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Event Overview

With its deep-rooted commitment to the public good, Islamic Finance is ideally positioned to play a vital role in the global sustainability movement. As such, leading stakeholders are coming together to discuss the tremendous potential of Islamic Finance in advancing Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

On November 1st, 2023, the Malaysian Institute of Accountants (MIA), the World Bank, and the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) organized a hybrid roundtable titled ‘Unleashing the Potential of Islamic Finance—Global Perspectives on Achieving the SDGs with Islamic Finance Tools & Concepts’ in Kuala Lumpur. It was co-chaired by (1) Cecile Thioro Niang, Practice Manager, Finance, Competitiveness and Innovation, East Asia & Pacific Region, World Bank; (2) Dato’ Muazzam Mohamed, Group CEO, Bank Islam Malaysia Berhad & Chairman of Islamic Finance Committee of the Malaysian Institute of Accountants (MIA); and (3) Ayşe Arıak-Tunaboylu, IFAC Board Member & Director of Operations, E-Lux Mobile. The event featured keynote remarks from Asmaa Resmouki, IFAC President, and a presentation from Dr. Bello Lawal Danbatta, Secretary General of IFSB.

The roundtable featured high-level discussions from experts about the global trends facing the Islamic finance industry and practical examples of how Islamic finance enables the SDGs.

Key Takeaways from the Discussion

Part 1 – Highlighting the Natural Alignment between Islamic Finance and the SDGs, Based on the Maqasid Al-Shariah (higher goals of Islam)

At the roundtable, all agreed that there is a natural alignment between Islamic finance and the SDGs. Still, the differences lie in how jurisdictions choose to integrate the SDGs into their development plans and that there must be mutual respect and learning around the different approaches.

Securities Commission Malaysia (SC) issued the first-in-the-world  Maqasid Al-Shariah guidance for the Islamic capital market (ICM) on November 2nd, 2023 to guide all ICM decisions. The Guidance underscores the SC’s aspirations to enhance ICM’s competitive advantage and fortify ICM’s impact and contribution to society and the real economy.

Part 2 – Examining and Discussing Some of the Challenges for Harnessing Islamic Finance to Support the SDGs

Challenges about harnessing Islamic Finance to support the SDGs were discussed. However, experts also presented potential solutions to address these challenges highlighted below:

  1. More awareness-raising among various stakeholders is needed on Islamic finance’s synergies with the SDGs.

    More education on Islamic finance’s synergies with the SDGs is needed among accountants and financiers. Professional Accountancy Organizations (PAOs) can play an important role here in introducing accounting standards for Islamic social finance—such as waqf (Islamic endowment) and zakat (almsgiving)—for its members’ professional development, which simultaneously would increase awareness of the standards and build trust.

    1. Lack of data to track and map progress against achieving SDGs.

      Socially responsible investment (SRI) sukuk has seen exceptional growth. Still, the contribution of Islamic finance instruments to different parts of environmental, social, and governance issues— and hence other SDGs— is not evenly concentrated. Climate-focused projects have benefited from Islamic capital market growth, social and governance— such as agriculture and food security— projects less so. Adding waqf to the SRI sukuk framework partly addresses this, but seeing growth for social-oriented projects will take time.

      1. Difficulty agreeing on a single set of standards, and adoption remains partial or a matter of guidance, as most countries’ legal and regulatory infrastructures are rarely reformed to enforce the use of these standards strictly. 

        The use of a standard format and language makes it easier for those in the profession to understand and make judgments on financial activities. Presently, the Islamic financial legal bodies include the Accounting and Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI), the Islamic Financial Services Board (IFSB), and the International Islamic Financial Market (IIFM). AAOIFI, established in 1990, focuses on financial accounting standards that complement or fill the gaps between IFRS and Islamic finance. Meanwhile, the Islamic Financial Services Board (IFSB), established in 2002 with the close support of the International Monetary Fund, promotes prudential guidelines to financial regulators by adopting international standards, developing new standards, and reviewing standards to ensure they serve Sharia objectives. Implementing IFSB and AAOIFI standards has the potential toenhance disclosure and governance to protect the public interest (Lukonga, 2015 Finally, the International Islamic Financial Market (IIFM) was established in 2002 under the combined efforts of the Central Bank of Bahrain, Islamic Development Bank, Bank Indonesia, Central Bank of Sudan, Bank Negara Malaysia, and Autoriti Monetari Brunei Darussalam to provide standards on Islamic capital and money markets for market unification. The institutions’ functional objectives  vary despite working with similar motives. In some cases, AAOIFI and IFSB work on a similar issue or product (e.g., Sukuk); thus, the synergizing cooperation between the institutions is required.

