’UAE has contributed to the global development of the Islamic Economy’ - DIEDC CEO Abdulla Al Awar

| 06 October, 2016
Heba Hashem and Emmy Abdul Alim
’UAE has contributed to the global development of the Islamic Economy’ - DIEDC CEO Abdulla Al Awar
Photo: DUBAI, UAE - Oct 3, 2016: Launch of the State of the Global Islamic Economy 2016/17 report. L-R: Abdulla Al Awar, CEO, DIEDC; Mohammed Badri, Sec-Gen, IHAF; Rafi-uddin Shikoh, CEO and MD, DinarStandard

DUBAI - It was considered niche 10 years ago, but today the Islamic Economy has grown to be a key market for many players, Dubai included, said Abdulla Al Awar, chief executive of the Dubai Islamic Economy Development Centre (DIEDC), on Monday at the release of the State of the Global Islamic Economy 2016/17 report (SGIE).

“We have now realised that the UAE has also contributed to the global development of the Islamic Economy and not just its own ecosystem,” said Al Awar.

The government organisation, founded in 2013, has adopted a seven-pillar strategy to fulfil Dubai's vision of becoming the capital of the Islamic Economy. This strategy is seen as complementary to the United Arab Emirates’ economic diversification efforts, which aim to increase non-oil GDP from the current 68.6 percent to 80 percent by 2021.

“The UAE launched a full-fledged strategy for the non-oil sectors to contribute to the economy, and we feel that Islamic Economy sectors will contribute to this quite significantly,” said Al Awar.

GLOBAL LEADER

While the UAE is still second to overall leader Malaysia on the SGIE’s Global Islamic Economy Indicator (GIEI) 2016 that measures 2015 progress, its strong government-led initiatives have given it a platform for the development of all its Islamic sectors, according to the report.

It is for this reason that the UAE leads in five of the six GIEI 2016 metrics, coming in second to Malaysia only for Islamic finance, in which the Southeast Asian state has a far more advanced ecosystem, backed by a more advanced governance framework and high industry awareness.

UAE RANKING ON THE GLOBAL ISLAMIC ECONOMY INDICATOR (GIEI) for year of study 2015 and 2014
  ISLAMIC FINANCE HALAL FOOD HALAL TRAVEL MODEST FASHION ISLAMIC MEDIA & RECREATION HALAL PHARMA & COSMETICS
2015 2nd 1st 1st 1st 1st 1st
2014 2nd 3rd 2nd 2nd 2nd 6th
Source: State of the Global Islamic Economy 2015/16 and 2016/17 reports

UAE’s biggest improvements from 2014 to 2015 have been in the halal pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, and halal food sectors.

According to the report, key to the advancements in these two sectors has been the country’s focus on establishing its National Halal Mark, which it announced in 2014.

In 2015, DIEDC along with other organisations such as the Dubai Accreditation Centre (DAC), Emirates Authority for Standardization and Metrology (ESMA) and Dubai Municipality (DM) started laying the groundwork for key halal standards initiatives, and kickstarted the International Halal Accreditation Forum (IHAF) in May this year, following its approval by the UAE Cabinet in January.

In August, DM announced a new track and trace technology system for halal food and other products that would start with bottled water and that would be implemented within six months, according to DM Director General Hussain Nasser Lootah.

Dubai-based IHAF is currently finalizing the draft of its by-law that will be deliberated by its General Assembly in November, allowing it to expand its multilateral agreements with halal food-exporting countries. It currently has 10 founding members from nine countries.

During the launch of the SGIE report on Monday, IHAF Secretary General Mohamed Badri said, “We have two main goals for the halal sector: first, to unify the standards we’ve seen around the world and have one global halal mark accepted by everyone. And second, to gather all halal-producing countries at one table.”

“Hopefully in the next year or two, we’ll have 20 to 30 countries,” he added.

At the moment, IHAF doesn’t include representatives from other key Islamic economies that make up the top 15 countries on the GIEI 2016, in descending order: Malaysia, Jordan, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei, Sudan, Iran, and Bangladesh.

Addressing concerns from within the sector itself about a fractured approach in the pursuit of a unified global halal standard, Badri said that efforts by bodies such as the Organisation for Islamic Organisation’s (OIC) Standards and Metrology Institute for the Islamic Countries (SMIIC) and IHAF are not duplicating but complementary, as each has its role to play in this specialised field.

ESMA is a member of SMIIC, as is the Department of Standards Malaysia (DSM), whose halal guidelines are widely viewed as a key benchmark for the industry globally.

YOUTH, DIGITAL AS KEY DRIVERS

From the ground, a key driver of the UAE and Dubai’s growth and innovation is its youth.

A day after the launch of the SGIE report, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice president of the UAE and ruler of Dubai, launched the UAE National Agenda for Youth, whose strategic objectives are to enhance the contribution of youth to local economic development, strengthen their sense of belonging and pride in their identity and culture, and boost their ability to play leadership roles and increase their productivity, according to a statement from the ruler’s office.

Pre-empting the launch of the National Youth Agenda, Al Awar told Salaam Gateway on Monday, “The young Muslim population has demonstrated the capacity to develop responsible investments and opportunities that will drive sustainable growth.”

“We’re confident that the youth will play a major role in the Islamic Economy, especially in sectors like the digital economy.”

Building the digital infrastructure to enable the growth of the Islamic Economy is one of DIEDC’s seven pillars. Al Awar said the establishment of organisations such as Dubai Technology Entrepreneur Centre (DTEC), the largest incubation centre of its kind in the Middle East, is an example of how the ground is being mobilised by government-led initiatives.

In less than a year from its opening, DTEC attracted 550 technology start-ups and small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with founders from 59 nationalities.

These include 12 Islamic Economy entrepreneurs, Al Awar told Salaam Gateway.

The incubation centre is situated within Dubai Silicon Oasis, which has pledged to support Islamic digital and Arabic content initiatives by investing in businesses through the Silicon Oasis Founders tech incubator and by offering subsidised setups.

As its efforts to build the Islamic Economy gain further traction and momentum, industry influencers from around the world are gravitating towards Dubai.

GIES AND MPOWERED SUMMIT

Two days before the Global Islamic Economy Summit (GIES) opens on Oct 11, a group of Muslim entrepreneurs from around the world will attend the inaugural MPowered Summit, which they say is the first and largest global entrepreneurship platform dedicated to empowering entrepreneurs, start-ups and innovators in the Islamic Economy.

Their conversations will join others at the third GIES, organised by Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the DIEDC, whose overarching theme this year is “Inspiring Change.”

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