Private-sector moves keep Tunisia’s Islamic finance hopes alive

Amen Bank, Tunisia’s second-largest private sector bank, launched two Islamic mutual funds this week, managed by Tunis-based United Gulf Financial Services-North Africa. In October, El Wifack Leasing said it had received central bank approval to become the country’s third full-fledged Islamic bank, with 150mn dinars ($80mn) in capital, adding the firm would bring international shareholders to the venture. These are welcome steps for the Islamic finance industry which has been waiting for the government to issue a debut Islamic bond. Earlier this year the private sector arm of the Islamic Development Bank teamed up with Tunisia’s newly created sovereign wealth fund, Caisse de Depot de Tunisie, to set up a $30mn fund to support local businesses.