        The next hurdle is making data available so standards can be implemented. Islamic finance would benefit from simple metrics that balance monetization, impact, and religiosity to push priority agendas like refugee financing.

        1. Difficulties mapping Islamic Finance with the SDGs and mobilizing Islamic Finance to achieve the SDGs.

          Standard-setting bodies play a crucial role in driving the Islamic finance-SDG link by creating principles-based frameworks that countries can adopt and implement according to their needs. However, the critical next step is for actors to track their progress and build cascading benefits for the SDGs. One example is theiTEKAD social finance program introduced by Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) to assist low-income microentrepreneurs in strengthening their financial management and business acumen towards generating sustainable income.

          Islamic finance projects contribute to the SDGs, but often do not explicitly make their links to the SDGs.More work can be done to harmonize and standardize Islamic finance regulations to facilitate the ease of investment and mobility of funds.

          Islamic social finance can be further mobilized for the SDGs by widening product options (e.g., only a handful of social impact sukuk have been issued). A big challenge is the lack of replication of good Islamic social finance models. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) could consider doing more to transfer and diffuse excellent models across their member countries.

          Practical Case Example – Value-based intermediation for Takaful (VBIT) 

          VBIT is aligned with the SDGs, as its seven areas map directly to several of the SDGs. Takaful targets wealth protection; in this sense, it complements the SDGs which is about wealth creation and accumulation for all.  As more Islamic finance products are focused on climate change, takaful contributes to social-oriented SDGs. Microtakaful is a practical example of Islamic finance innovation in the social space, because it eradicates poverty, and protects the underserved so their livelihoods can continue even in rough economic times.

          1. Funding gap towards Islamic finance products to achieve SDGs.

            The funding gap is partly due to a trust deficit. There needs to be reassurance that money channeled into Islamic finance products for SDGs goes where intended. The trust deficit could be addressed by monitoring and evaluating Islamic finance-funded projects (see new World Bank report ‘Tracking Progress: Impact Monitoring of Social Finance’). The funding gap can also be overcome with mindset changes—specifically, by educating high net worth individuals about social, environmental, and governance ROI such as using waqf and other Islamic social finance instruments. Islamic Finance can help alleviate the SDG gap by bringing private-public partnerships and philanthropy (PPPPs). One example is the Achmad Wardi Eye Hospital in Serang, Banten, Indonesia, which applies cash waqf-linked sukuk for the to construct a retina and glaucoma center.1

            1. There is a need for regulators to establish a comprehensive regulatory framework that includes the various aspects of Islamic finance.

              Practical Case Example – World Bank on  Project Financing

              The World Bank ensures that projects funded by the World Bank, contribute to the SDGs by requiring  borrowers to meet its Environmental and Social Framework criteria throughout the project lifecycle.

              As every Islamic finance entity has strengths and limitations, collaboration among all organizations in the Islamic finance ecosystem is necessary. From the regulatory perspective, it’s important to building a conducive ecosystem that identifies Islamic fintech and technology start-ups with lots of potentials, helps them grow, and ultimately facilitate their export to the broader global market with an eye to advance the SDGs.

              Practical Case Example – Indonesia

              In Indonesia, the Ministry of Finance encouraged Islamic finance growth by putting in place comprehensive regulatory frameworks, streamlining regulation for products and services, raising awareness of Islamic finance among its population, and weaving Islamic finance into its national development plans. Indonesia’s Ministry of Finance mainly works with the country’s Financial Services Authority and central bank to ensure policy coherence and coordination in this space.

               

              Practical Case Example – Morocco

              Morocco’s Islamic finance sector experienced significant growth after the creation of a central Sharia committee to regulate Sharia-compliant services and products, hence supporting financial inclusion. Growth notwithstanding, the use of Islamic finance for SDGs is constrained due to limited products, a nascent Islamic finance ecosystem, and the small capital base of Islamic financial institutions.

          2. Part 3Next Steps

            Concerted efforts are needed to increase financial literacy and awareness of the linkage between Islamic Finance, sustainability reporting, and achieving the SDGs. More data is required to understand better  these linkages for Islamic Finance to reach its full potential. Lastly, IFAC proposed that the Islamic Finance sector could pursue a “Building Blocks” approach: on the one hand, reporting on investor-focused aspects of its work so that capital is directed toward companies that are best-positioned to pursue a sustainable future, while on the other hand pursuing the social goals of Shariah, all in service of the overarching goals of sustainable development and achieving the SDGs.

            Stay tuned for a joint report published in Q1 2024 analyzing our findings from the focus group discussions and most recent roundtable. In the meantime, IFAC encourages professional accountancy organizations to submit case studies highlighting how Islamic financial instruments have been used to advance SDGs in their respective jurisdictions. It is important to highlight these stories among the resources on Islamic Finance that IFAC staff have assembled on the website. Please get in touch with Dana Jensen, Senior Manager, IFAC (DanaJensen@ifac.org).

            Case Study: Malaysian Institute of Accountants (MIA) Four Part Series

            PART 1:Facilitating SDGs with Islamic Finance (Part 1) Malaysia's Leadership in Sukuk

            PART 2: Facilitating SDGs with Islamic Finance (Part 2) Value-Based Intermediation: Championing the Social Finance Agenda in Malaysia

            PART 3: Facilitating SDGs with Islamic Finance (Part 3) Mobilizing Islamic Fintech in Malaysia

            PART 4: Coming soon… stay tuned!


            [1]INCEIF IFHUB, Issue 1, March 2022 - PPPs or iPPPPs: Which Model Provides Greater Infrastructural Social Impact in Sub-Saharan Africa? by Assoc. Prof. Dr Ziyaad Mohamed

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Cecile Thioro Niang
Cecile Thioro Niang

Practice Manager, Finance, Competitiveness and Innovation, East Asia & Pacific

Ms. Niang, a dual Senegalese and French national, is the Practice Manager for East Asia and Pacific, covering the Pacific Islands, Indonesia/Timor and Philippines, Thailand, and Malaysia for the Finance, Competitiveness & Innovation Global Practice at the World Bank Group. Since joining the Bank in 2004, she has held various positions working on long-term infrastructure finance, climate finance, financial inclusion; firm capabilities and innovation, markets and technology, investment and competition, telecoms and digital development, with her most recent assignment being Lead Economist in the LAC Finance Competitiveness and Innovation team.

Niang’s prior positions at the World Bank Group before assuming her current position spent six years in Latin America & the Caribbean region, as Lead Economist in Finance, Competitiveness, and Innovation Global Practice and as Program Leader for the Caribbean countries. She held Country Sector Coordinator and Senior Economist positions in South Asia and Africa in the World Bank’s Finance and Private Sector Development department,.

Before joining the World Bank Group, Cecile was an Associate Manager of Business Development at France Telecom North America and a Director, Corporate Development at Juno Online, a US Internet Service Provider. Cecile holds graduate degrees in economics, business administration, and information Systems from Columbia University, Paris Dauphine, and Telecom Ecole de Management.

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Soraya Azhar
Soraya Azhar

Financial Sector Specialist

Soraya Azhar is a Financial Sector Specialist at Malaysia’s World Bank Inclusive Growth and Sustainable Finance Hub. Since joining the Bank in early 2023, she has contributed to various analytical work on sustainable, inclusive, and Islamic finance in Malaysia, East Asia, and the Pacific region. Most recently, she led the analytical work on the World Bank report “Tracking Progress: Impact Monitoring of Social Finance.” 

Before joining the World Bank Group, Soraya worked at Bank Negara Malaysia for over ten years and specialized in financial supervision, sustainable finance development, and global financial safety net. In Bank Negara Malaysia, she led the development of the Green AgriTech program to facilitate the transition into sustainable agriculture practices and build resilience in climate change for smallholder farmers in Malaysia. 

Soraya holds a Master of Public Administration degree from Columbia University, USA, and a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Melbourne, Australia.

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Aruhvi Krishnasammy
Aruhvi Krishnasammy

World Bank Consultant, Finance, Competitiveness and Innovation

Aruhvi Krishnasammy is a Consultant at the World Bank Inclusive Growth and Sustainable Finance Hub in Malaysia for the Finance, Competitiveness, and Innovation Global Practice, working closely with sustainability, inclusivity, and Islamic Finance agendas. Before joining the World Bank, she worked at the Securities Commission Malaysia, specializing in market surveillance and monitoring of emerging risks in the local capital market and guiding and regulating alternative financing entities. In addition, she has experience working in RBC – Investor and Treasury Services and OCBC Bank Malaysia. Aruhvi holds a Bachelor of Economics (Honours) from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. Aruhvi is also a Pusat PERMATApintar and University of Tsukuba TAG-AIMS 2018 alumni. 

