New think tank to develop Europe’s halal economy

New think tank to develop Europe’s halal economy
Halal food in a supermarket in Nantes, western France, September 7, 2010. (Reuters)
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Updated 08 April 2021

New think tank to develop Europe’s halal economy

New think tank to develop Europe’s halal economy
  • Across food and finance, think tank takes aim at continent’s growing Shariah-compliant economy
  • Europe’s young, growing Muslim population presents major business opportunity for companies, executive director tells Arab News

LONDON: A new think tank focused on developing Europe’s halal economy promises to provide thought leadership, policy direction and professional development for the continent’s growing Shariah-compliant economy.

“The halal economy has multiple facets including food, finance, tourism, fashion and more. However, the focus of this think tank will be the halal food and business sector, particularly Islamic finance,” said the Halal Economy Think Tank, launched by the Bahrain Institute of Banking and Finance (BIBF) and Spain’s San Telmo Business School.

“The first initiative the Halal Economy Think Tank will undertake would be aimed at food companies as well as entrepreneurs who want to tap into the ever-growing halal food market in Europe, through an executive program to be launched by the end of 2021.”

Based in Seville and Malaga, Spain, the think tank’s launch comes as competition in Europe’s Islamic finance sector heats up.

Spurred in part by Brexit, European nations — including the UK, Ireland and Luxembourg — have increasingly been vying for the status of European hub of Islamic finance. Experts see no signs that this trend is abating.

“The Halal Economy Think Tank will also provide a series of policy papers on these issues, which will be issued by the BIBF Islamic Finance Centre given its considerable experience in this space as the oldest Islamic finance professional qualifications provider in the world,” the think tank said.

Mujtaba Khalid, head of the Islamic Finance Centre and executive director of the think tank, told Arab News: “The Muslim population in Europe has grown steadily over the past 50 years, both in terms of numbers as well as net worth. This growth will pick up considerably over the coming years.”

He added: “By 2050, Muslims will comprise roughly 14 percent of the total population of Europe. Couple this with the fact that the Muslim demographic in Europe is much younger, we see a big market opportunity in the European halal space.”

The think tank’s inaugural executive education program, focused on the halal food economy and due to launch in late 2021, “will enable agriculture and food entrepreneurs to leverage off this halal food business opportunity,” Khalid said.

Not only will the think tank’s launch develop the halal economy’s policy and knowledge infrastructure in Europe, it will also facilitate the continued growth of Gulf-European ties.

Tens of billions’ worth of euros are traded between the EU and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states every year.

In 2019, GCC countries exported over €40 billion ($47.5 billion) worth of goods to the EU, and imported over €70 billion worth.

Khalid said projects such as the Halal Economy Think Tank “definitely help facilitate both economic as well as people-to-people ties between the two regions. It’s hoped that we can further increase such ties going forward.”

Gold miners keen on going green

Gold miners keen on going green
Updated 30 November 2021

Gold miners keen on going green

Gold miners keen on going green
  • In eight countries gold mining firms account for more than 5% of all government income

