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#Malaysia can be Islamic #fintech leader, says Fitch Group unit

According to research agency BMI, Malaysia has the potential to be a world leader in Islamic financial technology (fintech). The research firm said Malaysia’s Islamic banking sector was worth US$202 billion last year, while its Islamic loans also more than doubled to 30.2% the same year, compared to just 7.8% a decade ago. BMI noted Malaysia has a developed infrastructure, an increasingly affluent and tech-savvy population, and high mobile and broadband penetration rates coupled with fast internet speeds. The Memorandum of Understanding between MIMOS and the International Center for Education In Islamic Finance (INCEIF) has laid down the foundation for the development of Islamic fintech in Malaysia.

Jaiz Bank, IDB Sign $20m SMEs Financing Deal

Jaiz Bank and Islamic Corporation for the Development of Private Sector (ICD) have signed a $20 million line of agreement to finance the Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) of Nigeria. The financing deal covers sectors such as industry, communications, technology, health, manufacturing and agriculture. Hassan Usman, Managing Director of Jaiz Bank, signed on behalf of the bank while Okan Altasil, the Regional Office Director of ICD, signed for the corporation. The ICD management said the reason for extending such financing to some Nigerian banks was because SMEs have crucial role to play in a country’s growth and development. The ICD had previously extended a total of $120 million line of financing facility for the development of SMEs in Nigeria.

#Saudi- Finance Minister heads the Kingdom's delegation to the 43rd Islamic Development Bank board of governors Annual Meeting in Tunis

Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan will head the Kingdom's delegation to the 43rd Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors of the Islamic Development Bank between April 4-5 in Tunis. The Saudi delegation will include Dr. Ahmad Al-Khulaifi, Governor of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA), Dr. Hamad Al-Bazie, Vice Minister of Finance, Eng. Yousef Al-Bassam, Vice President and Managing Director of the Saudi Fund for Development (SFD). The IDB annual meeting's agenda will comprise of discussion sessions about the 2017 IDB activities report, IDB's institutions annual report and the establishment of the Islamic Solidarity Fund for Development (ISFD). The ISFD aims to alleviate poverty, develop capacity, and eradicate illiteracy, diseases and epidemics in member countries via funding various productive, social and service projects and programs.

The rise of Muslim #Millennials and what it means for Islamic finance

Millennials are the generational demographic bracket following Generation X, which was a more consumerist, independent-minded age cohort. In the Muslim world, the Arab Spring, the Global Recession and other developments like dropping oil prices had major impact on this generation. A study by credit card firm Visa showed that Millennials make up the fastest-growing consumer segment in the GCC region. Visa estimates that Millennials in the UAE will receive an average income of $40,000 annually by 2019 which naturally makes them an important customer segment for banks. Millennials are generally savvy with digital technologies and the sharing economy. They have a more liberal approach to economics, which means that they are generally not brand-loyal but rather look for the best deal. Muslim Millennials are truly asserting their needs in Islamic finance, as they do in halal travel, food, media and fashion. For Islamic banks, this means that laggards will lose out on this very important customer segment, if they do not invest in their digital banking solutions.

And The Country With The 'Most Expensive' Plate Of Food Is...

A report from the World Food Programme (WFP) analyzed the glaring gap in food costs around the world. The report points out that people living in poor countries have to spend the bulk of their wages on basic nourishment. The research measured the proportion of daily income that people spent on ingredients for a basic bean stew in different countries last year before retro-projecting the ratio on to a resident of New York State. An average person living in New York State would spend about 0.6% of his or her daily income on ingredients for a bean stew, approximately $1.20. Someone living in South Sudan would have to work for a day and a half to afford a basic meal with the cost of the ingredients 155% of daily income. The real price of a plate of bean stew in South Sudan would be $321.70, so many of the country's inhabitants are struggling to feed themselves.

Islamic Development Bank aims to empower women

The Islamic Development Bank (IDB) aims to improve women’s access to infrastructure that will offer economic opportunities through Islamic microfinance. IDB president Bandar Hajjar was speaking at the "Partnerships for Promoting Women’s Economic Empowerment" session at the 43rd annual IDB meeting in Tunis. He said the empowerment of women was at the core of the Bank’s development strategy. He announced that to achieve this, the bank would launch a new initiative called "SheCan". He also stressed the bank continued its regular operations to empower women in priority sectors, such as energy, education, transport, health and Islamic finance. Representatives of 57 member states, senior government officials and ministers of finance, economy, planning and international development are attending the five-day meeting in Tunis.

Why Is Financial Inclusion in #Nigeria Lagging Compared to Its African Peers?

