[Prime Minister of Malaysia Mohammad Najib bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak and Mayor of London Boris Johnson at WIEF press conference.
(Photo: Nailah Dossa/The Muslim News)]
By Nailah Dossa
London is on the fast track to become the largest Islamic Finance hub outside of the Muslim world. In an impromptu press conference held at City Hall in London on July 3, it was officially announced by the Malaysian Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, that London would host the 9th World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF) in October. The event will stretch on for three days from the 29th-31 October in London.
Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, who hosted the press briefing, described the Malaysian investments in Battersea, a £400m investment which is the largest of its kind in the UK, as “amazing”. With a development value of around £8bn, it is expected to create 15,000 new jobs and 3,500 new homes. With such an investment, Malaysia has recently become the second largest foreign investor in the UK after the US.
Najib stated that the EPF, which is Malaysian Government Agency, “is flush with funds, is also looking for more investments here after Battersea and so is SP Setia.”
The Islamic Finance sector has an estimated net worth of £1.2 trillion, and is expected to grow to £1.6 billion by 2015, he added. The total value of the global Halal market, which is one of the fasting growing global businesses in the world, was estimated at £2.3 trillion a year.
Britain is already host to 22 Shariah compliant banks and has 320,000 people working in Islamic Finance in London which issued £24 billion worth of Sukuk (Shariah-compliant bond) last year.
The Malaysian Prime Minister assured the media that the outreach of Islamic Finance to the UK has no connotations of religion and that the process is strictly business, when asked a question involving a reference to the Woolwich terrorist incident and whether it would affect the transaction.
An inquiry raised by The Muslim News’ Editor, Ahmed J Versi, on whether the conference would be just a “talking shop” of investments merely being discussed, received an unclear answer in return as Prime Minister Najib affirmed that there “will be many opportunities for business collaborations to take place and may lead to a number of active business proposals being implemented.”
He also declared his belief that there will be many benefits of such a forum as “the opportunities for London as an open city with unparalleled financial expertise and a diverse population are clear”, and looks forward to returning in October.
WIEF, which was established on March 6, 2006, started off from a modest beginning as the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Business Forum, which was held on Oct 15, 2003 and is a not-for-profit organisation based in Kuala Lumpur. It is a business platform which showcases business opportunities in the Muslim world, and runs programmes that strengthen people partnership and knowledge exchange between Muslim and non-Muslim communities across the globe through the common language of business.