LONDON: The gold mining industry is keen to show off its green credentials.
The World Gold Council has revealed that of the $60.1 billion its 33 members generated in revenue in 38 countries around the world last year, 63 percent, or $37.9 billion of it remained in the nations where the mining operations were based.
The trade body, whose members account for around 40 percent of the global output, pointed out that in five countries the industry supported more than 3 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product, roughly the size of internationally recognized overseas development assistance levels.
In eight countries gold mining firms accounted for more than 5 percent of all government income, the association said in a recent report titled, “The Social and Economic Contribution of Gold Mining.”
WGC Chief Financial Officer Terry Heymann said: “In Suriname the contribution is as high as 16.3 percent, Malawi its 8 percent and 6.6 percent in Burkina Faso.
“These contributions come as tax. But they also come in the form of new roads built into the site, or energy sources to power it, which can be more than the mine needs. The surplus energy is then pumped into the local community.”
One council member, Canada’s Barrick Gold, uses hydroelectric power plants at its Kibali gold mine in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which it shares with residents of the African country’s northeastern province Haut-Uele.
In Burkina Faso, UK-based Nordgold powers its Bassi and Bouly mines with solar power, which also supplies the local towns and villages in the Centre-Nord region.
“Mines often help fund schools, hospitals and health clinics, because a site needs a healthy and educated workforce,” Heymann added.
The WGC report added: “Host nations and communities might therefore come to regard responsible and sustainable gold mining operations as representing of a ‘window of opportunity’ for development.”
Such windows can last for sustained periods. It can take a decade to fully explore a mining site, and five years to build, with a lifecycle of 30 to 50 years.
However, the world’s biggest producers of the precious yellow metal are mature countries that do not rely on its production for development.
China is currently the world’s largest miner, producing around 368.3 tons last year, followed by Russia with 331.1 tons, Australia with 327.8 tons and the US with 190.2 tons.
Gold production was not greatly affected by the coronavirus disease hitting 3,400.8 tons last year, just 4 percent down on 2019.
In the third quarter of this year, gold production increased 4 percent year-on-year to 960 tons, the largest quarterly production level on record and 3 percent higher than the same period in 2019.
Gold demand jumped by almost 25 percent last year, rising above $2,000 an ounce for the first time last August, as investors looked for a safe haven during the pandemic.
But the metal has given back those gains as the health crisis shows signs of easing, despite the emergence of the omicron COVID-19 variant, and is just under 6 percent lower than it was 12 months ago at around $1,793 an ounce.
Analysts are split on whether gold will jump to $3,000 an ounce in 2022. Some predict a rise due to persistent negative real interest rates, inflationary pressures and US dollar weakness as a result of COVID-19 pandemic. Others believe its price could fall to around $1,700 an ounce next year, due to rising supply and an easing of political tensions between China and the US as the health crisis subsides.
Heymann noted that gold remained a store of value, particularly when compared with newer digital currencies, such as Bitcoin and ether, that have grabbed headlines in the financial press in recent years.
He said: “There is a place in investors’ portfolios for gold. It is a stable long-term store of value, the pandemic has shown that. It is very liquid, it’s a physical asset, you know exactly what it is. And it’s a market that has been around for thousands of years.”

Saudi Exchange’s Tadawul almost flat as omicron fears persist

Saudi Exchange’s Tadawul almost flat as omicron fears persist
Updated 30 November 2021

Saudi Exchange’s Tadawul almost flat as omicron fears persist

Saudi Exchange’s Tadawul almost flat as omicron fears persist

Saudi Arabia's stock market closed almost flat on Tuesday as concerns about the new omicron COVID-19 strain persisted.

The main stock index, TASI was down very slightly 0.45 percent, reaching 10,761.80 points at the closing bell.

Saudi’s parallel market Nomu was up slightly, by 0.87 percent at the end of the trading session.

Industrials Albaha and Saydan were among the top gainers, up 10 percent and 9.98 percent respectively.

With a share price decline of around 4 percent, Enaya and Amana Insurance were the lowest-performing stocks. 

Foreign investments to Saudi Arabia’s IT market hit $2.13bn

Foreign investments to Saudi Arabia’s IT market hit $2.13bn
Updated 30 November 2021

Foreign investments to Saudi Arabia’s IT market hit $2.13bn

Foreign investments to Saudi Arabia’s IT market hit $2.13bn

More than SR8 billion ($2.13 billion) of foreign investment has poured into Saudi Arabia’s IT market, Assistant Minister Munir El-Desouki has revealed.

Speaking as part of a virtual Fintech tour, El-Desouki argued the telecom sector in the Kingdom is also now becoming attractive to outside investors.

“With the unlimited support it received from our government and in partnership with the private sector, we were able to jump the Kingdom’s ranking in internet speeds from the 105th to the 6th globally,” he said.

“We invested in minds to bridge the digital skills gap. We trained more than 55,000 male and female trainees in qualitative digital skills, as part of the Future Skills initiative,” he added.

El-Desouki said the ministry has helped increase the Saudization rate in the sector to 58 percent, and has also seen the participation rate of women rise from 7 percent in 2017 to 28 percent.

The ministry launched the National Information Technology Development Program with a budget of SR25 billion to strengthen the telecom system, increase its effectiveness, and ensure its sustainability.

The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology is determined to raise the contribution of the digital economy to the Kingdom’s domestic product, Vice Minister of Communications and Information Technology Haytham Al-Ohali said.

