How has the global Islamic financial landscape evolved and how has Dubai adjusted to account for these changes?
MAJID SAIF AL GHURAIR: Actually, Dubai is one of the leading cities in the world where innovative financial institutions could concentrate on Islamic products. From here, we continue developing new products in the region. We see a lot of know multinational banks, for example international banks, who are providing a window to provide Islamic product. But I think there is plenty to be done over there.
We saw a lot of insurance companies, for example, starting an Islamic product. A lot of the consumer producers also want to have Islamic certificate in their product. We’re seeing more interest from a lot of companies. This is what is going to make Islamic a very important economy in the region.
When people think about Islamic institutions they typically think about banks, insurance companies, the Halal food industry, etc. But SMEs are always key to economic inclusiveness and more broad based sustainable economic success. How is the Chamber creating a business environment to assist Islamic SMEs?
MAJID SAIF AL GHURAIR: Actually, SMEs are the heart of any economy. For the last few years a lot of countries and a lot of economies were concentrating on SMEs to flourish their economy. So if we take that to the Islamic environment also, it's very important for small business and entrepreneurship to be lured to invest in the Islamic product because there is huge potential in that arena.
Given current global economic realities, where do you see the best opportunity for Islamic economy growth?
MAJID SAIF AL GHURAIR: Most of the Islamic countries, even non-Islamic countries, are looking forward for Islamic products because they have their own Islamic community in those countries who are looking for this product. And more and more, even in Europe and America, we see a big drive for Islamic product. Now when we label the product as Islamic, it doesn't mean other product is not suitable to be consumed by the Muslim community. There's certain areas where it needs more attention, especially the food industry and the financial sector, where a lot of product need to be provided. For this I think there's still not a lot of financial product available in the financial sector, which is accounting for a lot of Islamic transactions.
What are the biggest challenges the global Islamic economy faces today? How can these challenges be addressed?
MAJID SAIF AL GHURAIR: I think one of the biggest challenges is government regulations. I think the regulation need to catch up with the new product coming online. The challenge is for the authorities of each country to understand the product so that they can certify it and make it available because there are a lot of product in the market which claim they are Islamic compliant.
So we need that authority who the community can trust to check that product and give it the certification that it is Islamic compliant. Also, more and more, we need the authority to have a department, where they can sit and analyze this product and give it that certification because there is a plenty of product in the market and we need the right policy actually to identify this product and make it available for the consumer.
Do you think the government needs to step in to create a certain level of consumer confidence with the Islamic products available in the market, be they food products or financial products?
MAJID SAIF AL GHURAIR: We need to introduce more courses in the universities. Education has a big role in this because the more new students that graduate and have the background and the knowledge of the Islamic product, the more we're going to see interest coming and businesses from these young graduates coming to the market and producing this product. So universities and schools, its very important that the government encourage these institutions to focus also on Islamic economy.
It's very important for the different institutions to develop a very competitive product.
How do you see the future of the Islamic Economy?
MAJID SAIF AL GHURAIR: In the economy and in business, it is the survival for the best. Unless we provide a very competitive product in the market that can compete with the existing product, this Islamic product will not be able to make it into the market. It's very important for the different institutions to develop a very competitive product into the market so this product can compete and can really achieve their profitability they're looking for from this product.
What have been some of the milestones GIES (Global Islamic Economy Summit) has achieved since its introduction in 2013? What are your ambitions for 2016?
MAJID SAIF AL GHURAIR: Islamic economy, it been at the forefront for so many years because the consumers in the region, especially in the Islamic countries, were looking for products which would serve their needs. For a long time it’s been served by a small business community. So by Dubai initiating this conference, its highlighted the Islamic economy need in the region.
A lot of attention has been paid in the last few years to these economic sectors. There is a lot of investment happening. One of the biggest thing we achieved was the awareness of the investment that has been allocated to this sector of the industry. I think by doing that, we saw there is a big interest from a lot of multinational companies, especially financial institutions, to come and invest and to produce a new product in this line of business.
What do you hope the 2016 GIES achieves?
MAJID SAIF AL GHURAIR: We hope this year a lot of new entrepreneurs, small businesses, also pay attention to these sectors because innovation is very important. In this area, there is still less product being available for the Islamic community in the region. I think we have around two billion consumers around the world looking for these products. So we're looking for more investment. We're looking for more entrepreneurship to be looking at these sectors so we increase the product line available for our consumers.