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Halal Industry
UAE commits $50m to development initiative 

The UAE has committed $50 million to the second phase of the Lives and Livelihoods Fund 2.0 (LLF 2.0), a multi-donor development initiative supporting sustainable socio-economic development in Islamic Development Bank’s (IsDB) 57 member countries.

The funding will be used by LLF 2.0 to support critical projects in health and infectious diseases, agriculture, and social infrastructure in low and lower-middle income IsDB member countries. 

The funding also aims to support 32 member countries in achieving 10 of the 17 sustainable development goals.

The new financing will be administered by the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development, in addition to $50 million the UAE has contributed to the LLF since its launch in 2016.

“Through LLF 2.0, we will focus on climate-smart agriculture, primary care, underfunded social services, and infrastructure investment,” Mohamed Saif Al Suwaidi, director general for Abu Dhabi Fund for Development said. 

“LLF 2.0 will also optimize its anti-poverty focus, setting grant portions to enhance stability and transparency.”

The Fund in its first phase invested over $1.4 billion across 22 IsDB member countries, enabling more than three million smallholder farmers to improve their livelihoods, and providing 12.5 million women and children access to quality healthcare.

It is also expected to provide over 7.5 million people with better water and sanitation facilities.

LLF is a joint initiative of the Islamic Development Bank, the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Islamic Solidarity Fund for Development, the King Salman Relief Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre, and the Qatar Fund for Development.

Islamic Lifestyle
Philippines, Qatar ink agreement to strengthen tourism ties

Philippines and Qatar signed a preliminary agreement on Monday to bolster bilateral growth in tourism and business events. 

The memorandum of understanding (MoU) is one of the agreements inked during Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani’s state visit to the Southeast Asian country. 

"We are reintroducing the Philippines to the world on the strength of our Filipino culture, heritage, and identity, and we view our partnership with Qatar as being an important part of this movement," the Philippine News Agency reported, quoting the country’s tourism secretary Christina Frasco. 

The agreement is expected to solidify the countries’ aim to encourage tourism investments, promote familiarization visits for media and tourism experts, and upskill operators, employees, and specialists. 

Philippines received 10,438 visitors from Qatar in 2023, according to data released by the Department of Tourism. 

Philippine’s tourism department has worked towards strengthening Muslim-friendly and halal tourism offerings to cater to the need of its Muslim visitors.

The country announced its plan to launch a national halal strategy last September, aiming to generate 230 billion pesos in investment and help create 120,000 jobs in five years. Besdies food and food-related products, the plan also includes verticals such as Islamic finance, and halal-friendly travel and tourism. 

Philippine was named the emerging Muslim-friendly destination at the Halal in Travel Global Summit 2023. 

Islamic Finance
Islamic finance wrap: Canada to introduce halal mortgages for Muslims

Here's a roundup of key developments across the Islamic finance ecosystem during the first two weeks of April

Editor's note: Canada leads the news race today, with the government announcing its intent to introduce halal mortgages for Muslims. Meanwhile, Ahli Islamic has introduced Oman's first Shariah-compliant money market fund. 


Company News


JazzCash launches Islamic Savings product 

JazzCash has introduced its Islamic Savings product, featuring the highest daily halal profit rates, aiming to enhance financial inclusion in Pakistan.


The offering includes free accidental insurance upon enrollment, providing added security for customers.


The initiative addresses key obstacles to digital financial service adoption in the country and offers a user-friendly platform through the JazzCash app for managing savings conveniently. (Business Recorder)



Ahli Islamic introduces first Shariah-compliant money market fund
Ahli Islamic, a subsidiary of ahlibank in Oman, has introduced the country's first Islamic money market fund, offering customers Shariah-compliant investment opportunities with attractive local and regional profit rates.


The fund aligns with Islamic principles of ethical finance and responsible growth, providing investors with accessible entry points starting from just 500 Omani riyals. (Zawya)



Hejaz, LMG partner to offer Shariah-compliant finance

Hejaz, an Islamic financial services provider, has teamed up with aggregator LMG to offer Shariah-compliant financing to brokers.


