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With no official nod for halal funds, money scams arise

Investigation authorities are probing complaints that a Bengaluru-based company, which promised to route investors’ savings into halal investments, cheated them of 2000 crore. India does not recognise Islamic banking, but there are investment options for those who do not want to violate religious laws while investing their savings. Researcher Shafeeq Rahman says that Muslims have an unmet need for Shariah-compliant investments. Because they are more likely to run their own businesses, Muslims have more need for credit and go to groups that offer halal financial services. The problem is that these institutions use the claim of Shariah investments to lure depositors, but these groups are not regulated by government agencies.

S&P sees GCC move ahead of Africa in race for fintech adoption

A new report on the prospects for fintech in the Middle East and Africa has affirmed the importance of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region. According to Standard & Poor's, the GCC's most advanced centres are Dubai and Bahrain. "The Future Of Banking: Fintech's Prospects in the Middle East and Africa" report identified five factors necessary to propel fintech adoption: human capital, regulation, financial capital, physical infrastructure and demand, either from established financial institutions or end users. It said North and Sub-Saharan Africa still lagged behind the GCC, where banking penetration stands at just under 80%.

Pakistani startup Tez Financial Services wins at Inclusive Fintech50

Pakistani fintech startup Tez Financial Services has been selected as one of the winners of 2019’s Inclusive Fintech 50. Tez was the only Pakistani startup to have qualified for the competition. Inclusive Fintech 50 is a competition to help early-stage fintech companies attract capital to benefit the world’s three billion financially underprivileged people. Tez Financial Services is the first fully digital Non-Bank Microfinance Company focused on serving the unbanked and underbanked in Pakistan. The founders of Tez were leading forces in the creation of Tameer Bank, Easypaisa, and CheckIn Solutions.

College launches degrees in Islamic finance

Dundee’s Al-Maktoum College of Higher Education is collaborating with the University of Dundee to offer qualifications in MSc Islamic Finance, MSc Islamic Banking and Finance and MSc Islamic Banking, Finance and International Business. Dr Salah Alhammadi, assistant professor in Islamic economics at Al-Maktoum College, said Islamic finance has been adopted in Muslim majority countries as well as non-Muslim countries. The London Stock Exchange recently claimed that the UK is leading western countries in Islamic Finance. Designed for students who have completed an undergraduate degree and are now looking to specialise, the programmes are suitable for those with a background in finance and business but also anyone new to the subject.

Dubai issues new financial centre insolvency law after Abraaj collapse

Dubai's ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum issued a new insolvency law for companies operating in the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC). The new law has been issued following the collapse of Dubai-based private equity firm Abraaj. The firm had a row with some investors over the use of money in a $1 billion healthcare fund. The new law introduces a "new debtor in possession bankruptcy regime" for debtors that have filed for bankruptcy but still hold assets. Abraaj, its founder Arif Naqvi and a former executive are being investigated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on U.S. charges that they defrauded investors.

#Russia's Sberbank to Acquire Stake in Islamic Charity Platform PayZakat

Russia's state-controlled Sberbank will acquire 25% of the PayZakat platform that collects charity for Muslims in need. PayZakat is a start-up that won Sberbank’s first Sber#Up corporate accelerator competition for its own employees, and the bank sees global and universal potential for the platform. The PayZakat platform allows its users to calculate their contribution amount, and channel it to the charity of their choice. Chat bots integrated into social networks help with the process and provide status updates on the contribution. Sberbank is at the forefront of Russian digital development and is preparing to launch its Sber digital ecosystem in the short- to medium-term.

US startup PayJoy unlocks smartphone loans for Asia's unbanked

American startup PayJoy makes it easier for people without a bank account or credit profile to purchase a smartphone on installment. The phones and loans are provided by third parties. What PayJoy provides is proprietary software that locks the phone if payments are not made on time, making the device unusable. Once the missed installments are paid, the phone is unlocked and can be used as normal. According to PayJoy, its technology can do more than just put smartphones in users' hands. Customers' payment histories are reported back to local credit bureaus, which serves to build up credit profiles. PayJoy aims to expand in emerging markets such as Asia, particularly in India and Indonesia. In most markets, PayJoy partners up with local mobile makers, distributors and lending institutions. The company then takes a cut from every loan originated using its technology, a business model that lowers costs as well as risks for PayJoy.

