The Collapse of SVB: A Contagion Risk for the Next Financial Crisis?

By Syed Zain Abbas Rizvi

The Great Recession seems like an eternity in the past. As an economic scholar, I didn’t even witness the financial meltdown up close but read about the absolute chaos emanating from the noughties in books and academic entries. Over the course of the last decade, I am sure I wasn’t the only one used to the regulatory guardrails introduced in the wake of the economic collapse. It has been somewhat reassuring that the world would not witness such broad-based economic disruption again or that it would be at least relatively deftly handled before it gets out of hand.

The recent collapse of the Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) dares to question that sentiment of reassurance. And the timing could not be more consequential.

The failure of SVB has sent shockwaves through the financial community, with some analysts drawing parallels between the bank’s downfall and the 2008 financial crisis. SVB was a well-capitalized institution seeking to raise funds, but a panic induced by the very venture capital community it served and nurtured ended its 40-year run within 48 hours.

Regulators shuttered SVB last Friday and seized its deposits in the most significant banking failure in the United States since Washington Mutual went bust in 2008 – and the second-largest ever. SVB was ranked the 16th biggest bank in America at the end of last year, with about $209 billion in assets.

The roots of the SVB collapse stem from dislocations spurred by higher rates. As start-up clients withdrew deposits to keep their companies afloat in a chilly environment for IPOs and private fundraising, SVB found itself short on capital. Read more>>

Saturna Unveils Shariah-Compliant Investment Platform for Digital Investors

Saturna Sdn Bhd, a Shariah-compliant financial services company, today (9 March) officially launched its digital platform to help investors grow their wealth ethically and securely.

The online tool allows individuals to start their investment journey with just a few clicks, guided by Saturna’s deep expertise in the world of Islamic finance. Unlike other offerings currently available in the market, Saturna takes an investor-friendly approach by charging no sales or redemption fees and no hidden charges. Potential investors can also enjoy flexibility as Saturna’s funds have no minimum holding period.

“Our new online platform is designed to be simple and secure for a seamless user experience,” said Shahariah Binti Shaharudin, President of Saturna Sdn Bhd. “It is accessible enough for anyone to start investing in Shariah-compliant solutions immediately, regardless of their experience or investment budget.”

The launch of Saturna’s digital platform was officiated by Ruslena Ramli, Director of Digital Finance and Islamic Digital Economy, Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC), who expressed her hope that more organizations in the Islamic finance space will adopt innovative solutions to further grow the industry. “With this online platform, Saturna has led the way in making Islamic-based investment opportunities available to a wider audience, allowing more people to benefit from the wealth of expertise they have to offer,” said Ruslena.

In addition to Islamic principles, Saturna’s funds also comply with global environmental, social, and governance (ESG) standards, investing in companies with socially responsible and environmentally friendly business practices or products. Read more>>

From Japan to the World: How Halal Wagyu Beef is Making its Mark

By our Special Correspondent

Halal wagyu beef is a premium meat gaining popularity worldwide due to its unique flavor, tenderness, and high quality. It is a type of beef that is produced according to halal standards, which means that it is slaughtered in a way that is humane and follows Islamic dietary laws. Halal wagyu beef has become particularly popular in Muslim-majority countries, with a growing demand for high-quality halal meat.

The origins of wagyu beef can be traced back to Japan, where it has been raised for over 200 years. The word “wagyu” literally translates to “Japanese cow” and refers to four breeds of Japanese native to Japan: Japanese Black, Japanese Brown, Japanese Shorthorn, and Japanese Polled. These breeds are known for their marbling and fat distribution throughout the muscle tissue. The marbling gives wagyu beef a unique flavor and tenderness, making it a highly sought-after meat.

Halal Wagyu beef is a premium product produced following Islamic dietary laws. Wagyu beef comes from a specific breed of Japanese cattle known for its high-quality marbling and tenderness. At the same time, halal refers to any permissible food or drink according to Islamic law. Halal Wagyu beef is produced by raising cattle following Islamic principles and slaughtering them in a specific manner.

The significance of halal Wagyu beef lies in its cultural and religious importance to Muslims worldwide. Muslims make up a significant portion of the global population and have specific dietary requirements that must be met for food to be considered halal. Halal Wagyu beef offers a premium beef product that meets these requirements and is enjoyed by Muslims worldwide.

The process of producing halal Wagyu beef involves several steps to ensure that the meat is halal. First, the cattle used to make the beef must be raised following Islamic principles. This includes providing them with adequate food, water, and living conditions. The animals must also be treated with care and respect. Read more>>

Africa Islamic Economic Foundation, Saylor Academy Partner to Leverage Free Education for Sustainable Skill Development

Africa Islamic Economic Foundation (AFRIEF) is very pleased to announce a new partnership with Saylor Academy, to provide flexible, affordable learning opportunities for AFRIIEF’s communities and those interested in joining its programs. As part of AFRIIEF’s mission to support human capital development across the African continent, learners will be able to earn certificates in key career skills (such as Decision-Making, Leadership, technology entrepreneurship and others) from Saylor Academy’s catalog of free courses.