According to InterMedia’s Financial Inclusion Insights (FII) 2016 Annual Report, the number of adults who are considered financially included in Nigeria has not improved since 2014. Financial inclusion in Nigeria dropped slightly from 37% in 2015 to 35% in 2016, lagging behind the three other African countries of the program. In 2016, 69% of Kenyans, 54% of Tanzanians and 40% of Ugandans were financially included. The 2016 FII data found that more than half of Nigerian adults do not have access to financial services. FII data suggest that even when they have access, many Nigerians lack the basic resources and key skills that facilitate financial inclusion. In 2016, decreases in bank account ownership drove an overall drop in financial inclusion. In Nigeria, the population continues to work in the cash-based informal sector.

Tunisia to host Islamic Development Bank annual meeting

The annual meeting of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) Group will be held in the first week of April in the Tunisian capital, Tunis. Fifty-seven ministers of economy and finance of member countries and about one thousand experts, economists and financiers will attend the meeting, which takes place between April 1 and April 5. There will also be a signing ceremony of financial partnership agreements between the IDB Group and some member states, including Tunisia. The IDB Group formally opened in 1975 and currently has 57 member states.

WGC, IIFM to develop #standards for gold-based Islamic contracts

The World Gold Council (WGC) and the International Islamic Financial Market (IIFM) plan to develop a series of standard templates for sharia-compliant gold contracts. Gold had traditionally been classified as a currency in Islamic finance, but new guidance has opened the door for a wider range of products. The Accounting and Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI) developed a sharia standard for gold in 2016. The proposed contract templates from IIFM would add to those efforts by standardising the operational aspects of gold transactions. Natalie Dempster, managing director of central banks at the WGC, said the new standards would include physical allocation of gold, confirmation of ownership and spot transactions. Allocated gold agreements, consignment agreements, swap product confirmations and other gold-based products were also discussed at the consultation meeting, which was hosted by Borsa Istanbul, Turkey.

Call for Good Practices on Islamic Finance and Impact Investing Activities

Click here to apply http://bit.ly/2tN5RAZ

Purpose of this call is to invite private and public sector to share their good practices on
•Islamic finance funded impact investments and dedicated vehicles
•impact investment vehicles in the OIC region
•Islamic social finance vehicles

for the mapping study that is being carried out under the Global Islamic Finance and Impact Investing Platform (GIFIIP). The selected cases will be analysed by the research team managed by IICPSD and IRTI. Subsequently the good practices, information on vehicles and further findings will be published as part of the study.

Investment Focus

Over One Fifth of Student Borrowers Used Loans to Gamble on #Cryptocurrencies

According to a study by The Student Loan Report, over one-fifth of current university students with student loan debt indicated that they used their student loan money to invest in digital currency such as bitcoin. While school administrators may look down upon the practice of using borrowed funds for non-school expenses, Student Loan Report indicates that there are currently no rules against it. College students are able to use loans for "living expenses", a flexible category that covers a wide range of potential necessities. This sort of thing does not help the image of student borrowers, although it does strengthen the case for regulating cryptocurrencies far more strictly.

The race to become the world’s leading leading Islamic fintech hub

According to Pew Research, the demand for Islamic financial technology is set to grow siginificantly, as the global Muslim population is expected to explode from less than two billion in 2015 to almost three billion by 2060. Malaysia, the UK and Indonesia are leading the race, ranking first, second and third respectively by number of Islamic fintech startups. However, fierce competition from Middle Eastern countries threatens their supremacy. In January, Bahraini banks created a consortium aiming to create fifteen fintech providers in five years. Last year, the Dubai International Finance Centre (DIFC) launched an accelerator called FinTech Hive. The UK has recently launched the crowdfunded property investment platform Yielders adding to established players including InsureHalal and Ethos Asset Facilitation Platform.

It's cool to be kind: family offices and impact investing

The Global Family Office Report 2017 (GFOR) shows that more than a quarter of family offices (28%) report being engaged in impact investing, and two-fifths plan to increase their allocations in 2018. This investment method is now being practised across nearly every asset class, with 63% partaking in direct private investment, 57% in private equity funds, and 38% in venture capital. According to the GFOR, some family offices have trouble understanding how to source and implement impact investments. Environmental and social analytics providers can help by providing data-driven analysis for a practical measurement of impact. The rising influence of socially-conscious millennials in wealthy families means impact investing is only set to skyrocket. Family offices should get ready to be swept into the mainstream.

#Saudi tycoon auctions off 900 vehicles to clear debt

Thousands of people attended the first day of an auction of vehicles owned by indebted Saudi Arabian tycoon Maan al-Sanea. Officials say the sale will go towards repaying about 18 billion riyals (US$4.8 billion) owed to creditors. The businessman was detained by authorities last year for unpaid debt dating back to 2009 when his company, Saad Group, defaulted on payments. The first phase of the auction was launched this week, with around 900 vehicles including lorries, buses, diggers, forklift trucks and golf carts. Later stages of the process will include property, as well as machinery, ceramics and furniture. Prospective buyers were mainly businessmen from local construction companies and other contractors. Money raised from the first phase of the auction will go towards repaying creditors. Priority for the repayment will first go to repaying unpaid workers, vendors and other companies owed money will be given next priority, with banks at a later stage.