The partnership addresses demand from LMG brokers to better serve Muslim clients by leveraging Hejaz's unique position as the sole provider of broker-friendly Islamic finance products in Australia. (MPA)




Olam Agri secures inaugural $625m Shariah-compliant financing facility

Olam Agri, a subsidiary of Olam Group, has obtained a Shariah-compliant financing facility worth $625 million on April 4.


The Murabaha facility, the first of its kind for Olam, attracted investments from various global entities, including the UAE, Malaysia, Singapore, and Hong Kong. (The Edge)


Trade Developments


Canadian government unveils ‘halal mortgages’ for Muslims

The Canadian government plans to introduce halal mortgages for Muslims, providing alternative financing options and promoting homeownership within the community.


The initiative aims to enhance diversity in the housing market while meeting the specific needs of Canadian Muslims.


Additionally, the government intends to implement a two-year ban on foreigners purchasing land in the country, as outlined in the federal budget for 2024. (English Aaj)

Halal Industry
Halal industry wrap: Two US halal bodies receive Indonesia’s accreditation

Here's a roundup of key developments across the halal industry ecosystem during the first two weeks of April

Editor's note: Months ahead of Indonesia's mandate of halal products labelling, the country has accredited two more US halal bodies. Indonesia's halal product assurance agency has also partnered with Singapore's Shopee to enable halal certification services. 

And, the Malaysia International Halal Showcase is coming to Dubai later this year. 


Company News

Indonesia / Singapore

Shopee offers halal certification service 

Shopee, a Singapore-based e-commerce platform, partnered with Indonesia’s Halal Product Assurance Organizing Agency (BPJPH) to offer halal certification services to micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) via its Shopee Barokah feature.


This collaboration, according to Handika Jahja, executive director of Shopee Indonesia, seeks to promote the halal industry through e-commerce and support the implementation of the government's halal certification policy. (Tempo)


United Kingdom

Halal pet food company to launch in the UK

Aihtsham Rashid, an entrepreneur from Leeds, Yorkshire, is set to introduce Hurayra Halal Pet Food to the UK market. Rashid aims to address the scarcity of natural, high-protein, GMO- and preservative-free options in the UK pet food market.


This initiative comes after Rashid's own struggle to find high-quality halal cat food for his pets, reflecting the demand among Muslim pet owners for halal options aligning with their dietary practices and religious beliefs. (Halal Focus)



New app helps Muslims find halal restaurants

A new app, Zabihah, is simplifying the task of finding halal restaurants for Muslims in Western countries. Halal restaurants serve food that adheres to religious dietary laws followed by many Muslims.


With this app, Muslims can easily locate such establishments, easing the challenge of finding halal options in Western locations. (VOA News)




Indonesia / US

Two US halal bodies get Indonesia’s accreditation

Two American halal certification bodies have been accredited in Indonesia before the country mandates halal labeling for all food, beverages, and meat entering its market starting October 17.


The two bodies are the American Halal Foundation (AHF) and the US Halal Chamber of Commerce’s Islamic Society of the Washington Area (ISWA) Halal Certification Department. (Jakarta Globe)





DTI, Halal Expo Canada collaboration targets investments

The Halal Expo Philippines, a collaborative effort between the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and Canada, aims to generate investments worth up to 230 billion Philippine pesos. 


Scheduled for November 2024, the expo anticipates creating over 120,000 jobs for Filipinos within the next four years, tapping into the $7 trillion global halal industry. (GMA Network)



Trade Developments

Malaysia / UAE

Malaysia to organise halal showcase in Dubai

The Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (Matrade) is expanding the reach of the Malaysia International Halal Showcase (Mihas) by hosting its first international edition in Dubai this year.


Themed 'Globalising halal innovations', the event will take place in two parts: first at the Malaysia International Trade and Exhibition Centre from Sept 17 to 20, then at the Dubai World Trade Centre from Nov 18 to 20. (The Star)



Salaam Gateway
Dubai's DXB retains crown as world’s busiest international airport

Dubai International (DXB) has retained its position as the world’s busiest airport for international travel, beating prominent hubs such as London and Amsterdam, according to Airports Council International (ACI), an association of world airports. 

