Women make up majority of 800m unbanked Muslim population

The World Bank claims that the Middle East and North Africa has the widest gender gap in bank account ownership. (File/AFP)
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Updated 22 December 2020

Women make up majority of 800m unbanked Muslim population

Women make up majority of 800m unbanked Muslim population
  • UK-based digital banking firm says the majority of 1.7 billion unbanked adults are Muslims

DUBAI: Women make up the majority of the 800 million global Muslim population who are unbanked (people without a bank account), according to a digital banking firm, leaving them without basic financial services, and putting their social rights at risk.

Zeiad Idris, the CEO of UK-based digital banking platform Algbra, told Arab News that it is common in Muslim communities for men to take charge of the household’s finances. “In our (Muslim) communities it’s not uncommon for the male member of the family to hold the bank account in their name and control the family’s finances,” he said, adding that empowering women by giving them ease of access to financial services would lead to enhanced economic development.

Research published by the World Economic Forum has found that gender inequality is higher in countries that have low GDPs. According to Algbra, 29 percent more women are unbanked in Bangladesh compared to men, while in Egypt the difference is 11 percentage points.

Abbas Basrai, partner and head of financial services in the lower Gulf for finance giant KPMG, also says that financial independence is vital for women.

“Discriminatory inheritance legislation in many countries, as well as women’s vulnerability to abuse, makes it particularly critical that they can access their own finances to safeguard their independence, safety and quality of life,” Basrai said.

The misinterpretation of Islamic law and a lack of knowledge about inheritance rights are major hurdles to improving women’s independence, experts said.

Co-author of a report on women and land in the Muslim world, Rafic Khouri, said that “inheritance rights are often misinterpreted,” leading to women being excluded from inheritance.

In Islamic law, a woman’s inheritance share is generally half that of a man, although in some rare cases they might get an equal or larger share than a male relative, the report said.

Daisy Khan, the founder of Women’s Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equality (WISE), a global network of Muslim women committed to peacebuilding and gender equality, argued that discouraging women from having an equal say in the finances is a denial of their human rights.

“If a woman is completely dependent on others for her financial future, her life is regulated, preventing her from leading a life of fulfilment,” the award-winning speaker, author and activist said.

The World Bank claims that the Middle East and North Africa – which has Muslim majority populations – has the widest gender gap in bank account ownership with only 35 percent of women having bank accounts compared with 52 percent of men.

Having more women incorporated into the economy would also have an impact of GDP, according to research by the International Finance Corporation. The research quoted findings by McKinsey that “if women participated in the economy on the same basis as men, it would add $12 trillion, or 11 percent, to the 2025 annual global GDP.”

The World Bank also states that basic financial services and a strengthening women’s role in finance is one of the keys to boosting economic growth.

Khan claimed that robbing women of their financial independence “does grave disservice to Muslim nations for no nation can truly be built without the participation of all its citizens, both men and women.”

When it comes to figures regarding the unbanked population in the world, it is not just Muslim women who are at a disadvantage, it is Muslims in general as they are the biggest group globally left without banking services. This is despite the growth in Islamic finance, which has been forecast to be worth $3.8 trillion by 2022.

Muslims account for 47 percent of the world’s 1.7 billion adult unbanked population. According to Algbra, 12 of the 15 most underbanked countries in the world are either Muslim-majority or have a significant Muslim population.

In the Arab world in 2018, 52 percent of men had a bank account and only 35 percent of women, according to the World Bank.

With the widespread use of smartphones, the fintech wave could help bring Islamic finance to a larger market, including women.

“In an increasingly digitalized world, banks allow for greater accessibility and enhanced operational efficiencies, with account holders benefiting from the ability to make different forms of payment and move towards a cashless society,” Gulf KPMG head Basrai said.

However, many Muslims limit their use of financial services due to the market’s failure to provide services that comply with the “faith-based requirements of those consumers,” the co-founders of Algbra said.

Around 34 percent of adults in Afghanistan and 27 percent in Iraq and Tunisia said religious concerns have prevented them from accessing financial services, a 2018 Thomson Reuters study found. A World Bank report published in 2017 said that 13 percent of those in Pakistan cited religious reasons, while in Turkey it was 19 percent.

