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GIES & Expo 2020: Shanghai, Mumbai, Dubai or bye-bye!

By Rushdi Siddiqui, Khaleej Times

Rushdi Siddiqui - Thomson

Global Islamic Economy Summit gives Islamic finance a needed face-lift

What a nerve racking, hold your breath-exhilarating week in Dubai!

After hosting the Global Islamic Economy Summit (GIES) and winning the right to host World Expo 2020, let’s blow the dust off from a catch-phrase from a few years ago:Shanghai, Mumbai, Dubai or bye-bye!

The GIES showcase, Islamic economy attributes, put-on by Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Thomson Reuters attracted 3,000 plus delegates at the elegant Mina Salaam Hotel, surpassing the very successful World Economic Islamic Forum (WEIF), held in London in October. Nearly everyone that registered, actually showed up, hence, a larger venue is needed for the next GIES.

The presence of His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, energised the audience and electrified the Islamic Economy award winners. The presence 
of Jim Smith, CEO of Thomson Reuters, alongside Shaikh 
Mohammed, showcased the company’s commitment to the $4 trillion niche market, $1.3 trillion Islamic finance and the $2.7 trillion halal industry.

GIES gave Islamic finance a needed face-lift and the Halal industry a good house seal of approval that it belongs on the same forum! The Islamic economy is about ethical consumerism, and ethics are universal values.

The historic announcement of Dubai winning the right to be the host city of World Expo 2020, one day after GIES, was an incredible adrenalin rush for all residents, expatriates residing, and even those transiting. One of the mantras of Dubai is the attitude of ‘yes, we can’ or ‘yes, we will!’

GIES and Expo 2020

There are some common denominators between GIES accomplishment and Dubai hosting the World Expo 2020. Furthermore, a significant opportunity exists for GIES institutions to provide some of the financing for the infrastructure build-out of the Dubai Expo 2020. The financing of infrastructure will be several billion dollars creating 270,000 plus jobs in span of next seven years, and result in 25-33 million visitors during the six months.

These visitors need to be fed in captive space of 438 hectares, hence, an incredible opportunity for all four silos (and subsectors) of the halal industry, food, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and logistics/distribution to make aware and educate these potential ambassadors with their products and services.

History, again

This is the first time in the history of the World Expo (1851), it’s hosted in the Middle-East, North Africa, South Asia (MENSA) region. Dubai is strategically located, as nearly two-thirds of the world’s population lives within eight hours of the emirate. It can also be said Dubai was the host of the world’s first Islamic bank, Dubai Islamic Bank (DIB), in the early 1970s. Finally, with more than 120 nationalities residing in Dubai, there are many non-Muslim Islamic banking clients.

Dubai (UAE) represented a viable alternative to heavy weight competing candidate G-20 countries of Sao Paulo (Brazil), Ekaterinburg (Russia) and Izmir (Turkey).  Islamic finance represents less than one per cent of total global banking assets, and the Halal industry, about twice the size of Islamic finance, is a small slice of non-halal industry, yet UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, announced the launch of a £200 million UK sovereign sukuk in October at the World Economic Islamic Forum (WEIF). Thus, size is no-longer out-come determinative!

Dubai’s theme for the 2020 Expo is ‘Connecting Minds, and Creating the Future,’ where the focus will be on four areas: sustainability, clean energy, smart systems, and opportunity. The essential message of Islamic finance, or as many enlightened refer to as ‘Participation finance,’ espouses four main objectives for all time: equity (reduces the asymmetric information resulting in bias towards the ‘haves’), justice (traceability and transparency to achieve accountability), inclusion (for all of man-kind, not just Muslims), and stewardship (preserving the planet for future generations).

The Dubai 2020 Expo will not be about a glorified Global Village or Dubai Shopping Festival on steroids, but about establishing partnerships, connecting people, and exchange of ideas with aim towards progress via inclusion. The GIES, for the very first time, brought $1.3 trillion Islamic finance and $2.7 trillion halal industry under one roof at a global platform, Dubai. These two niche markets are actually ‘twins,’ as mentioned in the same chapter of the Koran, but separated at birth together,’ hence, needing convergence.


Dubai hosting the GIES and winning the right to host World Exp 2020 is about the vision, will and means of His Highness Shaikh Mohammed in establishing a blue-print and path-way forward for inclusion over exclusivity, innovation over imitation, and convergence of ideas over silos of ideology.

Views expressed by the author are 
his own and do not reflect our policy

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