DXB has maintained its dominance for the 10th consecutive year, having welcomed 86.9 million international passengers in 2023, eclipsing pre-pandemic traffic of 86.4 million in 2019, and increasing 31.7% on 2022. 

London's Heathrow Airport came in second, with the UK's biggest airport receiving 74.9 million passengers during the same period, up 28.6% from 2022. 

Amsterdam Airport Schiphol ranked third, with 61.88 million international visitors, a 17.9% year-on-year increase. 

DXB also become the world’s second busiest airport overall for 2023, ranking after Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport which welcomed 104.65 million travellers. 

With 81.75 passengers, Dallas Fort Worth International Airport came in third. 

Luis Felipe de Oliveira, ACI world director general said that global air travel in 2023 was chiefly fuelled by the international segment, propelled by several factors, such as benefits from China’s reopening and a growing inclination towards travel despite macroeconomic conditions. 

Nearly 8.5 billion global passengers travelled in 2023, increasing 27.2% year-on-year and recovering 93.8% from pre-pandemic levels. 

The influx of passengers at international airports has been central in bolstering the recovery of hubs reliant on this segment, the ACI said. 

The top 10 airports collectively account for close to 10% of global air traffic, serving 806 million passengers.  

Airport rankings are based on data gathered from over 2,600 airports across more than 180 countries and territories globally. 

US plays key role in building up Islamic economy momentum

The Islamic economy has gathered pace in recent years, having grown significantly on the back of multiple drivers, including growing consumer awareness and demand, evolving regulatory landscape and top-tier support. 

Muslims spent $2.3 trillion on food, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, modest fashion, travel, and media in 2022, with Islamic finance (IF) assets estimated to have reached $3.96 trillion in 2021/22, according to DinarStandard’s State of the Global Islamic Economy Report 2023/2024, released late last year. IF assets are expected to scale to $5.94 trillion by 2025/26.

Although Muslim-majority countries form the core nucleus of the Islamic economy industry, non-Muslim countries such as the United States have also been instrumental in the advancement of the space.

The United States was ranked the third largest exporter of food and beverages to major halal consumer markets in 2022, raking in $15.4 billion in exports. It exported $20.8 billion worth of halal products to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) same year, ranking 4th globally. 

The panel discussion at the US launch event of the State of the Global Islamic Economy report

Meanwhile, its halal lifestyle consumer market, estimated at $63.6 billion in 2022, is the world’s 10th largest.  

The SGIE report represented an array of opportunity findings relevant to the US market, most of which will be presented to key stakeholders at an event on April 17 held in Washington D.C. 

“The global halal consumer market presents a tremendous opportunity for the United States. The upcoming event, organized jointly with the US Department of Agriculture, serves as a critical platform where US government experts and industry leaders come together. It will focus on exploring avenues for further engagement and growth within this dynamic market,” said Reem El Shafaki, partner at DinarStandard.

“We are committed to leveraging this gathering to foster dialogue, deepen understanding, and cultivate strategic partnerships that will benefit the US economy and global markets and stakeholders.”

Besides top-tier support, corporate developments and initiatives from the US halal economy range from food to finance, bolstering the sector. From the expansion of halal food restaurant franchise The Halal Guys and Haute Hijab’s achievements in the realm of modest fashion to Wahed disrupting the Islamic ethical fintech space, several halal brands have emerged from across the country. 

Corporate developments beckoned investor interest, too, with investments in halal economy-relevant companies reaching $25.9 billion in 2022/23, representing a 128% year-on-year growth. The US ranked 8th, with a growth of 17% in 2022/23 compared to the prior year. 

Meanwhile, the country ranked 26th out of a list of 81 countries in the SGIE report’s Global Islamic Economy Indicator (GIEI) index. The country occupied 27th spot in halal food, 11th in Islamic-themed media and recreation, and 15th in modest fashion.  

