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Thursday, 12 December 2013

Islamic finance to sustain growth in MENA

DOHA – Rapidly-growing Islamic-based finance will drive the next phase of economic growth across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), financial leaders have said at the Euromoney Qatar Conference Wednesday.

With bankers in attendance from around the world, the event has provided critical insight into the state of the global economy, and the MENA region’s growing role as a source and key market for Islamic-based finance.

Globally sharia-compliant assets are estimated to be worth $1.4 trillion, and slated to post double-digit growth in the next two-to-three years, according to a recent report from Standard & Poor’s. The GCC and Asia are set to be Islamic finance leaders, followed by newcomers such as Turkey and Nigeria.

As well as funding planned government infrastructure investment, Shariah-compliant finance is increasing its importance in the corporate space. 

International communications company Ooredoo recently launched a $1.25 billion 5-year sukuk as part of a growing trend. The rise of the Islamic financing sector will provide important stimulus at a critical period for the MENA region, where there is increasing pressure to boost employment opportunities and enhance support for the private sector. The MENA region needs to create 75 million jobs to keep pace with population growth, requiring greater investment by small- and medium-sized enterprises which represent 80 percent of the region’s businesses, according to figures presented at the conference.

Khaled Al-Aboodi, Chief Executive Officer, Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD), said: “The private sector is the main engine of growth for jobs, better income, and increased standard of living. Achieving this developmental goal will require public-private partnerships, supported with Islamic finance.Qatar is assuming an increasingly prominent place on the world stage, while playing an important role in socio-economic development in Africa, Central Asia, and Southeast Asia.”

Qatar has taken a leading role in Islamic finance, in line with its goals of becoming a global financial hub and diversifying its economy. Speakers from around the world at the conference concurred that Qatar was entering a new phase of unprecedented opportunity.

Rene Karsenti, President, International Capital Market Association Group, said: “As a financial sector, Qatar benefits from solid attributes such as an English common law environment, and a world-class regulatory regime. The Islamic finance sector represents also an opportunity - the sector has enjoyed increased activity and is expected to continue to grow as more sophisticated financial instruments spark the interest of investors.”

Robert Stheeman, Chief Executive, United Kingdom Debt Management Office, said: “Qatar will need to further diversify its economy and encourage the private sector and entrepreneurship, and continue its focus on research and development, education, and health. Successfully delivering on this will help Qatar achieve its National Vision 2030, and place Qatar as a leading economic centre in the region and global economy.”

Beyond the GCC, Turkey is becoming more active in the Islamic finance market in order to enhance economic growth, as the country recently issued two sovereign sukuk: $1.5 billion 5.5-year in September 2012, and $1.25 billion 5-year in October 2013.

For delegates from the international finance sector, as well as for local decision-makers in Qatar, this year’s Euromoney Qatar Conference has provided an important opportunity to share ideas and better understand the changing dynamics of the global economy.

(Saudi Gazette / 11 Dec 2013)
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