AFRIIEF and Saylor Academy both recognize that learners, such as those served by AFRIIEF’s programs, lead increasingly busy and complex lives. They require flexible education options to balance skill development with work and family demands. This partnership allows students to develop skills that are in-demand now for free, and will help them become even more competitive once they enter the marketplace.

“This collaboration marks an exciting chapter for the Africa Islamic Economic Foundation (AFRIEF) as it will leverage on Saylor Academy’s rich experience, Global network and strength to propel Africa’s rapid economic and social development” states Baba Yunus Muhammad, President of AFRIEF. “We believe that the two organizations have complementary capabilities and we are very excited at the opportunity of combining these to create strong synergies in both career and talent development that will not only facilitate, but hasten our movement towards our goal of increased economic and career opportunities for Africans everywhere.”

“The partnership between AFRIEF and Saylor Academy provides access to affordable and flexible learning opportunities to support skill development across the African continent,” says Jeff Davidson, Executive Director of Saylor Academy. “AFRIEF’s human capital development efforts align well with Saylor’s mission of providing access to learners everywhere.” Read more>>


The Africa Islamic Economic Foundation (AFRIEF), an independent Islamic economic development organization and the Institute of Chartered Economists of Nigeria (Lagos Branch), a chartered institution committed to the raising of professional economists in Nigeria have announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), with a general objective to have an association to foster the development of  Islamic economics, capacity building in Islamic finance and entrepreneurship in the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The partnership also envisages a joint collaboration to support the Lagos State Government to implement the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The partnership is a culmination of several exploratory engagements between AFRIEF and the Institute of Chartered Economists of Nigeria (Lagos Branch) on how to synergize their respective strengths, expertise, and resources to foster sustainable development in the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Combining expertise in international investment facilitation, improving the quality of life and opportunities for citizens, or responding to the needs of Global changes, project planning and operations with a sophisticated knowledge of implementation strategies, the two organizations have also agreed to jointly launch a wide range of projects in areas involving trade and investment facilitation, public policy, economic and competitive intelligence, project and financial feasibility, market research, and economic development in the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Read more>>

A Glimpse into The Global Halal Industry [2023]

The Halal industry is much more than just food on your plate. It’s a way of life that encompasses the entire ecosystem, from food production to consumerism.  The Halal industry is a booming global market. The global Islamic economy comprises seven sectors — Islamic finance, Halal food, modest fashion, media and recreation, Muslim-friendly travel, pharmaceutical, and cosmetics.

It is estimated that the global Halal market will be increased by trillions in 2027, making it one of the fastest-growing industries in the world today. Recent years have seen a surge in global awareness of sustainability, ethical consumption, green growth, and digitization, enabling the Halal industry to flourish worldwide.

What is Halal?

The word ‘Halal’ comes from Arabic which means “allowed” or “permissible” according to Islamic law. Therefore, every Muslim must ensure that whatever they consume comes from a Halal source—not just the ingredients but also the entire production and handling process from start to finish (Zakaria, 2008). The definition given by Jabatan Kemajuan Islam Malaysia (JAKIM) in Trade Description Order 2011 covers products and services encompassing all the business operations like packaging, marketing, manufacturing, logistics, supply, maintaining premises, slaughtering, and so on (JAKIM, 2015). Read more>>

What China’s $540 Million Energy Deal with Taliban in Afghanistan Means

By  Syed Raiyan Amir

The Taliban celebrated the signing of their first international deal since taking power in August 2021 with a televised event on January 5, 2023. The document signed is a contract for the exploitation of oil reserves in northern Afghanistan with a Chinese business. In accordance with the agreement, Xinjiang Central Asia Petroleum and Gas Co (CAPEIC) will contribute $150 million annually to Afghanistan, rising to $540 million for the 25-year contract in three years. The initiative is focused on a 4,500 square-kilometer region that spans three northern Afghan provinces: Sar-e Pol, Jowzjan, and Faryab. The latter two are Turkmenistan’s borders. After the US soldiers withdrew in August 2021 and the Taliban overthrew the U.S.-backed government, Afghanistan’s aid-dependent economy crumbled. The administration is attempting to stabilize the economy by luring in investments that will provide work for Afghans who are suffering from hardship. One of the few available economic choices is the development of mines and hydrocarbon resources where energy can play a significant role. Besides, in the regional domain, China can play an important role in terms of political and economic prospects. Hence the deal came across. Read more>>

Why Has Islamic Finance Not Been Able To Reduce Poverty in Muslim Countries?

