KEYNOTE SPEECH FOR
TAN SRI DR SYED HAMID ALBAR
CHAIRMAN, WIEF FOUNDATION
EVENT: Emerging Muslim Markets and Their Challenges
Bismillahi rahmani rahim
Assalamu alaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh
- I would like to thank Ramadhan Foundation for inviting me to this Emerging Muslim Markets and Their Challenges webinar as the keynote speaker. I am indeed honoured to be here with all of you today, albeit virtually.
- For those who may not know me, my name is Syed Hamid Albar, and I am the Chairman of the World Islamic Economic Forum Foundation, also known as the WIEF Foundation.
- Our organisation is dedicated to fostering dialogue, cooperation, and knowledge-sharing among business leaders and policymakers. Apart from organising our flagship yearly Forum, we actively engage in various capacity-building programmes on cutting-edge topics such as future technology, Artificial Intelligence, and space.
MUSLIM IN EDUCATION
- Historically, Muslim contributions in modern education have been significant and enduring, shaping the foundation of knowledge and learning in various fields. During the Islamic Golden Age (8th to 14th centuries), Muslims made ground-breaking advancements in mathematics, science, medicine, philosophy, and literature. Scholars like Ibn al-Haytham pioneered the scientific method and optics, while Ibn Sina (Avicenna) made seminal contributions to medicine.
- The House of Wisdom in Baghdad served as a prominent centre for translating and preserving classical Greek works, influencing European Renaissance thinkers.
- Universities, such as Al-Qarawiyyin in Morocco and Al-Azhar in Egypt, were established early on, becoming influential centres of learning.
- Muslims were the first to establish universities and madrasas, which were centres of learning that offered instruction in a wide range of subjects, including religion, science, mathematics, and philosophy. These institutions played a major role in the transmission of knowledge from the Muslim world to the West.
- Muslims developed new educational methods that emphasised memorisation, repetition, and discussion. These methods were later adopted by Western universities, and they are still used today.
- Muslims were the first to promote universal education, which means that education was available to everyone, regardless of their social class or gender. This was a radical idea at the time, and it helped to lay the foundation for modern education systems.
- Muslims preserved and translated a vast amount of ancient knowledge, including works on mathematics, astronomy, medicine, and philosophy. This knowledge was later used by Western scholars, and it helped to shape the development of modern science and technology.
- Fast forward to 2022, According to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Muslim countries spent an average of 4.1 per cent of their GDP on education. This is slightly lower than the global average of 4.4 per cent.
- The OIC also found that there is a gender gap in education spending in Muslim countries. In 2022, the average amount spent on boys’ education was 4.3 per cent of GDP, while the average amount spent on girls’ education was 3.9 per cent. This gap is wider in some countries than others. For example, in Yemen, the average amount spent on boys’ education was 3.2 per cent of GDP, while the average amount spent on girls’ education was only 1.8 per cent. The OIC has called on Muslim countries to increase their spending on education, especially for girls.
- Recognising the role of women in economic development is imperative. Promoting gender equality and empowering women economically is essential for inclusive growth. Ensuring their participation in the workforce will contribute to stronger and more vibrant economies, further propelling these markets to new heights.
- This is precisely why at WIEF Foundation we have specific initiatives for women too, under WIEF Businesswomen Network or WBN. Its objective is to elevate understanding about new or small businesses while disseminating knowledge and skills of women entrepreneurs from all business fields. To date, WBN entrepreneurship programmes have continued to evolve with the times and benefitted nearly 1000 women from 50 countries.
MUSLIM IN DEFENCE AND SECURITY
- Muslim was feared by the world. Our defence has a rich and diverse history, marked by innovation, strategic prowess, and cultural exchange. During the medieval period, Muslim empires such as the Abbasids, Umayyads, and Ottomans were renowned for their formidable military capabilities, employing advanced weaponry, tactics, and infrastructure. They introduced new military techniques like the use of gunpowder in warfare, which later spread to other regions. The Crusades also led to interactions between Muslim and European armies, resulting in the exchange of military knowledge.
- In addition to military might, Muslim cultures emphasized the importance of chivalry, honour, and loyalty on the battlefield. This code of conduct influenced military practices, fostering a sense of discipline and respect for adversaries.
- As if that’s not impressive enough, Muslim scholars and engineers also contributed to fortifications, constructing impregnable castles and city walls to protect territories.
- Today, it’s sad to see that there is no single Muslim military power that we can be proud of. We depend too much to the west and this makes us vulnerable. To be a force to be reckoned with, we need to start thinking as an ummah, instead of as individuals. In this case, the saying ‘United we stand, divided we fall’ ring true.
