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Islamic finance has been growing rapidly across the globe. According to a recent report by the Islamic Financial Services Board, the Islamic finance market currently stands around $1.9 trillion. With this growth, its application has been extended into many areas — trade, real estate, manufacturing, banking, infrastructure, and more.
However, Islamic finance is still a relatively untapped market for public-private partnership (PPP) financing, which makes the recent publication Mobilizing Islamic Finance for Infrastructure Public-Private Partnerships such an important resource, especially for governments and practitioners.
“Proceeding from the Islamic Development Bank’s interest, as well as my personal concerns about what benefits the Member Countries, where the subject of partnerships between the public and private sectors (PPPs) has become a major hub in fostering development in several sectors in many countries, I have initiated a forum to address the most significant issues and topics related to the importance of partnerships between the public and private sectors, in addition to the optimal means to activate them and benefit from their acclaimed development role."
– Dr. Bandar Mohammed Al-Hajjar, President, Islamic Development Bank
The first Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Forum took place in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in March 2017, which I attended as a guest moderator and panelist. The IsDB organized the Forum to support its communication with its member countries by initiating a debate that would introduce forum participants to opportunities and challenges that PPPs present in various countries and various sectors.
Islamic finance assets represent only around 1% of the global financial market, so how can tapping into these funds help close the $452 billion annual infrastructure finance gap in Emerging Markets and Developing Economies? The percentage may be small now, but the Islamic finance market is growing at an impressive pace—and not just in Muslim-majority countries.
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.
Infrastructure needs in developing countries are great and will continue to rise over the next decade. To sustain the projected global GDP growth between 2012 and 2030, US$57 trillion is needed in infrastructure investment, according to McKinsey's estimates.
In emerging markets infrastructure investment needs have been forecast to range between US$14.4 and US$15.7 trillion in emerging markets from 2008 to 2020.
Since funding infrastructure projects usually requires a long-term and large investment, emerging markets are struggling how to meet these needs through public investments or even traditional bank funding.
Figuring out how to finance investments needed in infrastructure is one of the key issues on the G20 agenda and has also been identified in the Sustainable Development Goals.
While private-public partnerships are usually mentioned as one way to bridge this financing gap, using Islamic finance or other asset-backed financial mechanisms to fund long-term development has started to gain traction in recent years.
As part of events held around the G20 Summit, the World Bank Group with the Turkish Capital Market Board and Borsa Istanbul organized a conference on “Mobilizing Islamic Finance for Long-Term Investment Financing,” which took place on November 18-19, 2015 in Istanbul.
From the smallest rural villages in Bangladesh to the large, bustling metropolitan centers of Cairo or Istanbul, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are the lifeblood of Islamic communities around the world, keeping local economies humming.
I first became interested in the potential of leveraging Islamic finance to grow SMEs when I led a seminar on the topic in 1997. I’ve come full circle, almost 20 years later, when I had the opportunity to speak last month in Istanbul at a conference on “Leveraging Islamic Finance for SMEs” organized by the World Bank Group, the Turkish Treasury, the Islamic Development Bank and TUMSIAD, the largest association of SMEs in the country with 10,000 members.
“Ethical finance” is a term used to describe finance that is put to good social and environmental use. Interest in it has risen since the 2008 global financial crisis, with Islamic finance and socially responsible investment (SRI) funds becoming its two fastest areas of growth.
Proper corporate governance practices in financial institutions should provide added value by enhancing the protection of depositor and investor rights, facilitating access to finance, reducing the cost of capital, improving operational performance, and increasing institutions’ soundness against external shocks. Ensuring strong corporate governance standards is thus essential to the stability and health of all financial institutions, worldwide.
Good governance is an important priority for Islamic finance, an aspect of international finance that has enjoyed a stage of significant growth over the past decade. The volume of financial assets that are managed according to Islamic principles has a value of around $2 trillion, having experienced a cumulative average annual growth rate of about 16 percent since 2009 (Graph 1).
Graph 1: The Size of Islamic Finance Assets (USD Billion)
Banking has traditionally been the leading sector in the realm of Islamic finance, but the share of other products and institutions within the total realm of Islamic financial assets has been steadily increasing, as well (Graph 2). For instance, the Sukuk sector – which focuses on securitized asset-based securities – has seen considerable growth over the past six years and, as of 2014, amounted to more than $300 billion. Similar momentum is driving the growth of the Islamic Funds and Takaful (Islamic insurance) sectors. From 2009 to 2014, the assets under management of Islamic Funds has increased from about $40 billion to about $60 billion, while the amount of total gross contribution to Islamic insurance has surged from $7 billion to more than $14 billion.
Graph 2: The Size of Islamic Finance Assets by Sector 2014 YE (%)
To address this gap, Wasil started offering a Sharia-compliant microfinance package aimed specifically at smallholder farmers.
Wasil is an example of how microfinance and Islamic finance can be successfully combined.
An estimated 650 million Muslims live on less than $2 a day. Examples like Wasil show that Islamic microfinance can play a key role in bringing the poor into the financial mainstream in a way that doesn’t force them to choose between their religious practices and their wallets.
But despite an impressive increase in the number of financial service providers that offer Sharia-compliant microfinance products in Muslim countries, Islamic microfinance is still limited to a few countries. The range of offerings is narrow as well – most are largely focused on the cost-plus-markup product known as murabaha, which is geared toward asset purchases.
Talk about timing! This week has seen back-to-back initiatives that underscore the growing importance of Islamic finance – and the significant role that the World Bank Group can play in unleashing its potential for financing international development.
This Tuesday, October 29, Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom announced that the U.K. will become the first non-Muslim country to issue a Sukuk or Islamic bond, with a £200 million issue planned for early 2014. Cameron also announced plans for a new Islamic index on the London Stock Exchange. These initiatives are all part of a grand plan by the U.K. government to turn London into a global capital of Islamic finance.
The very next day, on Wednesday, October 30, World Bank Group President Jim Kim inaugurated the World Bank Global Islamic Finance Center in Istanbul. Envisioned as a knowledge hub for developing Islamic finance globally, the center will conduct research and training as well as provide technical assistance and advisory services to World Bank Group client countries interested in developing Islamic financial institutions and markets.