He added that the ministry actively contributes with their partners in the government and private sectors to the development of the financial technology market.

NEOM-like BP hydrogen project to fuel UK transport

NEOM-like BP hydrogen project to fuel UK transport
Updated 30 November 2021

NEOM-like BP hydrogen project to fuel UK transport

NEOM-like BP hydrogen project to fuel UK transport

CAIRO: BP is planning a new large-scale green hydrogen production facility in the North East of England to deliver up to 500 megawatts of power ‎by 2030.

The British energy giant will build an initial 60 MW green hydrogen plant as the first step in its HyGreen Teesside project, with production set to begin by 2025, according to Recharge News.

The project is expected to fuel the development of Teesside into the UK’s first major hydrogen ‎transport hub, leading the way for large-scale decarbonization of heavy transport, airports, ports, and ‎rail in the UK, BP said.

The company said that it will rely on renewable energy power purchase agreements at first, but eventually aims to plug in the clean power it is developing in and around the UK, including offshore wind farms. 

BP's proposals echo Saudi Arabia utilities developer ACWA Power and NEOM's plan for a hydrogen-based ammonia production facility powered by renewable energy.

ACWA Power expects construction work on its green hydrogen plant in NEOM to start in the first half of 2022, according to the company’s CEO.

The Saudi project aims to produce 650 tonnes a day of hydrogen, the production of nitrogen by air separation using Air Products technology, and the production of 1.2 million tonnes annually of green ammonia using Haldor Topsoe technology.

UAE retailers ‘cautiously optimistic’ as sales rise above pre-COVID-19 levels for first time

UAE retailers ‘cautiously optimistic’ as sales rise above pre-COVID-19 levels for first time
Updated 30 November 2021

UAE retailers ‘cautiously optimistic’ as sales rise above pre-COVID-19 levels for first time

UAE retailers ‘cautiously optimistic’ as sales rise above pre-COVID-19 levels for first time

DUBAI: The UAE’s retail sector showed signs of recovery in the third quarter of 2021 as shoppers returned to malls or embraced e-commerce to send sales above pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels for the first time.

Point-of-sale transactions rose by 7 percent in the third quarter of the year, according to a recent report by retail giant Majid Al Futtaim.

The company, which runs major shopping malls in the region, such as Mall of the Emirates in Dubai, said the change was significant because it was the first time “consumer spending exceeded levels last seen in 2019.”

MAF group chief executive officer Alain Bejjani, said: “Our research shows a continuation of the buoyancy in consumer sentiment, with further positive indicators pointing to solid growth and momentum in the non-oil sector.”

Despite the COVID-19 health crisis having crippled consumer spending amid salary cuts and job losses, Dubai Economy, a government body set up to diversify the emirate’s economy, recorded the highest level of consumer confidence in a decade over the third quarter, the MAF report said.

However, the survey results were compiled before the emergence of the omicron COVID-19 variant, which may set back progress in the final quarter of this year.

According to MAF, footfall in its outlets in the third quarter jumped 18 percent compared to the same period a year ago, while online shopping was up by 34 percent over the same quarter.

“The adoption and acceleration of e-commerce and food delivery services are a great example of how changes to consumer behavior have become a ubiquitous part of post-pandemic day-to-day life for us all,” Bejjani added.

He pointed out that the recovery of retailers would depend heavily on innovation “in order to effectively cater to both new preferences and old habits.”

Dubai’s hosting of Expo 2020 has helped with the economic recovery (Shutterstock)

Bejjani noted that many factors had led to this “cautious optimism,” including an aggressive COVID-19 vaccination drive that allowed the UAE to lift restrictions relatively faster than other countries.

The revival of trade and tourism had also helped retailers, MAF added, and the positive economic outlook may be applied to the UAE’s Gulf neighbors, citing data organization Oxford Economics’ projection of up to 5.1 percent regional gross domestic product growth in 2022.

Other factors behind the retail recovery include Dubai’s hosting of Expo 2020, as well as the emirate’s growing real estate transactions, which official figures claim to be the “highest since 2015.”

Bejjani said: “While there are undoubtedly risks ahead, overall, we see much from which to draw strength, as the economic recovery continues to accelerate, and our communities adapt to living in a new post-pandemic world.”