DUBAI – The 2-day Global Islamic Economy Summit kicked off today in its third annual round, under the patronage of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, inviting more than 3,000 leaders, decision makers, and experts to explore numerous sectors and major trends in the global Muslim market.
“Our goal is to go beyond Islamic banking and finance to uncover opportunities in other sectors such as agriculture, food, fashion, tourism, arts, and more,” said Majid Al-Ghurair, Chairman of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and board member of the Dubai Islamic Economy Development Center.
“This distinguishes the Islamic economy from other economies around the world,” he said.
Experts discussed the challenges and opportunities of the rapid growth of youth among Muslim populations that make up around 1.7 billion.
“Products and services today still don’t meet the needs for Muslim populations,” Al-Ghurair added. “They remain limited and lacking the desired quality. One of the main goals of the emirate of Dubai is to encourage production of high quality products and services in various sectors.”
These include Halal food, family-friendly tourist destinations, modest fashion, and startups serving Islamic services. The summit stresses on the sustainability of the Islamic economy.
The summit further covered a wide range of topics in addition to the challenges of Islamic banking such as the Muslim travel market, entrepreneurs and SMEs, the high demand of Islamic art, the role of wealthy Muslim governments, social media’s role in modest fashion, among others.
The Islamic economy comprises Muslim populations around the world, including in non-Muslim countries. “The Islamic community in the modern world, especially in the West, have shaped the Islamic economy differently because they are highly educated, looking for good products and looking for value for money. This has pushed the product to be improved and competitive with other products in the market,” Al-Ghurair told Saudi Gazette.
“The producer then tries to satisfy the needs of these educated consumers. Eventually, producing a product for customers in Europe and North America improved the product even for other Muslim communities in Muslim countries.”
The Islamic economy is not just a concern for Muslims but has been eyed by international investors. Many foreign foundations open their doors for Islamic transactions and participate in developing Islamic products.
Speakers also discussed philanthropy in the Muslim world and the excess of underutilized capital of social development. Islamic charity funds, a major pillar of Islamic economy, is still not efficiently used. Assets generate low returns and have minimal social impact on the societies they are meant to support.
Charity in Islamic world is valued to 250 billion dollars to one trillion. However they are all spread to individuals, so they are lost. Now we need to transform to a collective organization efforts to specialize each in one of the available sectors including education, health, environment, and other sectors. In the past, at the event of a natural disaster, all charity foundations donate to the same cause. This is not efficient. Its impact on individuals is not clear. It has to be systematic. The modern charity foundations need to have clear goals, transparency, and a significant impact. Arabic foundations want to unify their efforts to tackle challenges and exchange views and experience.
Abdulaziz Al-Ghurair, chairman of the Abdullah Al-Ghurair Foundation for Education and board member of Dubai Islamic Economy Development Center spoke about Islamic charity funds that include awqaf and zakat donations.
Asked about the sustainability of charity funds, Al-Ghurair told Saudi Gazette: “The product itself needs to be distinguished first. This is how to measure sustainability of a charity fund. No one can work alone, there needs to be collective efforts to a humanitarian cause. A charity foundation cannot work for all sectors; each one has to have its specialized focus.”
One by-product of the annual summit is the establishment of the Dubai Islamic Economy Development Center. CEO Abdulla Mohammed Al Awar said: “We believe the discussions at this year’s summit will enrich development plans, and consolidate efforts of governments, private organisations and all social segments in building a more sustainable world. We strive to increase international awareness around the importance of adapting Islamic standards in financial and economic activities. We are also confident that the summit will motivate the youth to actively participate in forming the future of this platform, which guarantees the achievements of their aspirations.”
Invited leaders who spoke at the summit include President of Mauritius Ameenah Gurib, Mohammad Al Gergawi, Minister of Cabinet Affairs and the Future and Chairman of the Board of the Dubai Islamic Economy Development Centre, Obaid Humaid Al Tayer, Minister of State for Financial Affairs; Chiara Appendino, Mayor of the City of Turin, Italy and Mohammed Al Hashel, Governor of the Central Bank of Kuwait.