Business Daily

Why Islamic finance is yet to realise its full potential in #Kenya

Kenya's Islamic finance industry is over a decade old but is yet to realize its full potential. The uptake of Shariah compliant financial products has been adversely affected by the absence of supportive legal and regulatory infrastructure, lack of skilled Islamic finance professionals, poor perception and lack of awareness. One other challenge is the lack of harmonisation of the Shariah standards. Industry stakeholders need to undertake a comprehensive training of the Shariah scholars and enhance public awareness in Islamic finance. Aqeel Consulting takes the initiative to organise a technical workshop for the Shariah scholars between July 11 -12, 2018 at the Windsor Golf Hotel and Country Club.

Regulations are hindering growth of Islamic finance

The steady growth in Islamic banking in Kenya was unexpected when Islamic finance started in Kenya in the last decade. The Finance Act of 2017 made amendments to the Co-operative Societies Act to facilitate shariah compliant products and enhance financial deepening. It also amended the Public Finance Management Act to recognise Sukuk as one of the national government securities. Despite this growth, there is still much to be done in developing regulations. Kenyan Islamic banks have tried to embed shariah governance within their governance frameworks. However, the mechanism lacks to ensure parity in shariah interpretations, product development and advisory and regulations at an industry level. Islamic capital markets remain hugely untapped in Kenya.

Gulf African Bank bucks trend with two branches plan

Gulf African Bank is set to open two new branches in Hurlingham, Nairobi and Mtwapa in Mombasa this year. Although several local lenders have announced outlet closures in recent months, Gulf African Bank is optimistic and set to improve access to financial services. Other local banks announced a freeze on expansion in a bid to protect their bottom lines. There are three fully-fledged Islamic banks in the country: Gulf, First Community and Dubai Islamic Bank, with at least 11 conventional lenders with dedicated counters for such products.

#Kenya should see #Sukuk as the next frontier of finance

Ongoing development of Islamic finance in Kenya is expected to innovate the financial services sector. One area that will see a hive of activity in the local market will be the introduction of sukuk. The Kenyan government is now preparing to issue the first Sovereign Sukuk with the aim of diversifying sources of funding at competitive rates. Usually, Sukuk derives its financing structure from the nature of the underlying assets available to the originator, regulatory and tax considerations as well as perspectives expressed by the Shariah scholars. However, what may be declared as Shariah-compliant by a team of scholars could be rendered invalid and non-Shariah-compliant by a team of other scholars. This informs the need to have one central Shariah body that regulates the industry to minimise confusion from multiple non-structured Shariah opinions.

Islamic financing costs limit use in public projects

The high transaction costs involved in Islamic financing are likely to limit its use in funding infrastructure projects in Kenya. According to a new study commissioned by the Kenya Bankers Association (KBA) Islamic financing is deemed to be expensive. This fact is corroborated by the case study of Lekki project which utilised a loan financing scheme that attracts huge transaction costs paid by the special purpose company in terms of 1.5-4.0% one-off administration fees and notary fees. The working paper also recommended that a national Sharia board be set up so as to set standards for Islamic finance.

Sharia-compliant Helb loans plan for Muslim students

In #Kenya the Higher Education Loans Board (Helb) has announced plans to introduce a Sharia-compliant product as a growing number of Muslim students join local universities. Helb CEO Charles Ringera said the proposal is contained in a Bill that is currently with the Attorney-General Githu Muigai for review. The new product will most likely assume the structure of Takaful finance. To roll out such a product, Helb will have to come up with special loan forms that require beneficiaries to commit that they will repay a Takaful contribution for the benefit of future students.

Gulf Bank pegs listing plan on IFC exit

Gulf African Bank has tied its public listing plans to the exit of International Finance Corporation (IFC) from its shareholders’ roll. IFC bought a 15 per cent stake in the bank for $5 million (Sh430 million) last year, which valued it at about $33.33 million (Sh2.86 billion) at the time. Chief executive of Gulf Bank Abdalla Abdulkhalik said IFC plans to exit through a public share sale. The IPO is also expected to raise additional capital for the lender. However, no timeframe has been set. Going by the IFC’s investment horizon the public could get a chance to buy into the lender by 2017. IFC’s policy is to invest in firms for between five and seven years. Gulf Bank's total assets stood at Sh13.56 billion as at the end of 2012, up from Sh5 billion as at the end of 2008.

Barclays launches sharia-compliant financing facility

But about 10 per cent of the Dubai’s US$80 billion debt load is estimated to comply with Shariah, casting the spot light on the credibility pedestal Islamic financing has ridden on over the years. Islamic banking experts at IIBI say that Islamic finance as a viable solution to get rid of the weaknesses of conventional finance is mainly limited to theoretical debate.

Two Islamic banks in Kenya founded, but first year of operations not yet profitable

James Makau reported in Business Daily on 31 March that the Gulf African Bank and First Community Bank became the first fully fledged Islamic banks in Kenya but both had to record losses in their first year of operations as operating expenses and heavy set-up costs took a heavy toll on earnings.

Gulf African Bank recorded a loss of Sh281 million last year while First Community Bank (FCB) posted a loss of Sh307 million within the same period despite both players recording increases in net income during the year.

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