Trend's exclusive interview with Ayman Amin Sejiny, the CEO of the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the private sector (ICD).
Since the COVID-19 outbreak, many international organizations had to operatively react to the changes and make changes to the usual ways of cooperating and offering support to various countries. Is this true for ICD and Azerbaijan?
During the COVID-19 outbreak, the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD), the private sector development arm of the Islamic Development Bank Group (IsDBG) also reacted to changes and announced an emergency package of $250 million. This sum is part of a larger program of $2.3 Billion package established by IsDBG. Funds will mainly be directed to banks in our member countries including Azerbaijan. This is how we envision to assist SMEs in Azerbaijan during the COVID-19 outbreak.
In what ways did COVID-19 change ICD-Azerbaijan’s established relations?
During this pandemic, we observed that many financial institutions are suffering from slower procedures, complex bureaucracies, and rigid hierarchies. Therefore, in order to strengthen our global network of financial institutions and to arrange easy access to financing resources, ICD has developed an online dedicated platform (“The Bridge”). The objective is to focus on partnership with member countries such as Azerbaijan, and major regional financial institutions which target the same markets and sectors. ICD plays an important role in supporting the private sector and developing Islamic finance in its member countries, including Azerbaijan. We look forward to having more collaboration in Azerbaijan during the coming months and years via The Bridge platform.
Which activities are ICD currently focusing on as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to hit countries globally?
I am aware countries in the CIS region are seeking diverse sources of funding in order to face the negative economic impact resulting from COVID-19. At ICD, we have launched a Sukuk and capital markets development program which plays a tremendous role in facilitating the issuance of Sukuk (Shari'ah-compliant bond) by governments in our member countries as one of the potential sources for funding for their immediate financing requirements during this pandemic. We observe that almost all our member countries need financing in order to tackle this pandemic and require financing in order to improve the various key sectors, particularly in relation to healthcare.
Did the ICD’s focus on operations in Azerbaijan shift since the pandemic began? If so, in what ways?
No. There has been no shift.
What measures and steps has ICD taken in Azerbaijan since the COVID-19 pandemic began?
ICD has been operating in Azerbaijan since the year of 2003 and to date has provided financing of more than $180 million. ICD finances mainly small and medium enterprises in the country. Currently, my senior team members in charge of Azerbaijani operations are exploring potential opportunities for collaboration in Azerbaijan during this pandemic and after.
What goal is ICD looking to achieve in Azerbaijan amid the country’s COVID-19 battle?
ICD’s business model also focuses on supporting the private sector for better integration into global value chains through innovation, partnerships, and Islamic finance. ICD aspires to position itself as a strong reliable partner for Azerbaijan, assisting the sovereign in enhancing its competitiveness. As I already mentioned, the issuance of Sukuk (sharia-compliant bond) by Azerbaijan with ICD’s assistance, could be one of the potential sources of funding for immediate financing requirements during this pandemic.
What is also true for the work of ICD in other CIS countries in the context of COVID-19 imposed changes?
Currently, my senior team members are exploring potential deals in order to finance projects under the PPP mode of financing in the CIS region. PPP mode of financing is gaining huge interest amongst governments of the CIS region. There are various regional projects in the infrastructure space - more specifically within the healthcare, renewable energy, and education sectors. There are companies within ICD’s member countries such as Malaysia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia displaying great interest in collaborations regarding regional PPP deals.
What support measures ICD currently offers to CIS countries and what are the short- and long-term aims of this support?
Currently, my team members are exploring opportunities in CIS countries in order to provide financing via the COVID-19 $250 million emergency package. These funds will be mainly directed to banks in CIS countries such as Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan.
What CIS countries are yet to be supported during the COVID-19 battle by the ICD?
As of today, we received requests from banks in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.
What are the main highlights of ICD’s work in Azerbaijan over the years?
ICD is the founder of Ansar Leasing (AL), the first Shari’ah-compliant leasing company in Azerbaijan. AL was co-founded jointly with Caspian International Investment Company (CIIC), a state-owned Shari’ah-compliant investment company and first of its kind. As I mentioned earlier, the PPP mode of financing is gaining a huge interest in ICD member countries. Azerbaijan can benefit using the PPP mode of financing pursuant to the health, renewable energy, and education sectors. I also invite Azerbaijan private sector representatives to benefit from ICD’s global network of financial institutions and gain access to financing opportunities via an online dedicated platform (The Bridge).
Recent reforms implemented by the Azerbaijani government are also acknowledged. For the attraction of FDIs from GCC countries, Azerbaijan needs Islamic banking laws to be in place. Currently, there is no Islamic Banking Law in Azerbaijan; meanwhile, the development of Islamic finance legislation will facilitate FDI inflows into the country. The wide application of Islamic finance in Azerbaijan can open up many opportunities.
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