MUSLIM POPULATION, ECONOMIC AND TRADE
- As of 2023, there are an estimated 2 billion Muslims in the world, making Islam the second-largest religion in the world, after Christianity. The majority of the world’s Muslims live in Asia and the Middle East, with Indonesia being the country with the largest Muslim population. The Muslim population is growing in other regions, such as Europe and North America, due to immigration and conversion.
- The growth of the Muslim population is expected to continue in the coming years. According to the Pew Research Center, the Muslim population is projected to reach 2.9 billion by 2050, which will make up about 31 per cent of the world’s population.
- Recent studies show that in 2021, Muslims around the world spent a total of two trillion U.S. dollars across the food, pharmaceutical, cosmetics, fashion, travel, and media/recreation sectors. The global Muslim market has the potential to grow to about 2.8 trillion dollars by 2025. The largest market for Muslim consumers is the halal food and beverage sector.
- Let us take a moment to appreciate the rising prominence of emerging Muslim markets. In recent years, these markets have captivated the world’s attention due to their remarkable growth and potential. The surge in consumer power, urbanisation, and the rise of middle-class populations have been instrumental in propelling these markets forward.
- The combined GDP of Muslim-majority countries was estimated to be around USD7 trillion in 2022, which is about 8 per cent of the world’s total GDP. This means that Muslims contribute a significant amount to the global economy. The top 10 Muslim-majority countries in terms of GDP in 2022 were:
- Indonesia (USD1.4 trillion)
- Turkey (USD840 billion)
- Saudi Arabia (USD780 billion)
- Iran (USD660 billion)
- Egypt (USD470 billion)
- Pakistan (USD370 billion)
- Bangladesh (USD360 billion)
- Nigeria (USD350 billion)
- Algeria (USD270 billion)
- These countries account for about 70 per cent of the total GDP of Muslim-majority countries. The remaining 30 per cent is contributed by several smaller countries, such as Malaysia, UAE, Qatar, and Kuwait.
- Based on the data, it’s safe to say that Muslims contribute a significant amount to the global economy.
- The affluence of the Muslim middle class is a driving force behind rising consumer demand, presenting businesses with opportunities to cater to halal products, Islamic finance, and ethical consumerism.
- Diversification and innovation are equally pivotal in shaping the future of these markets. Relying too heavily on traditional sectors like oil and gas exposes these economies to risks. Therefore, diversifying their economic landscape becomes imperative for long-term growth and resilience against market fluctuations. Encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship will usher in new industries and technological advancements, propelling these markets to the forefront of the global economy.
MUSLIM CHALLENGES AND PROBLEMS
- Unfortunately, Muslims have often faced negative stereotypes and prejudices, perpetuated by media portrayals, historical conflicts, and misunderstandings. These misconceptions often lead to Islamophobia, discrimination, and marginalisation of Muslims in various parts of the world. Some common misconceptions include associating Islam with terrorism, viewing Muslim cultures as inherently oppressive, and misunderstanding Islamic practices and beliefs.
- As we turn our focus to Islamic finance and banking, we must acknowledge its resilience and potential as an alternative financial system. However, this sector grapples with challenges in standardisation, global adoption, and talent development. Addressing these issues is pivotal in strengthening the capacity of Islamic financial institutions and promoting regulatory harmonisation, thereby fostering a more robust financial ecosystem.
- Another paramount challenge that warrants our attention is the pressing issue of climate change. As responsible stewards of the Earth and caliphs of Allah, these markets must invest in renewable energy, green technology, and sustainable practices. Aligning with Islamic principles of environmental conservation, embracing circular economies and promoting responsible consumption is essential for securing the well-being of future generations.
- Trade and geopolitical relations hold immense sway over the growth trajectory of emerging Muslim markets on the international stage. Ensuring favourable trade agreements and fostering stable geopolitical relations will open new avenues for trade and investment, benefiting all parties involved.
- In conclusion, the promise held by emerging Muslim markets is undeniable. With a young and dynamic population, the rise of Islamic finance, and a growing demand for ethical products and services, these markets are poised for greatness. However, to realize their full potential, we must address the challenges they face head-on. By doing so, we will not only secure their economic growth but also pave the way for innovation, sustainable development, and social progress.
- One of the best ways to overcome negative perception and promote critical thinking is by promoting education and intercultural dialogue to dispel misconceptions and foster understanding between Muslims and non-Muslims. Efforts should be made to showcase the diverse and positive contributions of Muslims throughout history and in contemporary society.
- As for WIEF Foundation, we remain committed to fostering dialogue, cooperation, and partnerships. Our objective is to address these challenges collaboratively and unlock the full potential of these emerging economies. Together, let us embrace the opportunities that lie ahead, overcome the obstacles, and work tirelessly to build a brighter future for these promising Muslim markets and the world at large.
- Thank you all for your presence here today. I am eager to embark on this journey with each one of you. Let us begin our discussions and chart a course towards prosperity.