By Al Qalam Correspondent
Al Baraka Bank – headquarters in Durban – has received an international accolade after it was named as a country winner in Global Finance magazine’s “World’s Best Islamic Financial Institution” awards for 2021.
According to the influential American-based financial magazine, which runs the award programme annually, last year proved extremely difficult with lockdowns dampening economic activity. In a statement, the magazine said: “Major markets in the Middle East and other places, where energy is a crucial contributor to the economy, faced an additional challenge in the significant decline in the price of oil. That might have brought a great deal of damage to Islamic financial institutions. Yet banks and other financial entities that operate according to Shariah law performed well overall, according to data from S&P Global.”
The magazine reported that the winners of Global Finance’s Best Islamic Financial Institutions awards for 2021 “were those that achieved solid financial performance during this challenging period, together with a widened product portfolio, enhanced service, technology investment and increased market reach. For many banks, the 2020 pandemic brought forth the rewards of previous investment in technology.’
The magazine’s statement continued: “Al Baraka Bank in South Africa won a country award having recorded good growth in deposit-taking activities in 2020, with surplus cash invested in Shariah-compliant equity finance and Mudaraba deposits together with advances. The bank offers a wide suite of Islamic financing and investment products.”
Commenting on the prestigious international award, the bank’s Chief Executive, Shabir Chohan, said: “We are extremely grateful and most humbled by this international business accolade. The year 2020 so badly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic was a hugely difficult period for business and private citizens alike as the economic slide took an increasingly tighter grip on the world as necessarily stringent restrictions were brought into play. Our bank’s philosophy of continual improvement afforded us the resilience to withstand the economic turmoil which ensued and enabled us to maintain focus on our primary goal – the delivery to our customers of exceptional service and a comprehensive suite of Shariah-compliant financial products, regardless of the prevailing circumstances.”
Al Baraka Bank in South Africa was established in 1989 and, as a commercial bank, is the only fully-fledged Islamic financial institution in the country.
Chohan further stressed: “We have developed a most favourable growth trajectory in recent years and consider ourselves most fortunate to have been able to maintain a degree of growth in deposit taking during the crisis. Ours is a bank fully committed to delivering a highly professional, viable alternative to conventional banking in South Africa, one which has the best interests of its customers at heart and one which is wholly-committed to the provision, by our staff, of client service excellence as a way of life.”
The bank’s primary shareholder, the Bahrain-based Al Baraka Banking Group B.S.C., also received a Global Finance World’s Best Islamic Financial Institution’s award for 2021 and was named as the leading Islamic bank across the African continent.
The bank’s assets rose by 8% in 2020 to $28,2 billion. It has a presence in 17 countries, operating through more than 700 branches. It has the widest geographical reach among Islamic financial institutions, with a strong presence in Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt, Algeria, South Africa, Sudan and Libya. Outside of Africa, it has operations in Turkey, Germany, Jordan, Bahrain, Pakistan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia.
Al Baraka Banking Group Board member and Group Chief Executive Officer, Mazin Manna, said in a statement: “The onset of the pandemic motivated us even more to accelerate the implementation of our strategies in digital transformation in the Group and the Units to transform our electronic networks into effective platforms to provide all banking services. We will attach great importance to this aspect as digital banking will be the main channel for customer service and product delivery.”