Africa is a continent that is rich in natural resources and has growth drivers which are becoming increasingly diverse, led by resource-based, construction and services sectors. According to industry reports, in the next few years, it is estimated that seven out of the 10 fastest growing economies in the world will be in Africa. In addition, expected favourable demographics and closer regional ties are expected to further drive this growth, especially in East Africa. In terms of demographics, Africa currently has a population of more than one billion people with the population of young, middle-class Africans rising increasingly.
As per The Wealth Report 2017, over the last 10 years, the number of ultra-high net-worth individuals (UHNWIs) have risen by 13 per cent in Africa, and is expected to grow by 33 per cent in the next 10 years. In fact, of the 20 countries globally whose UHNWI population has grown the fastest over the last ten years, 11 are in Africa. Additionally, around 50 per cent of the total population is Muslim—which includes a high percentage of Muslim expats from Asia who have settled there. That is the reason why Africa is seen as a huge untapped market for Islamic banking.
The demand for Shari'ah-compliant products in Africa has been growing for both Muslims and non-Muslims, and most countries like Senegal, Uganda, Morocco, Kenya, Gambia and Nigeria, have already reformed banking laws to allow the setting up of Islamic institutions. To cater to this growing demand, there are over 50 financial institutions operating in Shari'ah-compliant finance space in Africa, according to industry reports. Various news reports have also indicated that Kenya has been at the forefront, with three Islamic banks as well as five conventional banks offering Shari'ah-compliant products, through dedicated Islamic windows.
However, the availability of Islamic banking products with regards to wealth management is practically non-existent and is a big opportunity for banks. There is enormous potential for UAE banks in particular, as many African companies leverage Dubai as their trading hub due to its geographical proximity and convenient access to other markets in Asia etc. This ensures that Dubai becomes the natural choice for Africans to invest their wealth, especially in real estate.
At Noor Bank, our wealth management team addresses numerous queries from existing and potential clients based in Africa, who are interested in investing our wealth management products such as Sukuk, structured products, mutual funds, Takaful products, as well as home finance solutions for UAE-based properties they wish to invest in.
Each client is assigned a dedicated relationship manager and has a dedicated customer service officer who caters to any financial queries the client may have. Apart from that, the client may also email us or call our 24/7 call-centre at any time they require assistance. Our client-servicing model for Africa is the same and is governed by a robust, cross-border regulatory framework which takes into account both Africa and UAE’s cross-border banking and compliance laws—and provides a seamless banking experience for our African clients. Going forward, we are keen to expand and capitalise further on this market opportunity, and will evaluate setting up offices there, based on a sound business case and should the right opportunity present