DUBAI – President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s efforts to promote Islamic finance and banking were rewarded Oct. 28 when he received the Global Islamic Finance Award (GIFA) at the 10th World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF) in Dubai.
“Since 2009, Kazakhstan has been the leader in the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) and Central Asia in the field of legal implementation of principles of Islamic finance. A number of Islamic financial institutions currently provide their services in Islamic banking, insurance and leasing in Kazakhstan,” said the President. He also underlined that taking into account Kazakhstan’s active role within international Islamic organisations, the country would increase efforts to develop Islamic finance.
GIFA celebrates individuals, institutions and governments that promote Islamic banking and finance and ensure it remains committed to social responsibility. GIFA laureates include former Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Badawi and former Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz.
Kazakhstan was the first CIS nation to develop a partnership programme with the Islamic Development Bank (IDB), which opened a branch in Almaty in 1997 for IDB member states and Muslim communities in the CIS, Mongolia, China and Eastern Europe. Al-Halal, the first Islamic bank in Kazakhstan, was established in 2007; its capitalisation currently amounts to $176 million.
Kazakhstan’s 2011 presidency of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the initiatives of the OIC Astana Declaration are considered major successes in Islamic banking.
Experts at the Oct. 28 forum underlined Kazakhstan’s role as an economic and cultural bridge between East and West, fostering cooperation among Muslim and non-Muslim businessmen.
Nazarbayev addressed the forum, noting the relevance of its theme, “Innovation Partnership for Economic Growth,” and the need to increase cooperation in the face of global challenges.
“We stand on the threshold of the third industrial revolution. Members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation control 70 percent of global energy resources and export 40 percent of mineral raw materials. However, only 7.5 percent of global GDP and 11.2 percent of total global trade accrue to the OIC countries,” said Nazarbayev, while calling for increased cooperation among the Islamic world in the face of issues, such as population growth, poverty, gradual depletion of natural resources and environmental degradation.
Nazarbayev met during the forum with Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and the constitutional monarch of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum to discuss the potential to implement projects on the Caspian Sea and cooperate on the Khorgos transportation hub on the border between Kazakhstan and China. The Kazakh President also met with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel to discuss trade, economic, investment, industrial innovation and cultural cooperation.
During the forum, National Bank of Kazakhstan Chairman Kairat Kelimbetov and Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates Chairman Mubarak Rashid Al Mansouri also signed a memorandum of understanding during the forum to establish cooperation between the two central banks in financial supervision and the development of Islamic financing to ensure the stability of the financial systems of the two states.
Kelimbetov also met with Malaysian Central Bank Chairman Zeti Akhtar Aziz to discuss bilateral cooperation and Malaysia’s experience with Islamic finance. He also exchanged opinions with members of the Gulf Bond and Sukuk Association on developing Almaty as a regional hub of Islamic finance for CIS and Eastern European countries.
Also known as the Muslim Davos, WIEF is the main annual economic summit for the heads of OIC member states and beyond. The forum is a platform to expand partnerships and connect experts to advance Islamic economies across different markets.
More than 2,500 participants from 140 countries attended this year’s WIEF. The forum’s agenda addressed developing economies, the global financial landscape, the role of Islamic finance in enabling trade and streamlining the Halal supply chain, socialising education and the role of universities, retaining young talent, sustainable urban planning and creating smart infrastructure and holistic communities.
Astana hosted the 7th WIEF, the first in Central Asia in 2011. Kazakhstan was chosen because of its economic and cultural development.
Malika Orazgaliyeva contributed to this report from Astana.