Gabon courts Islamic finance
By Steve Mbogo
The government of Gabon is to change its financial laws to authorize Islamic finance, in order to attract Shari'ah compliant FDI as part of the economic reforms it is currently implementing.
Gabon, one of the most sparsely populated African countries, with only 1.7m people, boasts rich oil reserves, significant forestry resources and major gold, diamond and manganese deposits. The government this week inaugurated its first Special Economic Zone, an initiative that has already attracted investments of $1.8bn and now has an eye on SWFs and MENA government money.
An official from the Export Promotion Agency, who requested to remain anonymous, confirmed that the reform of the financial laws was expected soon.
Gabon is located in Central Africa and less than 2% of its population is Muslim. The focus of the government of President Ali-Ben Bongo Ondimba is to become a regional investment hub. The country is currently engaged in a fast-track investment drive to industrialization by encouraging the processing of its natural resources in the country rather than just exporting raw material, something it's done for the last 50 years.
Part of the reason for encouraging Islamic finance is so that the country can issue instruments like sovereign Sukuk in the international capital markets to help finance its infrastructure projects.
As part of the planned reforms in the financial law, the country recently hosted a conference to find out how Islamic finance can be rolled out across the Economic Community of Central African States (CEMAC). The region uses a common central bank and common currency known as CFA.
© The Islamic Globe 2011
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