JEDDAH - Dr. Muhammad Sulaiman Al Jasser, Chairman of the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) Group, has said that his group has provided US$165.630.5 billion to finance development projects in various economic sectors, since its launch and up to 30th June, 2022.

In an interview with the Emirates News Agency (WAM), Dr. Al Jasser said that food security is a major issue facing the member states of the IsDB, which is promoting smart agriculture and the need to increase strategic food reserves in these countries.

By 2025, the bank hopes to make at least 35 percent of its new operations environmentally friendly, and it is cooperating with the UAE by offering technical support to ensure the success of the 28th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP28), which it is also currently doing with Egypt for COP27, to be held in Sharm El Sheikh.

This cooperation will enable the bank to help transfer the UAE’s pioneering and advanced digitisation expertise to its other member states through its "Reverse Linkage" mechanism, which aims to promote the exchange of knowledge and experiences.

He thanked WAM for giving him this opportunity to speak about IsDB’s activities and development-related issues and challenges. He talked about the close relationship between the IsDB and the UAE, which is one of the bank’s founding countries and a major stakeholder.

Below is the full interview:

- What are your support mechanisms for member states that enable them to address current economic challenges?

The bank’s main goal is to support the social and economic development of its member countries, and its strategic objectives revolve around this mission and are reflected by its financing of many major projects in various sectors, such as agriculture, healthcare, education, transportation, energy, industry, mining, urban development, water and sanitation, information and communication technology, digitalisation and finance.

The bank has also financed various projects over the past years, including those empowering women and the youth, countering climate change, supporting non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and civil society groups, facilitating the exchange of knowledge and expertise and regional cooperation, and encouraging economic integration among member countries.

- The need to maintain food security was made more urgent by the COVID-19 pandemic and the conflict in Eastern Europe. What related measures has the IsDB implemented as a response to the urgent needs of its member states?

Maintaining food security is a key challenge facing most IsDB’s member states, especially low-income countries suffering from food shortages and weak supply chains, while simultaneously depending on imports. The conflict in Eastern European and the drought that hit Eastern Africa are also causes of recent food price hikes.

In response to these challenges, in July 2022, the IsDB adopted a comprehensive food security response programme worth US$10.54 billion to support member states in addressing the food crisis. The bank is also assisting the efforts to increase the resilience of its member states against future food crises.

Therefore, the bank will focus on supporting eco-friendly smart agriculture that will increase productivity, ensure food security and maintain the strategic food reserves of its member states, as well as enable small farmers to access markets and attract agricultural investment.

- In November 2023, the UAE will host COP28. Can you tell us about the details of your cooperation with the UAE and what are your target sectors?

The bank is proactively adopting green economy and sustainability standards in its financial operations, so it set a target of having least 35 percent of its new operations as climate-sensitive by 2025, meaning that it will concurrently assess the need to adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change.

Under its plan to address climate change and its repercussions, the bank launched a leading Shariah-compliant financing programme, titled, "Green Sukuk", with the aim of encouraging the adoption of green projects and reducing the negative effects of other developmental projects on the climate.

- Digitisation is crucial to a variety of sectors. What is the bank’s strategy for supporting member states in this area?

The IsDB is currently updating its strategy to ensure that its activities are in line with the ever-changing requirements of its member countries, by prioritising their efforts to achieve recovery and build resilience.

The bank is also helping its member countries make their healthcare systems more inclusive and sustainable, as well as bridge the digital divide, preventing some half a billion children from continuing their education during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is also supporting the digitisation of various economic and governmental sectors in its member countries.

Through its Reverse Linkage mechanism, the bank can help spread the UAE’s advanced expertise in this area to other member states.

- What are the effects of the digital economy and virtual economy on the real economy?

The technological advancements of recent decades led to the Fourth Industrial Revolution based on digitalisation and AI. The major effects on the real economy can be summarised in two words, acceleration and temporary confusion.

Innovation accelerates growth and creates major opportunities, especially in the services sector and with high added value. On the other hand, the rapid adoption of new innovations has led to the restructuring of the labour market and changed priorities, due to the urgent need to train and qualify human capital and re-organise to keep pace with these new innovations.

- During its previous meeting, the IsDB’s Board of Executive Directors agreed to provide funds worth US$1.12 billion for development projects in its member states. What are the features of these projects?

The ISDB’s Board of Executive Directors approved funds to finance development projects valued at US$1.12 billion, which will cover many key sectors and infrastructure projects, include those in the areas of food security, health, transportation, energy, urban development, education, and water and sanitation.

These projects will improve the living standards of target categories in member countries, as well as support their economic growth. The board also approved an aid package worth US$1.79 million to finance other projects, including facilitating market access in Yemen, as well as special aid for Muslim communities in three non-member countries earmarked for upgrading school facilities and offering quality education and skills training to young people to encourage their economic and social participation.

- What is the total value of financing provided by the IsDB to member states up to the end of the first quarter of 2022?
Since its launch and up to 30th June, 2022, the IsDB has provided US$165.630.5 billion to finance development projects in various economic sectors.

The Islamic Corporation for the Insurance of Investment and Export Credit, the insurance arm of the IsDB Group, has insured trade and investment operations in its 48 member countries for US$83.3 billion.

To mitigate the risks facing these operations, the corporation offers insurance solutions and services that comply with the Islamic Sharia.

- How many regional offices does the bank have? And what are their roles?

In order to provide fast and flexible solutions to assist the development of member countries, the IsDB has been keen to decentralise.

To create opportunities for communication and coordination and facilitate the implementation of the IsDB Group’s projects, it responded to the request of some member countries for local representation.

It established 10 regional centres in some member states, in addition to the Centre of Excellence in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, while a new regional centre is being constructed in the UAE. The bank’s regional centres enable it to better meet the needs of member states while improving performance and increasing efficiency.

Decentralisation will accelerate the implementation of the group’s projects and reduce costs, as well as enable its regional offices to promote communication among the general public, provide news to the media and coordinate with them, and cooperate with the business sector.