By our Special Correspondent

Islamic finance is a financial system based on principles derived from the teachings of Islam. It aims to provide an alternative to the traditional, interest-based financial system, which is considered haram (forbidden) in Islam. One of the main goals of Islamic finance is to promote economic development and reduce poverty in Muslim countries. This is achieved by investing in socially responsible and ethical projects that provide a tangible benefit to society, and by sharing profits and losses among investors.

However, despite its noble goals, Islamic finance has faced numerous challenges in its efforts to reduce poverty in Muslim countries. In this blog, we will examine the principles of Islamic finance and the challenges it has faced in promoting economic development and reducing poverty in Muslim countries. We will also look at case studies of successful Islamic finance initiatives and consider ways in which Islamic finance can be better utilized to achieve its goal of reducing poverty and promoting economic development in Muslim countries.

Background on poverty in Muslim countries

Poverty is a persistent problem in many Muslim-majority countries. According to the World Bank, over 30% of the population in Muslim-majority countries lived below the international poverty line of $1.90 per day in 2015. This is a higher poverty rate than the global average of 9.2%.

Several factors contribute to poverty in Muslim countries. One major factor is conflict and insecurity. Many Muslim-majority countries have experienced ongoing conflicts or civil wars, which have disrupted economic activity and led to the widespread displacement of people. These conflicts have also disrupted the delivery of basic services such as education and healthcare, which can further exacerbate poverty. Read more>>

China’s Demand for Africa’s Donkeys is Rising. Why it’s Time to Control the Trade

By Lauren Johnston

In recent years, there’s been a huge, rising demand for donkey hides in China, where they are used to make an ancient health-related product called ejiaoEjiao is made from collagen that’s been extracted from donkey hides mixed with herbs and other ingredients to create medicinal and health consumer products. It’s believed to have properties that strengthen the blood, stop bleeding and improve the quality of both vital fluids and sleep.

Ejiao sells for about US$783 per kilo and the Chinese market for it has increased from about US$3.2 billion in 2013 to about US$7.8 billion in 2020. This recent rise in demand is driven by several factors, including rising incomes, popularization of the product via a television series, and an ageing population (age is a key demographic driving demand). In addition, ejiao is sometimes prescribed by doctors and the cost can newly be covered by health insurance. The demand for ejiao has led to a shortage of donkeys in China and increasingly worldwide. Countries in Africa have been particularly affected.

Africa is home to the highest number of donkeys in the world: about two-thirds of the estimated global population of 53 million donkeys in 2020. Exact figures on how many hides are exported to China aren’t available due to a growing illicit trade, but there are indications. A study of South Africa’s donkey population, for instance, suggests that it went from 210,000 in 1996 to about 146,000 in 2019. This was attributed to the export of donkey hides.

In a recent paper I examined the trends, issues and prospects for the Africa–China donkey trade. My information came from interviews, literature and news reviews in English and Chinese. My findings are that the scale of the donkey trade, both illicit and legal, poses a challenge for many countries in Africa, especially in terms of its impact on the most marginalized communities. Besides donkey welfare, a big part of the challenge is how affordable donkeys are locally. Donkeys have a valuable, ancient role as a workhorse and losing access to them creates a huge problem for poor households. The other part of the challenge is regulatory. Only when the donkey hide trade is fully regulated – and export numbers are able to be very limited – might the trade work without adverse consequences for the poor. Read more>>

Indonesia’s Opportunity to Maximize Cultural Identity through Indonesian Style Muslim Fashion

By Nani Septianie

Indonesia is a country rich in cultural diversity, where the diversity of Indonesian culture is not only culture from the aspect of dance and music, but Indonesia is also a country rich in creativity in the field of industrial art, especially industrial fashion through Muslim fashion combined with clothing patterns that introduce Indonesian culture. This can be proven by Indonesia being targeted as the center of the global halal industry through Muslim fashion products which are potential commodities for the international market (Susilawati, 2021, #). Where the patterns given on the clothes are an Indonesian art that not only has values ​​in appearance, but batik also has beauty on the spiritual side which through the patterns formed in local pattern cloth, it also has deep philosophical meaning through its decoration. Some of the factors that influence the formation of the Indonesian style include geographical location, nature, regional livelihoods, beliefs, and customs in an area, as well as the surrounding natural conditions including flora and fauna. Indonesia’s excellence in the art of the Muslim fashion industry through Indonesian patterns can be an opportunity for Indonesia to be maximized. According to the Indonesian Stock Exchange channel, the Vice President of Indonesia, Ma’ruf Amin at the Road to Jakarta Muslim Fashion Week event in 2022, explained that Indonesian Muslim fashion currently reflects the cultural diversity of the archipelago (Mufrida, 2022). Indonesian Muslim clothing has its own uniqueness in the patterns that are in Muslim clothing. Read more>>