The State of the Global Islamic Economy Report 2023/2024 is available for download here.

Islamic Finance
Challenges impede Islamic finance growth in Central Asia

Central Asian countries harbour several opportunities for a burgeoning Islamic finance landscape, that could increase investment as well as diversify sources of financing. 

These opportunities include evolving favourable legislation and a tech savvy, predominately Muslim population base across the region. 
"Islamic finance will also enable financing on a Sharia compliant basis," says Najib Al Aswad, director at advisory firm Islamic Finance Advisory & Assurance Services (IFAAS).

“Islamic finance will also benefit CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) economies in terms of facilitating international trade. A lot of CIS countries trade with Muslim-majority nations, in addition to Russia and China.”

Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan make up the Central Asia (CA) region, home to roughly 80 million people, 85% of whom identify themselves as Muslims.

The four Central Asian states, barring Turkmenistan, also make up the broader CIS association. 

Islamic finance can also help attract more foreign direct investment [into Central Asian nations] from Islamic countries like Malaysia, Turkey and the GCC states, particularly in the financial sector, adds Aswad. 

FDI can be in the form of paid-up capital and/or lines of finance for Islamic financial institutions.

Several supranational organisations have played an active role in boosting the region’s Islamic finance sector. The Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD), for example, has provided technical assistance and support to local stakeholders.

The Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) has also been a key player in the progression of the region’s Islamic finance sector ecosystem.

Adding to this, the Eurasian Development Bank, a development institution, pledged to become a platform for Islamic finance in Central Asia.

Last October, it revealed plans to sell $500 million worth of sukuk in international markets. 

However, despite key factors coalescing to promote the region's Islamic finance industry, it continues to face long-standing challenges, according to a recent S&P Global Ratings report.

These include low levels of financial intermediation, low financial literacy and long-standing secular legacy shared in all CIS countries. Specific in-country challenges exist, too.

“Even in countries where banking regulation is developed, accounting rules for corporate customers are not necessarily well-established which complicates access to customers,” says Roman Rybalkin, associate director at S&P Global Ratings.

Kazakhstan introduced its Islamic finance framework in 2009, which seeks to cover banking products, Takaful and capital market instruments. 

Al Hilal, a UAE-based Islamic bank and a subsidiary of Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, is one of the two Islamic banks that currently operate in the country. The other is Zaman Bank, whose key shareholders is the ICD.

In February, Qatar-based Lesha Bank entered into a preliminary agreement with state-owned management holding Baiterek, on the potential acquisition of one of its subsidiaries Bereke Bank.

To jumpstart the domestic sukuk market, ICD issued its first-ever Tenge-denominated sukuk in June 2023. The 2 billion Kazakhstani tenge five-year amortized sukuk, is rated A+ by Fitch.

However, there is limited demand for Islamic products, due to less awareness and confidence in Shariah-compliance of products, despite housing a sizeable Muslim population, according to Fitch Ratings. 

“The government has, in the past, supported the industry through regulatory changes to diversify its financial sector, and aimed for Kazakhstan to become the Islamic finance hub of Central Asia. However, the industry hasn’t kept up pace, with more push and regulatory changes still needed,” the rating agency noted. 

However, government initiatives aim to continually push Islamic finance into the mainstream. For example, the establishment of the Astana International Financial Centre (AIFC) in 2018 has accelerated the sector. AIFC seeks to be a regional financial zone offering a different legal framework to mainland Kazakhstan. 

“The AIFC has had mixed success, as it takes time to develop an international financial centre, particularly in a unique region and context like the CIS - it is difficult to mirror the Dubai Financial International Centre as the dynamics are different,” explains Aswad.

A broader challenge faces Kazakhstan’s Islamic finance industry, though, he adds. "Although Islamic windows are permitted within the AIFC, they not allowed in mainland Kazakhstan." 

Despite the challenges, the country, by virtue of its Islamic finance master plan (2020-2025) and through the AIFC, intends to increase the sector’s market share in total banking assets to 3%-5% by 2025.

Tajikistan passed its Islamic banking framework in 2014, followed by an Islamic banking supervision department established by the country's central bank three years later.

