Umnia Bank will have 10 branches in Morocco by July-end, said Abdulbasit Ahmad al-Shaibei, chief executive officer of QIIB, which is the key joint venture partner in the pioneering Islamic bank in the North African kingdom.
“Umnia has already opened three branches in Morocco; in Casablanca and Rabat,” al-Shaibei said.
“We see Morocco as our gateway to North Africa. There is a huge potential for Islamic banking in North Africa. There is a huge market waiting to be tapped in North Africa, which is in need of Shariah-based, value-driven banking,” al-Shaibei told Gulf Times in an interview.
Asked whether the general economic slowdown and the regional tension would result in a sluggish growth for Islamic banking, al-Shaibei said, “Islamic banking has already got a significant market share in the GCC region. Beyond our borders, there are good prospects for Islamic banking.”
Umnia Bank is the result of a partnership among QIIB, Credit immobilier et hotelier (CIH) and Moroccan Deposit and Management Fund.
Umnia Bank has formulated an operational strategy that focuses on expanding in various cities in the Kingdom of Morocco and offers innovative products, including everyday banking solutions, finance and investments as well as deposits and savings.
In 2015, QIIB had signed a joint venture agreement with Morocco’s CIH Bank for the establishment of a bank in the kingdom. This step followed a detailed feasibility study conducted by QIIB taking into consideration all factors such as the expected returns on investment and other market factors.
In an earlier interview, al-Shaibei had also said with the entry of Islamic banks, more channels would be opened in Morocco.
“There will be new channels for government sukuk…even semi-government projects will be able to tap this new market in non-conventional banking. A lot of people are now outside the system because they can’t do business with conventional banks for religious reasons; they have a clear alternative now. This will add a lot of value to the Moroccan economy”.
Al-Shaibei also emphasised that the new JV bank in Morocco was not in competition with conventional banks. “Purely, we have a complementary role to play,” he said.
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