For $83,000, Harvard teaches rich kids how to do good (and make money)

In collaboration with the World Economic Forum, Harvard University and the University of Zurich have launched a course called "Impact Investing for the Next Generation". In this context, that generation means the heirs to some of capitalism's greatest fortunes. Participants had to pass an interview before paying up to $US12,000 ($17,240) for a week of classes in the US and Switzerland, not including airfares and board.

Faith-Based Finance

What caused the global financial crisis? And how can the United States avoid a repeat? Those questions have sparked endless discussions among economists, policymakers, financiers, and voters over the last decade. The crisis not only entailed the worst financial shock and recession in the United States since 1929; it also shook the country’s global reputation for financial competence. Numerous explanations have been offered: the U.S. Federal Reserve kept interest rates too low, Asia’s savings glut drove up the U.S. housing market, the banks had captured regulators and politicians in Washington, mortgage lenders made foolish loans, the credit-rating agencies willfully downplayed risks.

WATCH: Islamic finance institutions serve a crucial role for BRI

The crucial role of Islamic finance in financing China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) pays homage to the Silk Road and symbiotic relationship between China and the Islamic world prior the 15th Century. Rightfully so, as BRI is the 21st Century’s New Silk Road. Introduced in 2013 by Chinese President Xi Jinping, BRI consists of overland roads and railway systems – The Belt – and maritime highways – The Road. It allows the seamless and efficient transportation of people, natural resources, products, and capital to flow to and from mainland China. The sheer magnitude of BRI finds itself in its financing. A crucial role exists for Islamic financial institutions due to the emerging market of the Middle East, Africa, and South-Asia (MEASA). Jiang Xiheng, Vice President at the China Center for International Knowledge on Development (CIKD), stated the importance of having the United Arab Emirates as a partner in BRI.

VCBank buys majority stake in Caribou and Fuddruckers

Bahrain's Venture Capital Bank (VCBank) announced its acquisition of a significant stake in the Caribou Coffee and Fuddruckers Restaurant franchises in Bahrain. From its first outlet in Bahrain in 2007, Caribou has grown its network to 22 stores, and is ranked among the top three international coffee shop chains operating in the kingdom.

Ethis Group Comments on Receipt of Islamic Equity #Crowdfunding License in #Malaysia

The Securities Commission Malaysia revealed updated regulations as well as the approval of 8 new "Regulated Market Operators" serving the investment crowdfunding market. Best known for its impact investing in Indonesia, Ethis Ventures launched last year its Global Sadaqah platform and expects to launch its new Ethis Equity platform in Malaysia in Q1 2020. Ethis Group Chief Investment Advisor Maritz Mansor said they are very excited to have this chance to open up a new asset class to all levels and types of investors. Umar Munshi, Managing Director of Ethis Ventures, said SMEs and startups in Malaysia had few avenues for raising funds. He added that the Shariah-compliant alternative was missing and Ethis Equity aims to fill the gap. In Ethis Equity the minimum investment will be low which means that ordinary people can invest alongside professional investors.

Najib's SRC trial: Interesting use of Islamic banking facilities, inter-posed charitable trusts to break-up cash flows into discrete unconnected packages -evidence can prove problematic for ANZ's Shayne Elliot

Two diagrams published by the Malay Mail illustrate the cash flows relied on by the prosecution to prove the charges against Najib Razak. The diagrams reveal the use of Islamic banking facilities and inter-posed charitable trusts to break-up what can appear to be simple linear flows into discrete seemingly independent packages. These arrangements create problems for many, but especially the ANZ Banking Group whose management oversaw these transactions. ANZ CEO Shayne Elliot continues to distance himself from the problem, claiming that he was not a member of the AMBank board of directors when these transactions were executed, but in fact he was.

At fintech meet, Guan Eng says only Pakatan provides the tolerance needed for innovation to thrive

Malaysia's Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said the country finally gained the tolerance element needed for digital innovation when Pakatan Harapan (PH) became the federal government. In his speech at the Securities Commission Fintech Roundtable 2019 the minister also cited a 2018 World Bank report that described Malaysia as having produced some of Southeast Asia’s most successful digital startups. He added that the government had also committed RM50 million towards a co-investment fund for ECF and P2P investments. ECF and P2P are two relatively recent developments in Malaysia that have opened up additional avenues of funding for microbusinesses and startups that may not yet qualify for traditional loans from commercial banks.