Offering Shariah-compliant loans helped to boost application rates from 18 to 22 percent in Muslim majority countries such as Jordan, US think-tank Brookings said in 2017, citing a study by Dean Karlan, professor of economics at Yale University.

“Ensuring the population is banked enables economies to quickly process the unimaginably large volume of transactions that transpire in goods, labor, and capital markets,” Basrai said.

Iraqi oil minister expects oil to reach over $75

Iraqi oil minister expects oil to reach over $75
Image: Shutterstock
Updated 7 sec ago

Iraqi oil minister expects oil to reach over $75

Iraqi oil minister expects oil to reach over $75

Iraq's oil minister said on Monday that he expects oil prices to reach over $75.

Ihsan Abdul-Jabbar added in a televised interview with state TV, that OPEC is trying to "control the energy market, in a positive way" that maintains the interests of all parties, consumers and producers. 

Abdul-Jabbar also said that current oil prices are unfitting for producers and that he expects them to return to a stable level in the coming months.

Oil climbed more than 4 percent on Monday on hopes that the Omicron variant of the coronavirus will have a less damaging economic impact if its symptoms prove to be mostly mild and as the prospect of an imminent rise in Iranian oil exports receded.

Brent crude rose $3.20 to settle at $73.08 a barrel.

US crude settled up $3.23 at $69.49 a barrel.

Despite signs of a drop in consumption, OPEC stuck to its existing policy of increasing oil supply on a monthly basis because it aims at offering stable oil supplies and because it believes that the drop is unreal and that the market should witness a recovery, Abdul-Jabbar said.

OPEC+, which consists of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies including Russia, agreed to stick to the plan of boosting output by 400,000 barrels per day per month, despite fears a release from US crude reserves and Omicron would put renewed pressure on prices.

Tadawul up in early trading; BATIC, SADR leading: Market Open

Tadawul up in early trading; BATIC, SADR leading: Market Open
Updated 1 min 20 sec ago

Tadawul up in early trading; BATIC, SADR leading: Market Open

Tadawul up in early trading; BATIC, SADR leading: Market Open

10.43am Saudi time: RIYADH: Saudi’s Tadawul is seeing gains in early trading on Tuesday with its main benchmark index TASI up 0.8 percent and the parallel market Nomu up 1.4 percent.

The biggest gainers of the session are Batic Investments and Logistics Co, Sadr Logistics Co., and Amana Cooperative Insurance Co., all up almost 10 percent.

Saudi Enaya Cooperative Co. climbed 8.3 percent.

Wafrah for Industry and Development Co. surged by 6.5 percent.

Losses were very minor, with the lowest performer,  Etihad Atheeb Telecommunication Co., declining less than 1 percent.

Batic Investment and Logistics Co. announced the start date of its rights issue trading and new shares subscription period on Dec. 13. The period will end on Dec. 23.

Rabigh Refining and Petrochemical Co.’s board of directors recommended a 13.76 percent capital decrease from SR8.76 billion ($2.34 billion) to SR7.55 billion.

Al Maather REIT Fund extended its memorandum of understanding to acquire the Burjeel Hospital building in a deal worth 100 million dirhams ($27.23 million). According to a bourse filing, the deal has been extended to expire on Dec. 23, instead of Dec. 4.


Stock market trends to keep an eye on amidst volatility: Premarket

9:07am Saudi Time: RIYADH: Tadawul’s TASI and Nomu fell slightly following a three-day hike to close at 11021.07 points as clarity on COVID-19’s omicron variant risk remains lacking and cases rise.

Sadr Logistics Co. is currently trading at a record high of SR94.8 ($25.27), up nearly 44.5 percent in a week.

Saudi Electricity Co. has been the major contributor to the index’s gains lately. Its share price rose around 32 percent in the past two weeks, reaching SR37.1 in the last close.

A positive five-day performance took place in Wafrah for Industry and Development Co. where the share price jumped 30.7 percent.

The stock value of Saudi Vitrified Clay Pipes Co. surged 18.5 percent in a week.

