International Islamic Finance Forum (IIFF) to focus on finance for the poor

Nobel Peace Prize winner and ‘banker to the poor’ Professor Muhammad Yunus will provide a special focus on ethical and micro-financing in the Muslim world at the International Islamic Finance Forum which opens in Dubai on 13 April 2008.

The premier event in Islamic finance marks seventh year in Dubai with a special focus on ethical and micro-finance in the Muslim world. Ethical and micro-financing in the Muslim world comes under the spotlight at the premier event in Islamic finance which opens in Dubai today ( 13 April 2008 ) with a special focus by ‘banker to the poor’ Professor Muhammad Yunus.

Leading figures and institutions of the financial world are gathering for the International Islamic Finance Forum at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Dubai, under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai, who has supported the forum from when it was first launched in March 2002.

The forum with participants from around 50 countries tracks the latest developments in the world’s fastest growing financial sector which is seeing billions of dollars worth of deals and issues growing annually. The forum runs from 13 to 17 April 2008 and opens with the focus on ethical and micro-financing in the Muslim world led by Professor Yunus, the founder and Managing Director of Grameen Bank who was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize. Yunus is famous for his application of the concept of microcredit and helping people lift themselves out of poverty in rural Bangladesh by providing credit without requiring collateral.

The Grameen Bank has issued more than $5.1 billion to 5.3 million borrowers, maintaining a repayment rate of 99%. The Grameen model has inspired similar efforts throughout the developing world and across five continents. Yunus will also be outlining the role of women, how corporations and businesses can help the poor as well as providing real life examples of social businesses.

The what, where and how of Islamic micro-finance will be examined in further detail by an expert panel including: Oliver Agha, Partner and Global Head of Islamic Finance of DLA Piper Middle East; Rushdi Siddiqui, Global Director of Dow Jones Islamic Indexes; Claire Cabanel Rey, Executive Director of PlaNet Finance; Alberto Brugnoni, President and Founding Member of the Association for the Development of Alternative Instruments and Innovative Finance; Dr Ahmed Al Janahi, Deputy Group CEO, Noor Islamic Bank; Wasim Saifi, CEO of Tamweel. The debate will be moderated by Cyba Audi, Senior Presenter of Al-Arabiya News.

Over three days, the International Islamic Finance Forum will discuss vital issues relevant to the industry both globally and locally. In a packed agenda, experts and scholars will exchange views on the harmonisation of Islamic finance; the growth of Sukuk; the potential of Takaful; accounting standards; social responsibility; alternative asset classes; treasury management; hedge and electronic trading funds.

With the conventional finance industry blighted by the credit crunch, western financial institutions are increasingly offering Islamic instruments as alternative financing options, said conference manager Swati Taneja of forum organisers IIR Middle East. The growth of the Sukuk (or Islamic bond) market in particular has been dramatic since the inauguration of the first forum in Dubai in early 2002. Sukuk are now increasingly being issued by conventional institutions, with western governments including the UK set to list. ‘The value of new issuance at that time stood at less than $500m compared with a total of over $60bn in 2007,’ Taneja added. ‘Most analysts believe that, medium term, the Sukuk market will continue to grow even in today’s more volatile credit environment.

‘While all forms of debt instruments have been affected by the credit crunch, the impact is expected to be less in the Islamic finance sector because of the underlying asset-backed nature of the Shari’ah compliant system.’ Credit rating company Moody’s Investor Services, for example, expects $50bn of Sukuk funding over the next 18 months. Meanwhile, Standard & Poor’s is forecasting the Sukuk market will surpass $100 billion by the end of the decade.

The forum speaker faculty includes more than 35 of the world’s leading Shari’ah scholars; CEOs and CFOs of the Islamic finance world; senior corporate, investment and retail bankers; conventional and Islamic lawyers and legal consultants; fund and index managers; university academics and financial trainers; commodity traders and media specialists.

Press release, April 12 – 2008


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