Under the country’s National Financial Inclusion Strategy for 2022-2026, Islamic finance has been highlighted as a priority area, ranging from product development, financial education and research.

Tawhid Bank, a fully-fledged Islamic bank, is one of the two Islamic finance players operating in the country. In February 2022, the lender signed an agreement with UAE-based Al Huda CIBE to launch a Takaful operator. 

The other Islamic player is Alif Bank, a Tajikistan-based fintech company, that serves 1.3 million customers locally and an additional one million in Uzbekistan. It presently operates under a conventional banking licence and is in the process of converting into a Sharia-compliant firm.

Outside of the country, Alif maintains a presence in Uzbekistan and recently launched in the UAE. 

Islamic finance remains modest in Kyrgyzstan, accounting for around 1.5% of the country’s banking sector. 

Despite an established framework available since 2006, its domestic industry is beset by challenges, including lack of Islamic finance specialists, low public awareness and a tightly regulated market.

At present there is one full-fledged Islamic bank and four Islamic windows. There are five Islamic microfinance institutions offering Sharia-compliant services, too.

Although the banking sector remains nascent, Kyrgyzstan’s Islamic capital sector offers more promise. 

In April 2023, Intercascade Group, a Hong-Kong based trading firm with a special focus on Central Asia, issued the first ever Som-denominated sukuk. Intercascade privately sold a $8.39 million-equivalent mudaraba sukuk to investors. 

Despite housing the region’s largest population of around 36 million, Uzbekistan has no dedicated Islamic finance framework, no fully-fledged Islamic banks nor windows. 

Financial inclusion remains a challenge, too. Around 56% of the adult population did not have a bank account in 2021, according to a World Bank report. Only 39% of women held a bank account then.

Account ownership, by economy, 2021
Economy Adults with an account (%)
Tajikistan 39
Uzbekistan 44
Kazakhstan 81
Source: World Bank Group

“Uzbekistan’s high-level regulation allows Islamic finance for non-bank financial institutions in principle,” says S&P’s Rybalkin. “But there are no low-level documents on permissible/standard operations, creating a gray zone of sorts.”

To address this, Uzbekistan’s central bank has been working to reform the banking legislation, notes IFAAS’ Aswad.

“However, this [reform] requires the involvement of other government bodies and institutions including the Ministry of Justice,” adds Aswad. 

“The country is working on enabling the introduction of Islamic windows at existing conventional banks and microfinance institutions, as well as full-fledged Islamic banks.”

The timing is rather promising as the adoption of Islamic finance comes as Uzbekistan is seeking to attract FDI as part of its reform agenda which began in 2017.

Odilbek Isakov, CEO and co-founder at Infrasia Capital, a London-based finance advisory, says that since 2017, Uzbekistan has developed its advanced funding programs in international capital markets.

This includes a record of local currency Eurobonds, sustainable development goals (SDG)-linked and Green bonds, in addition to conventional benchmark issuances.

“Sukuk and other Islamic instruments seem like the natural next step that can open a new source of funding,” says Isakov. 

“Sukuk allows international Islamic investors and funds to invest in the Uzbek economic success. The government is working on introducing a new capital market legislation and we are hopeful that sukuk will be issued.”

Isakov, who served as Uzbekistan's deputy finance minister from 2019 to 2023, adds that despite the lack of Islamic finance regulations, market education has begun.

“[The] private sector has already started educating customers, practitioners and other stakeholders about Islamic products,” he says.

“Some companies such as Iman Invest are already using fintech which is a new tool that can provide services for retail and some corporate customers.”

Turkmenistan is fairly underdeveloped in Islamic finance. There is no legislation and no Islamic banks offering Sharia-compliant financial services. 

In 2022, International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation - an IsDB subsidiary - and the State Bank for Foreign Economic Affairs of Turkmenistan held a Islamic finance trade workshop for local financial institutions and public enterprises in the country. 

However, government backing is imperative to bolster Islamic finance initiatives and projects in the country. 


Note: Story updated on April 24, 2024. 