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Dato’ Mohd Muazzam Mohamed
Dato’ Mohd Muazzam Mohamed

Group CEO

Dato’ Mohd Muazzam Mohamed is the Group Chief Executive Officer of Bank Islam Malaysia Berhad. He joined Bank Islam on 11 May 2015 as its Chief Financial Officer before being appointed to his current position on 5 December 2018. He was formerly a Partner with KPMG in Malaysia and an Executive Director with KPMG Management Consulting. He is a Chartered Accountant with the Malaysian Institute of Accountants, a Council Member of The Malaysian Institute of Certified Public Accountants, a Chartered Islamic Finance Professional of the Chartered Institute of Islamic Finance Professionals, and a Chartered Public Finance Accountant of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy. He is the President of the Association of Islamic Banking and Financial Institutions Malaysia. Dato’ Mohd Muazzam has over 25 years of experience in finance, consulting, and audit. Dato’ Mohd Muazzam holds a Bachelor of Accounting from the International Islamic University Malaysia and is an Advanced Management & Leadership Programme graduate from the University of Oxford’s Said Business School.
 

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Zulfa Abdul Rahman

Team Lead of the Islamic Finance Unit in the Professional Practices and Technical Division of the Malaysian Institute of Accountants (MIA)

Zulfa Abdul Rahman is a Team Lead in the Professional Practices and Technical Division of the Malaysian Institute of Accountants (MIA), where she leads the Islamic Finance Unit. Previously, Zulfa was attached to a commercial bank where she worked in the Trade Finance Division for eight years. She is also the secretariat to the Islamic Finance Committee of MIA, which aims to promote Islamic finance through various initiatives such as collaboration with relevant stakeholders and accountancy bodies. Some of her notable involvement include projects such as the World Congress of Accountants (WCOA) 2010 where Islamic finance topics were first introduced at its platform, organising the National Zakat Symposium, conducting the Islamic Finance Pupillage Programme, publication of the Accounting for Islamic Finance textbook, stakeholders’ engagements through roundtable discussions and more recently working on a collaboration with a local university to publish shariah audit reference materials. Zulfa is a Chartered Accountant of MIA (C.A.) and a Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA).

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Ayşe Arıak Tunaboylu

Ms. Ayşe Arıak-Tunaboylu joined the IFAC Board in November 2018. She was jointly nominated by Union of Chambers of Certified Public Accountants of Türkiye (TÜRMOB) and Expert Accountants Association of Türkiye (TMUD).

Ms. Arıak-Tunaboylu is currently the Director of Operations with E-Lux Mobile, Luxembourg based telecommunications company and a Board Member to Eser Telekom, leading satellite communications company in Türkiye. Previously, she was a partner with Akdan Consultancy, a financial advisory and management consulting firm serving SMEs, public companies, government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and local administrations. She has extensive experience in design, implementation and oversight of large-scale human and infrastructure development programs funded by multilateral financing institutions. She has been a long-time operations consultant to the World Bank and the Government of Türkiye. She was a manager with UNDP and an auditor with Deloitte earlier in her career.

Ms. Arıak-Tunaboylu is a member of Accountancy Europe’s Audit and Assurance Policy Group. She is a certified public accountant, authorized independent auditor and licensed valuation expert.

She received her bachelor's degree in business administration from Middle East Technical University and holds an MA in law and economics from Bilkent University.

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Dana Jensen
Dana Jensen

Senior Manager, IFAC

Dana Jensen is a Senior Manager with more than 10 years of experience working at IFAC to support the development, adoption, and implementation of high-quality international standards. She is primarily responsible for managing engagement with the Middle East North Africa (MENA) and Caribbean regions at IFAC. She is also the lead staff responsible for managing the IFAC Professional Accountancy Organization (PAO) Development & Advisory Group, which actively contributes to IFACs strategic objectives by raising awareness on PAO development, facilitating adoption and implementation of international standards and best practices, and empowering PAOs with guidance, leadership, and technical assistance. Since 2021, Dana has led IFAC’s Islamic Finance thought leadership program to support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as it promotes socially responsible development and links to economic growth and social welfare.

Prior to her time at IFAC, Dana was a Policy Coordinator at the United Nations (UN) in the Department for Peacekeeping Operations. She holds an MSc from Columbia University (2011); Prince Sultan University-Banque Saudi Fransi Graduate Fellow in Islamic Finance (2021-2023); and holds a Diploma in Islamic Finance from the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) (2023).

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Tanya Musumhi

Tanya Musumhi is an IFAC regional manager, responsible for the Southeast Asia, Central Asia and Eastern Europe regions. In this role, she helps IFAC’s member organizations and other professional accountancy organizations adopt and implement international standards and best practices and ensure the relevance and resiliance of the accountancy profession. Prior to her time at IFAC, Tanya was a grant capacity senior program manager at World Vision US.  

Tanya holds an MA in International Law and Economics from the World Trade Institute, University of Bern, Switzerland (2009) and an MA in International Policy Studies from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (2007).