TBY talks to Abdulla Mohammed Al Awar, CEO of the Dubai Islamic Economy Development Centre (DIEDC), on developing the Islamic economy and the halal industry.

Abdulla Mohammed Al Awar
Abdulla Mohammed Al Awar is the CEO of the Dubai Islamic Economy Development Centre (DIEDC), prior to which he was the CEO of the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) between 2009 and 2012. He has served as member of several committees and boards in Dubai including the Economic Committee of the Executive Council of Dubai, Dubai Free Zones Council, Borse Dubai, and the Investment Committee of the Emirates NBD Real Estate Fund. He holds a degree in Business Administration from the University of Colorado at Boulder, US.

What is the strategy of the Dubai Islamic Economy Development Centre (DIEDC) in promoting the development of the Islamic economy of Dubai?

The DIEDC was created to implement HH Sheikh Mohammed's vision to make Dubai the global capital of the Islamic economy. This will be done by implementing a comprehensive strategy that focuses on developing seven key sectors of the Islamic economy. The role of the center itself will be that of a facilitator. We will help our stakeholders, both government and private sector entities, to implement specific projects to accelerate the development of the Islamic economy within Dubai. DIEDC will develop an enabling and empowering environment, including the necessary legislative and regulatory framework, to support the growth of the Islamic economy. The center will also keep track of and promote economic activities that are sharia compliant. The “Dubai: Capital of Islamic Economy" strategy revolves around seven key strategic pillars, in which we will position Dubai to be the global reference and economic engine of Islamic finance, and a trusted name and solutions provider for the halal industry. In addition, we will also work with stakeholders to establish Dubai as a destination of choice for family-friendly tourism, as a pioneer of the Islamic digital economy and the capital of Islamic fashion, arts, and design. The center will also be a global knowledge resource for the Islamic economy, and will aim to position Dubai as a leader in Islamic economy standards and certification as part of its strategy.

Considering the different standards and procedures applied in different economic segments, how will you ensure greater normalization of the halal sector?

Dialogue is critical as we try to unify standards that already exist. What is missing is consensus. When it comes to the Muslim population and the needs of Muslims, there will always be differences because of the various schools of thought. But what we can promote through Dubai is the adoption of a universally accepted set of common standards or agreements that can be the foundations for locally implemented standards.

Focusing more on the general economy, the DIEDC has been conducting research into which segments are to be developed first as far as the Islamic economy is concerned. What were the results of this study?

The answer lies in the seven key pillars of the “Dubai: Capital of Islamic Economy" strategy. We have identified several initiatives under each pillar, which in turn would accelerate the development of Islamic economic activities. One example is the opportunity in the takaful industry, specifically in terms of re-takaful, as this sector is under-served globally. Studies show that there are just 19 fully-fledged re-takaful companies, and on a global scale 19 companies is negligible. Therefore, there is an opportunity to create a national champion for re-takaful that is based in Dubai, and one that will provide re-takaful services and close that particular gap.

Dubai is pushing toward more diversified growth. What do you think will be the role of the Islamic economy in the next years?

If you look at the economic ecosystem for any given country, you are able to observe various sectors that contribute toward the development of national GDP. In Dubai, the Islamic economy will be a key sector that will contribute to the development of our broader economy. We feel the same about other jurisdictions and countries. In the Muslim world, the Islamic economy is a major contributor to the overall economy, and Islamic economic activities are becoming increasingly important in non-Muslim countries, such is the case for example with Islamic finance. Another good example of this can be found in the halal sector in Australia and New Zealand, where most of the slaughterhouses that produce meat are halal certified. The “wholesome" aspect of halal certification addresses quality of life, health, and hygiene, as well as other areas beyond simply compliance with sharia principles. This has caused broader global consumers, and suppliers in turn, to adopt such standards.