Among stocks in the steep downtrend was Al Amana Cooperative Insurance Co. which slid 4.1 percent in the prior session, coming in second place after Banque Saudi Fransi which had the steepest fall of 2.3 percent in two days.

Saudi Aramco saw the sharpest fall in terms of market capitalization, falling SR40 billion, according to a bourse filing.

Dropping 5.7 percent in the past week, Saudi Enaya Cooperative Insurance Co. last closed at SR34.55.

Saudi Telecom Co., or stc, dragged down the Saudi index last trading session, coming on top of the lowest-performing stocks with a decline of 5.34 percent to SR110.

stc’s secondary share subscription period will be open for two days starting Dec.7 for retail tranche and is still ongoing for participating parties till Dec.9.

The price range has been set between SR100 and SR116 per share.

The Kingdom's Aramco signed a $15.5 billion gas pipeline deal with global consortium, led by BlackRock Real Assets, in an effort to align Aramco’s asset portfolio with its growth strategy.

Batic Investments and Logistics Co.’s shareholders approved to raise capital by 100 percent through a SR300 million rights issue.

Batic’s trading fluctuation limits will be based on a share price of SR24.46 as of Dec.7.
Growth Avenue Investment Co., Maharah Human Resources Co.’s subsidiary, signed an agreement to acquire an 85 percent equity stake in Alshifa Al-Arabiya Medical Co.
Ataa Educational Co. announced the appointment of Fahad bin Abdulaziz Al-Tuwaijry as the company’s chief executive officer effective Dec.14, following the resignation of Mr. Ibrahim bin Abdulkarem Al-Turki.

National Building and Marketing Co.’s subsidiary, Ajeej Steel Manufacturing Co. initiated trial operations to expand its production capacity by 40 percent annually.

Mobily appoints former Saudi transport minister Al-Amudi as new Chairman

Mobily appoints former Saudi transport minister Al-Amudi as new Chairman
Updated 07 December 2021

Mobily appoints former Saudi transport minister Al-Amudi as new Chairman

Mobily appoints former Saudi transport minister Al-Amudi as new Chairman

RIYADH: Saudi telecom operator Etihad Etisalat Co, also known as Mobily, has appointed former Saudi transport minister Nabeel Mohamed Al-Amudi as its new chairman.

Mobily also appointed Suliman Abdulrahman AlGwaiz as Vice Chairman, following the Board of Directors' meeting on Monday Dec. 2, according to a bourse filing.


Saudi eateries give tough competition to foreign outlets

Saudi eateries give tough competition to foreign outlets
Updated 07 December 2021

Saudi eateries give tough competition to foreign outlets

Saudi eateries give tough competition to foreign outlets
  • The Saudi capital has seen the birth of 288,000 square meters of new developments since 2016

RIYADH: More than two-thirds of Riyadh’s new restaurants are Saudi, dwarfing American and Lebanese influenced eateries, according to a report from real estate firm Knights Frank.

The Saudi capital has seen the birth of 288,000 square meters of new developments since 2016, when the National Transformation Plan was announced, the research says.  “The Kingdom’s capital is beginning to morph into a foodie’s treasure trove and we’re not done yet,” Faisal Durrani, head of Middle East research at Knight Frank said. 

This growth is led by homegrown restaurants and cafes, he added, with 68 percent of Riyadh’s new outlets being Saudi — 21 percent of which specialize in international cuisine. 

“American food outlets account for 16 percent of food and beverage outlets, while Lebanese restaurants are the third most prevalent at 13 percent,” Durrani said. 

The US and the UAE are the second and third largest sources of restaurant chains in Riyadh, respectively, he added.

“International brands must adapt their proposition across the full spectrum to suit demand, both in terms of operational aspects, as well as the actual menu offering itself,” said Pedro Riberio, head of retail advisory KSA at Knight Frank. The Kingdom’s capital will further benefit from upcoming tourism developments, including the Bujairi Terrace and Diriyah Gate, which the Knight Frank report said will add “15,000 sq. meters of lifestyle retail space to the capital when its 17 restaurants open their doors in 2022.”

