry, addressing high customer demand, and promoting the compatibility, safety and reliability of products. He highlighted the role of ESMA in developing the first accreditation scheme of its kind in the region, based on international standards.
The second day also featured the awards ceremony for the Innovation 4 Impact competition. Dr. Mohammed Al Zarooni, Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority (DSOA) presented the top prize to Ali Dabaja, CEO of Hajjnet, a website that delivers content, mobile and web products to empower Muslims in fulfilling Hajj and Umrah, in a safe, informed and convenient manner.
Al Zarooni, said, "Our participation at the Global Islamic Economy Summit is in line with our commitment to supporting the Dubai Government's initiative to become the Capital of Islamic Economy' initiative. The summit has been a true success and gathered thought leaders who currently shape and define the fast-developing sector. Currently in its second edition, the Global Islamic Economy Summit has yet again proven its significance as a forum for the exchange of knowledge and expertise on best practices in Islamic economy.
"It also gives me great pleasure to present the award to the winner of the first Innovation 4 Impact competition that was held in partnership with Thomson Reuters and supported by the Dubai Islamic Economy Development Centre. We thank all participants and stakeholders of this inaugural competition for creating a truly memorable digital Islamic initiative that we hope to replicate in the years to come. We look forward to offering the winner the support that he requires to grow his business into the next level through DSOA's Dubai Technology Entrepreneurship Centre and encourage all entrepreneurs and young talent to continue sharing their creative ideas with us to benefit from the incubational support we provide at the integrated free zone park."
Dabaja commented on his win, "It's great to be chosen as the winner of this competition. But just having a competition like this, and having the chance to talk to people who are aspiring to create businesses like we are and being encouraged to pursue their vision is a win for everyone."
Nadim Najjar, Managing Director of Thomson Reuters , Middle East and North Africa, said of the competition, "It is not surprising to learn that the Islamic digital economy has become a key focus area in recent years. Innovation, through leveraging technology and digital platforms, has become an integral part of the global Islamic economy, enabling businesses to reach large markets, directly, quickly and economically, no matter the size or location of the business. Inspired by these trends, we have decided to take the initiative beyond simple research, and to create an award that would recognise entrepreneurs that are driving innovation in the Islamic digital economy, and use their example to inspire others in this space."
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