India: IBF launches institute of Islamic microfinance
A number of Shariah compliant brokerage services have appeared on the scene. However, beneficiaries of such services exclude very large sections of Indian Muslims who are poor and have very little savings or investment potential. Further, major regulatory constraints remain that preclude the possibility of establishing mainstream Islamic banks and insurance companies in India in the short-run. Realizing this, IBF Net has decided to focus on Islamic microfinance and entrepreneurship development as an immediate and appropriate approach to introduction of Islamic finance in India. IBF Net has recently established an institution dedicated to this cause: the Institute of Microfinance and Development (IMAD) in the state of Orissa, arguably one of the most economically backward and poverty-ridden regions on the planet. IMAD aims to serve as a center of excellence to promote participation and equity based financing and development of microenterprises as a tool of poverty alleviation. It aims to provide on-campus education in management of development, design and offer training programs for managers of microfinance institutions, non-profits, cooperatives and government agencies with a developmental role. It has a definite plan to offer Master’s Degree Programs in (i) Rural Development and (ii) Social Welfare under university affiliation from academic year 2009. The Master’s Programs would be supplemented by optional modules on Islamic leadership, entrepreneurship and microfinance.
IMAD currently offers opportunities to aspiring researchers and consultants to pursue PhD program in microfinance, entrepreneurship and related areas. It is also offering a series of International Training Programs and Workshops in major cities during the year 2008. A training program on Introduction to Islamic Finance and a workshop on Islamic Microfinance is scheduled to be held in Chennai during October 04-05, 2008; in New Delhi during October 11-12, 2008 and in Mumbai during December 27-28, 2008. It has lined up an impressive panel of speakers from India and overseas from organizations, such as, Islamic Development Bank, Muslim Aid, Islamic Relief Worldwide, Indonesian Center for Microenterprise Incubation among others. Participants are expected from across India and countries, such as, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Bangladesh and others. Further details about activities and programs of IMAD are available at its website (www.imad.in). IMAD also aims to undertake research & publication on solidarity finance and developmental issues; provide advisory, consultancy and support services to microfinance institutions; promote networking at a global level; initiate replication of globally successful projects; and provide related services aimed at capacity building in the sector.
Though the Indian poverty alleviation initiatives have drawn world-wide appreciation for their innovation and outreach, they have largely failed to take the religious or cultural sensitivities of the Muslim population into account. A large number of indigenous Islamic member-based MFIs (Baitul-Maals) have sprung up in Indian cities and small towns as a response to this challenge. These Baitul Maals – if strengthened and rejuvenated with better management and control systems, injection of capital, greater transparency and disclosure – have an enormous potential of making a dent on poverty among the millions of Muslim men and women. IMAD’s efforts in capacity building would be specifically directed at these institutions.
IBF Net is an India-based global network of over 5000 bankers, finance professionals, academics and students interested in the field of Islamic business and finance. It provides a range of professional certification programs through its online academy: the International Institute of Islamic Business and Finance (www.iiibf.org). The following education programs in online mode are currently being offered: (i) Certified Islamic Banker (CeIB); (ii) Certified Islamic Insurance Professional (CeIIP); and (iii) Certified Islamic Investment Professional. The programs are entirely administered through the Internet.