This rapid growth and competition are putting pressure on older developments, the report indicated, with some operators struggling to keep vacancy rates and footfall up.

Saudi, Omani firms unveil deals worth $10bn as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman begins visit

Saudi, Omani firms unveil deals worth $10bn as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman begins visit
Updated 07 December 2021

Saudi, Omani firms unveil deals worth $10bn as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman begins visit

Saudi, Omani firms unveil deals worth $10bn as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman begins visit

RIYADH: On the eve of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s arrival in Muscat, Saudi Arabia and Oman signed 13 memoranda of understanding, reportedly worth more than $10 billion and covering a number of sectors.

The agreements were signed by Omani companies fully-owned by the sultanate’s Investment Authority, Omani state TV reported on Monday.

OQ Group, a global energy provider based in Oman, signed three of the agreements, the first of which was with ACWA Power and Air Products in the fields of petrochemicals, renewable energy and green hydrogen. The second, relating to oil storage, was signed with Saudi Aramco, and the third, involving development of Oman’s Duqm Petrochemical Complex project, with SABIC.

Omran Group signed a memorandum with the Saudi Dar Al-Arkan Real Estate Development Company for the development of the Yetti Beach in Oman. Omran is described as creating sustainable and authentic tourism assets, lifestyle communities and destinations designed to drive economic growth and contribute to the diversification of the economy.

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman gets a warm welcome in Muscat from Sultan Haitham bin Tarik. (Supplied)

Another memorandum was signed by Fisheries Development Oman and Saudi Arabia’s National Aquaculture Group, or Naqwa, to boost cooperation in fisheries.

The Saudi Tadawul Group and the Muscat Securities Market signed a memorandum for cooperation with the operation of the stock exchange and the dual listing of companies.

Oman-based Asyad, a logistics group, signed an agreement with Saudi Bahri, a transportation and logistics company, while Minerals Development Oman signed a deal with the Kingdom’s Maaden Phosphate Co. to boost cooperation in the mining sector.

Badr Al-Badr, the CEO of the National Companies Entrepreneurship Program in Saudi Arabia, said that the total investment value of the memoranda of understanding is expected to exceed $10 billion, the Oman News Agency reported.

Crown Prince Mohammed arrived in Oman on Monday on the first of several stops on an official tour of Gulf states. The visit is expected to build on talks Omani Sultan Haitham bin Tariq held with King Salman during his visit to Saudi Arabia in July.

The crown prince’s visit is “based on directives from King Salman, his keenness to communicate with the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council, and to strengthen ties,” the Royal Court said in a statement issued by the Saudi Press Agency.

The prince will meet the sultan and they will review issues of mutual concern, with the aim of achieving progress and prosperity for both countries and their peoples, the Oman News Agency reported.

The visit to Oman is an “affirmation of the ties of fraternity and kinship, and the historical relations binding the Sultanate of Oman and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” the ONA report said, adding that both countries “are set for a new stage of economic and investment cooperation in all fields.”

In July, both countries reaffirmed plans for joint investment in advanced technologies, innovation, renewable-energy projects, industrial health, real estate, tourism, petrochemical-converting industries, supply chains, logistics partnerships, information technology and financial technology, according to ONA.

Oman’s Sultan Haitham bin Tarik welcomes Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman upon his arrival in Muscat. (Supplied)

“The achievements made over the past five months and the active exchange of visits among officials reflect the keen desire of the two countries to work together,” the agency said, adding that this includes the establishment of the Saudi-Omani Investment Forum, which was held in Muscat in August, during which a number of agreements were signed.

A memorandum establishing a coordination council was signed by the two countries, along with a separate agreement to boost government and private-sector trade and investment, as well as cooperation, in environmental and food security.

According to a joint statement, the two sides also agreed to expedite the opening of their border crossings to ease the movement of people and goods to “integrate supply chains in order to achieve the desired economic integration.”

During his regional tour, the Saudi crown prince will also meet leaders and senior officials of the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait to discuss bilateral relations. His trip comes ahead of the GCC summit in Riyadh this month. He is expected to head to Abu Dhabi after Oman.