Islamic financing marketplace Alami bags funding led by Singapore-based tryb

Indonesian startup Alami has closed an undisclosed pre-seed round led by fintech investor tryb. The company’s peer-to-peer (P2P) platform recently obtained a P2P registration from the country’s Financial Services Authority and is set to soon expand its business into the Shariah-compliant P2P financing space. The fresh funds will be used for product development and market expansion. Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world, but the country's Shariah finance sector has historically lagged behind other markets with large Muslim populations. Alami CEO Dima Djani said tryb’s South-East Asian fintech expertise provides strong validation of its business model and key support for its growth plans.

Fixed Income: Bite-sized #sukuk with #blockchain

According to Matthew Martin, founder of microfinance investment fund Blossom Finance, technology will make sukuk issuance much cheaper and simpler as well as more available to investors and issuers. The potential for blockchain to transform the bond and sukuk space was noted by S&P Global Ratings last October. The rating agency wrote that blockchain and smart contract protocols could increase the transparency of cash flows and underlying assets. The World Bank created the first public bond to be managed using blockchain last August. According to Reuters, the prototype deal was as a step towards moving bond sales away from manual processes. Blossom will also use blockchain to record all transactions on the ledger. Currently, the company is selectively listing investors who want to be part of the pilot.

Inside one of the finest pieces in today's Sotheby’s Arts of the Islamic world #auction

In May, Sotheby’s holds its latest Arts of the Islamic World auction. The auction includes a number of rare Qur’ans, including one exemplary fine and rare miniature Qur’an on vellum, estimated to sell at GBP 70,000-90,000. The miniature manuscript is an extremely rare and early example of Eastern Kufic script written in a vertical format on vellum. The size of the manuscript made for a considerable degree of difficulty, due to its intricacy and design.
The Qu’ran also has other rare features. Written in a special news script, it also adds dots to the script, which is rare for manuscripts of this kind, allowing the text to be read easier if the reader doesn’t know the Qu’ran by heart.

Islamic artworks go under the hammer at Sotheby’s

Some of the best examples of artwork from the Islamic world will go under the hammer at Sotheby’s on May 1. The auction includes a portrait of the great Ottoman Sultan, Suleyman the Magnificent, a landmark portrait valued at around 250,000 - 350,000 British pounds ($323,000 - $452,000). A rare example of an Iznik “Golden Horn” dish dating back to the 1530s is the most valuable piece in the collection and it is looking for a buyer for an amount between 300,000 and 500,000 pounds ($387,000 - $645,000). The collection holds many other pieces of artworks from India to Morocco and from Europe to Central Asia. The auction on May 1 will also be open to bids over the Internet.

#UAE aim to become regional Islamic art and culture capital boosted by Jameel Prize’s first exhibition in Dubai

The UAE’s status as a centre for Islamic art and design was boosted this past week as Jameel Arts Centre opened the Jameel Prize 5 exhibition. First awarded in 2009, the Jameel Prize is a collaboration between London's Victoria & Albert Museum and Art Jameel. Worth 25,000 British pounds, it awards contemporary artists and designers inspired by Islamic tradition. In addition to the two joint prize winners, Iraqi artist Mehdi Moutashar and Bangladeshi architect Marina Tabassum, the prize exhibition in Dubai is also showing works by the six finalists. They are: Iranian artist Kamrooz Aram, Jordan and Dubai-based graphic designer and architect duo naqsh collective, Iraqi-born painter Hayv Kahraman, Bahraini fashion designer Hala Kaiksow, Moroccan multimedia artist Younes Rahmoun, and Pakistani painter Wardha Shabbir.

#Saudi Arabia's Al Rajhi Bank to boost mortgage #lending

Al Rajhi Bank aims to boost mortgage lending as more affordable housing comes on the market. CEO Steve Bertamini said the bank's mortgage book grew 27% year-on-year in 2018 and it is looking for double digit growth for the next two to three years. Al Rajhi, which has traditionally focused on consumer banking, has been expanding its exposure to the private sector. It also sees opportunities in project finance as public-private partnership contracts for water and renewable energy start to be awarded. Saudi Arabia's economy grew in the fourth quarter of last year at its fastest rate since early 2016 due to an expanding oil sector. Fourth-quarter gross domestic product grew by 3.59% from a year earlier.

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