Crypto vs. Cash - How the Numbers Stack Up on Drugs, Guns, Murders

There was a time when Bitcoin was used often for buying of illegal substances, from drugs to guns and even hitmen. It was decentralized, anonymous and digital. As Bitcoin has organically grown and been adopted into more mainstream markets, the use of the digital currency as a Darknet tool has been declining. According to a recent analysis conducted by Carnegie Mellon University, weapons represent a very small portion of the overall trade on anonymous marketplaces. Drugs are far more common. Specifically, MDMA and marijuana each account for about 25% of sales on the dark web. Yet, the vast majority of drug users still purchase illicit substances via more 'traditional' methods. According to a 2017 Global Drug Survey, the global median for a percentage of drug users who use the darknet is 10.1%. The ease and convenience of buying online extends to the illegal markets, and just because there is a tool to do it with, doesn’t mean that the tool is the enemy.

#Cybercriminals Launder Up to $200B in Profit Per Year

Cybercriminals launder an estimated $80-200 billion in illegal profit each year, which amounts to 8-10% of all illegal proceeds laundered around the world. Virtual currencies are the most common tool used for money laundering, but Bitcoin isn't quite as trendy among hackers. The data comes from Into the Web of Profit, an independent academic study conducted by Dr. Mike McGuire, senior lecturer in Criminology at Surrey University in England.
There are several reasons why cybercriminals are turning to cryptocurrency. They're easily acquired, for one, and they have a reputation for enabling anonymous transactions. According to McGuire, there's almost a wholesale movement away from Bitcoin because Bitcoin's blockchain technology means all transactions are transparent, even if the users' identities remain concealed. Now cybercriminals are adopting more anonymous currencies like Monero and Zcash.

GCC’s alternative equity funding set to grow

A major type of alternative equity investment is through venture capital (VC) and private equity (PE), which represent an ownership stake in a private company. With the assistance of VC and PE, some companies may grow and become public companies through initial public offerings (IPOs). In 2017, the UAE and Saudi Arabia led IPO activity in the GCC, with five listings in the UAE, four in Saudi Arabia, three in Oman and one in Qatar. Much of the activity has been in the region's relatively new Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) market. IPO activity in the region has been focused mainly on large state-owned enterprises, while public equity markets are still classified as ‘frontier’ and ‘emerging’. Throughout the region there is a growing ecosystem of economic free zones, business incubators, co-working spaces, conferences and awards for start-up companies. There is no doubt that the level of VC and PE activity will continue to grow in the region just as the public markets will continue to evolve.

ICD Committed to Private Sector in #Cote d’Ivoire Through Direct Investments

The Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD) hosted a delegation from Cote d’Ivoire composed of 40 entrepreneurs, the Ambassador of Cote d’Ivoire in Saudi Arabia, the President of Chamber of Commerce of Cote d’Ivoire and the Vice president of the Confederation of Corporation of Cote d’Ivoire. The B2B Meeting was an opportunity to exchange on the opportunities of doing business in Cote d’Ivoire. ICD re-emphasized its commitment to support the private sector in Cote d’Ivoire through Direct Investments, Investments in dedicated Funds and through Line of Financing to financial institutions.

Food Security’s Social Network

The number of chronically undernourished people in the world is rising. In 2016, the number of people without enough to eat increased to 815 million, up from 777 million the year before. Ending global hunger is not just about breeding drought-resistant corn, it is also about having a plan for when that corn fails anyway. It is as much about reimagining social networks as it is about deciding what goes into the ground. It is crucial to invest in new technologies that enable farmers to connect with information and institutions that can decrease uncertainty and mitigate risk. With access to data, markets and financial services, farmers can plant, fertilize, harvest and sell products more effectively. For example, in Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia, local extension services are delivering real-time weather data to vegetable farmers via SMS. In West Africa, private companies such as Ignitia are expanding the accuracy and precision of SMS weather alerts to remote farmers.

#Bahrain Counts on #Fintech, #Saudi Ties to Revive Indebted Economy

Bahrain FinTech Bay is part of the kingdom's drive to revive its reputation as the Middle East's top banking and business center. After the plunge of oil prices in 2014, state revenues fell, credit ratings fell and debt soared. Large debts still pose a risk as interest rates rise, but Bahrain is starting to see initial signs of recovery. PayTabs, a Saudi company specializing in online payment solutions, will set up a base in Bahrain FinTech Bay in May. Tap Payments, a mobile payment company founded in Kuwait, moved to Fintech Bay last month. CEO Ali Abulhasan said Bahrain had regulatory advantages when compared to other Gulf Cooperation Countries. Foreign investment from 71 companies was $733 million last year, up from $281 million and 40 companies in 2016. This contributed to an average annual GDP growth of more than 3.5%. Central bank governor Rasheed Mohammed al-Maraj said that growth could accelerate further, as strong oil prices have bounced to around $65 a barrel from below $50 in mid-2017.

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