Halal Industry
Ramadan charitable efforts underscore huge Muslim philanthropy potential

Philanthropy and the notion of helping the less fortunate is ingrained in a Muslim’s DNA owed to its momentous importance in Islam. 

These altruistic initiatives and efforts significantly increase during Ramadan as Muslims see charitable acts as a way of amplifying the spiritual benefits of fasting and worship in the holy month. As a result, Ramadan is often the busiest time of the year for charitable foundations.

Individuals are more cognisant and willing to pursue charitable efforts during the holy month. This is prevalent especially across Muslim majority countries. 

YallaGive, a UK-headquartered online donation and crowdfunding platform that is registered in several Muslim countries including Turkey, Malaysia, and the UAE, has consistently witnessed an uptick in activity during Ramadan.

“On average, we observe a significant increase ranging from 30% to 50% in charitable donations and campaigns during Ramadan compared to other months of the year. This surge underscores the generosity and spirit of giving that permeates communities during this sacred time,” Nabil Boubker, director of strategy and business development at YallaGive told Salaam Gateway.

“Fasting during Ramadan fosters empathy and a deeper understanding of the struggles faced by those less fortunate. This heightened sense of compassion often translates into increased generosity towards charitable causes, as individuals strive to alleviate the suffering of others and contribute to their well-being,” said Boubker.

UAE-based Gulf for Good is one of the non-profit organizations that used YallaGive for its 2024 Ramadan campaign.

The NGO, which focuses on raising money to support underprivileged children around the world, launched the ‘Gift of Giving’ social media campaign in support of The Citizens Foundation that aims to empower 180 Pakistani students in a rural village in Nowshera, a city in the country's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.  

“We have a long-standing relationship with YallaGive and use them as our official fundraising platform. With their help, we’re able to welcome all contributors, local and international, allowing us to reach a broader audience and garner support from around the world,” Kat Kearsey, chairwoman of Gulf for Good in the UAE told Salaam Gateway.

She said that Gulf for Good increases its fundraising activities substantially during Ramadan to capitalize on the spirit of giving that defines the holy month. 

“We generally see a significant increase in donations during Ramadan, reflecting the increased spirit of compassion and philanthropy during this period. This uptick in donations is consistent with the generosity we witness from our community during Ramadan compared to other times of the year,” said Kearsey.

Global imprint

The impact of Ramadan on donating behaviors is profound in non-Muslim majority countries, too, with Islamic charity foundations raising the lion’s share of their annual funds during the holy month.

According to the Muslim Philanthropy Initiative (MPI), Muslim Americans gave an estimated $1.8 billion in Zakat donations in 2022, with most of these funds given during Ramadan to support causes such as hunger and poverty alleviation, and immediate relief.

Similarly, the National Zakat Foundation (NZF) Canada collects more than 75% of its total Zakat revenues and 50% of other forms of charity during the month of Ramadan. Over the past two years, donations amounting to nearly 9 million Canadian dollars have enabled NZF to assist around 25,000 people across four provinces in Canada with food, housing, and essentials.

Given the charitable significance of this period, the charity begins its Ramadan activities three months prior to the holy month.

“The majority of our efforts are based in the month of Ramadan and the few months leading up to it. We spend between 60-70% of our annual marketing budget during this time on both online and offline marketing activities,” said Zubair Qasim, CEO of NZF Canada.

Meanwhile, Muslims are estimated to pitch in more than a 1 billion British pounds annually to causes in the UK and abroad each year. Muslim international giving is estimated to cross 4 billion British pounds by the year 2051. 

Furthermore, Muslims are just as likely to give to causes outside their faith as those within – and of all faiths, are the most likely to give to poverty causes outside their religion, according to Shariq Siddiqui, assistant professor and director of the Muslim Philanthropy Initiative.

“For organizations that are not considered Muslim-led, if they don’t do outreach to Muslims during Ramadan, they are less likely to raise money effectively from a small but generous population.”

Given their charitable endeavours, the influence of Muslims on philanthropic activities cannot be understated. 

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