In 2015, countries around the world adopted a set of goals to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all as part of a new sustainable development agenda. Formulated on the principle that no one gets left behind, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has defined the world’s priorities and aspirations for 2030.
But to mobilize these efforts, we need to effectively uplift groups at the bottom where poverty plays a main obstacle. Although poverty levels have fallen dramatically since 2000, there are still 783 million people living below the international poverty line of $1.90 a day. We may need more creative and effective solutions to end poverty. In the recent 4th Annual Symposium on Islamic Finance in Kuala Lumpur, we discussed how Islamic social finance might just be the key to alleviating poverty and hunger.
Islamic finance has the potential to play a crucial role in supporting the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In the face of significant financing needs for the SDGs, Islamic finance has untapped potential as a substantial and non-traditional source of financing for the SDGs.
The growth of Islamic finance has been rapid at 10-12% annually over the past two decades. By 2015, the industry had surpassed US$1.88 trillion in size. Islamic finance has emerged as an effective tool for financing development worldwide, including in non-Muslim countries, and may prove to be an important contributor towards realizing the SDGs.
The Third Annual Symposium on Islamic Finance was held in Kuala Lumpur in November 2017, co-organized by the World Bank Group, Islamic Development Bank, International Center for Education in Islamic Finance (INCEIF) and Guidance Financial Group to explore the potential contributions that Islamic Finance can make to achieving the SDGs.
In the past decade, the Islamic finance industry has grown at double digits despite the weak global economic environment. By 2020, the Islamic finance industry is projected to reach $3 trillion in total assets with 1 billion users. However, despite its rapid growth and enormous potential, 7 out of 10 adults still do not have access to a bank account in Muslim countries. This means that 682 million adult Muslims still do not have an account at a banking institution. While some Muslim countries have high levels of account ownership (above 90 percent), there are others with less than 5 percent of their adult population who reported having a bank account.