Monday, March 17, 2008

What is the future of Africa, Middle East business relations?

Members of the Organization of Islamic Conference in Dakar passed a resolution to cancel the debt of poor countries, says

This measure was first adopted by the meeting of the OIC Foreign Ministers to prepare the summit of the heads of state and government that opened in the Senegalese capital on Wednesday. The resolution was passed despite the opposition of some the members who suggested a "reduction" rather than a "cancellation" of the debt.

Describing the act as "significant and symbolic", Senegalese Foreign Minister Cheikh Tidiane said that this is part of the economic partnerships that member countries of the Islamic Community are striving to build and develop.

At least one Middle East business expert claims the two regions will be forging further ties. Sean Cronin, from Arabian makes the point that with rising commodities prices, investors from the Middle East are casting an eye towards Africa and its mineral wealth.

Mining prospects, once marginal, are becoming viable once more, as the price of metals trends upwards. The abundant liquidity in the Gulf region is a big attraction for some African states seeking to develop their mineral wealth, at a time when alternative potential sources of funding from outside the region are becoming more risk averse.

The commodity story is not the only one that interests Gulf companies currently eyeing expansion in Africa. Phone companies including the UAE's Etisalat and Kuwait's Zain are looking to African countries including Nigeria, Sudan and Benin, in the battle to boost mobile penetration as their domestic markets reach saturation. At the same time the region's real estate giants are also investing heavily in the emerging markets of Morocco, Egypt and Tunisia and Algeria.

Finally, it’s long been argued the world’s modern business and economics models – Keynesain, Freedman, Bushian – lacked a human component (among other things). However, there’s a new model in town: Islamic Business Model, which Mishal Kanoo, describes as “compassion with competition” and prohibits such practices of usury, hoarding and dumping.

For example, a person that offers you, the buyer, a product or service that both the seller and the buyer agreed to at a given price, cannot turn to another potential buyer and sell the very item if he was offered a higher price.

Also, hoarding, or what we call monopolies these days, is punishable by law when it harms society. Artificially manipulating the market would also not be acceptable within an Islamic model.

At the same time, fair competition is encouraged. An example of that is that Islam, as a religion, stresses to its followers to compete for good. This is translated from religious teachings to business transaction.

Another example of Islamic business acumen was the creation of the letter of credit that Muslims needed in order to conduct business across a vast expanse.

An axiom within the teaching of Islam is that of "from where did you get this?" It shows the importance of sourcing the wealth.

These days, the only thing that Islam and Economics are linked with is Islamic banking. What is missing for the longest time is the spirit of compassion tempered with justice.

No other economic model, whether in theory or practice comes close to fulfilling what a true Islamic economic model can. The beauty of the Islamic economic model is that it is universal and not just for Muslims.

For those who wonder how Islamic banks work, here’s the deal with usury and interest in the Quran (from

The Quran forbids usury, not interest. Quite a few states in USA have laws against usury. Usury is defined as excessive interest. A Dictionary defines usury as "an excessive or inordinate premium for the use of money borrowed", "extortionate interest", or "the practice of taking exorbitant or excessive interest." The Arabic language also makes distinction between interest (Fa'eda) and usury (Reba). The Quran forbids Reba or usury.

No comments: