Experts mull Islamic digital economy’s future and challenges

Experts mull Islamic digital economy’s future and challenges

JEDDAH (RAHNUMA): Saudi Arabia was fast reaching its goal of becoming the global hub for Shariah-compliant investment, amid challenges of aligning the growing industry securely with the latest digital technology.

These issues were raised on Tuesday at the opening ceremony of the 42nd Al-Baraka Islamic Economics Symposium. Among those who attended included Prince Saud bin Khalid Al-Faisal, deputy governor of Madinah, on behalf of the city’s governor Prince Faisal bin Salman bin Abdulaziz. Also present was Prince Dr. Mamdouh bin Saud bin Thunayan, president of the Islamic University of Madinah.

This year’s symposium was titled “Envisioning the Future of the Digital Economy,” and included the participation of leading economics, finance, and investment experts.

The symposium began with a speech by Abdullah Saleh Kamel, chairman of the board of trustees of the Al-Baraka Islamic Economics Forum, who traced the history of the body to its founder, the late businessman Sheikh Saleh Kamel, 42 years ago.

Kamel also announced the launch of the Saleh Abdullah Kamel Award that aims to recognize innovators in Islamic finance, both individuals and organizations. He said that Saudi Arabia was making significant headway in becoming the world’s leading center for Islamic finance.

In his speech, Dr. Fahad Aldossari, deputy governor of the Saudi Central Bank for research and international affairs, said the global industry was worth $7.2 trillion, while its assets in the Kingdom amounting to nearly SR3 trillion or almost $800 billion, and growing at an annual rate of 18 percent.

In his address, Dr. Saad bin Nasser Al-Shithri, adviser at the royal court and a member of the Saudi Council of Senior Scholars, welcomed efforts to digitize Islamic finance but said safeguards have to be introduced to protect the public. He urged universities in the country to conduct more research into the issue.

The inaugural session of the forum was titled “The Future of the Digital Economy,” with a speech by Prof. Fayyad Abdel Moneim, the former Egyptian minister of finance. He said that an integrated approach was needed for the industry.

In a research paper, Dr. Hatim Tahir, director of Islamic finance at Deloitte Middle East, shed light on the digital economy currently and its future. In a second research paper, Dr. Kinan Salim, head of the Islamic digital economy department at INCEIF University, Malaysia, focused on laws regulating the industry.

Ahmet Faruk Aysan, professor and program coordinator at Hamad bin Khalifa University, Qatar, presented the third research paper. He providing detailed explanations of how blockchain systems and the Internet of Things were affecting the digital economy. He also tackled the impact of digital currencies.

Hussein Abdou, professor of banking and finance at the University of Central Lancashire in the UK, focused on artificial intelligence and its applications.

Another paper, presented by Elsadig Musa Ahmed, professor of economics and technology management at Multimedia University, shed light on big data and its role in economic decision-making. Ahmed praised Saudi Arabia for its use of digital technology, and emphasized that trained workers were critical for the industry.

The second session of the forum, chaired by Dr. Majid Al-Moneef, professor and expert in energy economics, and former secretary-general of the Saudi Supreme Economic Council, discussed the challenges of achieving digital transformation and ways to confront the monopolistic policies of giant technology companies. The session also tackled the requirements for attracting investments necessary to implement the digital economy.

In the same session, cybersecurity challenges were tackled in a paper presented by Dr. Amiruddin Abdul-Wahab, CEO of Malaysia’s Cyber Security Agency. Abdul-Wahab highlighted the need for an integrated approach to confront the risks threatening financial and economic institutions.

The third session of the forum was chaired by Sidi Ould TAH, director-general of the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa, who discussed the potential for the digital economy to assist in sustainable development for emerging economies

In this regard, Amani El-Rayes, vice president of INP for training, consultations and community affairs, provided a detailed analysis of the country’s role in supporting the digital economy by building basic economic infrastructure for small and medium enterprises.

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