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ICD – Thomson Reuters Islamic Finance Development Report Strikes Positive Note

Thomson Reuters, the world’s leading provider of intelligent information for businesses and professionals, and the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD), the private sector development arm of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB), today released the key findings of the fourth edition of the Islamic Finance Development Report at the World Islamic Banking conference (WIBC) 2016, held in  Bahrain.

The report continues to examine key statistics, top performers and the trends across five indicators that are significant for the development of the US$2 trillion Islamic finance industry across 124 countries.

Global Islamic finance development, as measured by the IFDI global average value, declined to 8.8 in 2016 from 9.9 in 2015, reflecting the poor performance of many nations due to aspects that are based on actual market practice, such as financial performance and corporate social responsibility. Malaysia, Bahrain and the UAE continue to dominate the IFDI report for the 4th consecutive year. However, Malaysia posted a slight decline in its overall IFDI performance in 2016, as a result of weaker financial performance. Outside of the top 15, noteworthy emerging countries that have moved up the IFDI rankings are South Africa, Morocco, Tanzania, Japan and Russia, with each nation taking serious steps towards developing their Islamic finance industries.

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Among the regions with high potential in Islamic finance is West Africa. Khaled Al Aboodi, CEO of ICD said:

“Currently, West Africa, and Africa in general, is at a stage where there is a need to broaden the source of funds required to support its large infrastructure deficit and plug its revenue shortfall caused by the global commodity slump, and Islamic finance can be the solution. The recent sovereign issues in Africa will not only serve as an impetus for other African governments to follow suit and diversify their financing instruments via sukuk, but they will help the Islamic finance industry to mature and pave the way for private sector growth and the development of capital markets in countries where they are still nascent.”


Unprecedented oil price storm hindered Islamic finance performance, but not asset growth

The impact of global events like the sharp drop in oil prices lowered the financial performance of countries that have an Islamic finance presence, like the GCC. Although the drop in oil prices did not impede the growth of global or GCC Islamic finance assets (except for Kuwait which reported a 3% decline in assets), it did lead to a decline in profitability measures such as ROA. It also resulted in negative equity performances for a variety of listed Islamic financial institutions, particularly in takaful and Shariah-compliant equities that also make up part of Islamic fund portfolios. Sukuk was the least vulnerable of the asset classes, however the sector witnessed lower issuance volumes in 2015.

In 2015, Saudi Arabia held the largest amount of Islamic finance assets worldwide (US$ 447 billion), while Malaysia dropped in ranking to hold the 3rd largest asset base (US$ 434 billion). This was down to slow asset growth that was not sufficient to offset the devaluation of the ringgit in 2015. Iran remains the world’s 2nd largest Islamic finance jurisdiction (US$ 414 billion).

Nadim Najjar, Managing Director at Thomson Reuters, Middle East and North Africa said:

“Despite lower financial performance by some in 2015, we maintain a positive outlook for the industry projecting those Islamic finance assets to reach US$ 3.5 trillion by 2021. We have seen South Asian countries post the greatest amount of growth in Islamic finance assets after the introduction of Islamic windows for different financial institutions, which shows the increased acceptance of Islamic finance products in the region. Islamic banking remains strong in many countries and its growth is also supported by the continued development and introduction of it and other Islamic finance sectors in new countries.”


East and West gear up for a renewed Islamic finance presence through research and education 

There were 622 Islamic finance education providers in 2015, while 2,224 research papers were produced worldwide between 2013 and 2015. Among the key enablers for the development of Islamic finance education are Islamic education institutions, which can be found in abundance in Malaysia, Indonesia and Pakistan. Turning to the West, countries with developed higher education systems, such as European nations Luxembourg and Belgium are joining the ranks of Islamic finance education. Meanwhile, the UK has also benefited from the demand for Islamic finance education from Islamic markets.


A need for better corporate governance through the regulation of Islamic financial institutions

Governance saw steady growth, as measured by the Regulation, Shariah and Corporate Governance sub-indicators. There are 35 countries with at least one type of Islamic finance regulation in practice. Meanwhile, several countries with low corporate governance values need to strengthen their financial reporting framework for Islamic financial institutions. This is evidenced by the low number of disclosed items that need to be reported in annual or financial reports. However, Malaysia and Pakistan made great strides in upholding Shariah governance framework during 2015, while African nations Nigeria and Morocco are moving towards a centralized Shariah board approach. There were 1,068 Shariah scholars representing different Islamic financial institutions in 2015.


Lack of CSR transparency in Islamic financial institutions remains the key issue

Corporate Social Responsibility is another indicator that was weaker in terms of development. There are two measures when it comes to a CSR mandate: one is the disclosure of CSR activities by Islamic financial institutions which was low as  measured in different Islamic financial institutions’ annual or financial reports. The other is the total amount of CSR funds disbursed by these institutions, which reached US$ 672 million in 2015. There is still a need for better transparency of Qard al-Hasan – one of the components of CSR funds disbursed – as few institutions disclosed their amounts.


Buzz for Islamic finance diminishes slightly compared to previous years

The popularity of Islamic finance declined due to a slight fall in the number of conferences held and exclusive news items, sliding to 112 and 17,795 respectively in 2015. The most extensive Islamic finance news was generated from the GCC which soared on the back of numerous stories on how the drop in oil prices impacted the Gulf and Middle East’s different Islamic finance sectors. In addition, 2015 has witnessed notable efforts to spread awareness of Islamic finance through seminars across Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Europe. In total there were 213 seminars held globally in 2015.


To learn more about IFDI 2016 and to download the ICD Thomson Reuters Islamic Finance Development Report, please visit https://www.zawya.com/mena/en/ifg-publications/201116120632M/

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