Islamic Mutual Fund Adds Trade Finance Investments
Azzad Asset Management, based in Falls Church, Virginia, announced that it has added investments in ethical trade finance deals.
These investments may provide returns for investors while helping underserved populations in Asia and Africa obtain reasonable financing to grow businesses and cooperatives.
The Azzad Wise Capital Fund (WISEX) is the first halal fixed-income fund in the United States. By investing primarily in Islamic bonds (sukuk) and community development banks, it can provide an alternative fixed-income investment option that contributes to social development without dealing in interest-based transactions.
Through WISEX Azzad is participating in a group of syndicated ethical trade finance deals arranged by the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC), an unaffiliated entity. The ITFC, an organization under the auspices of the Islamic Development Bank Group, is charged with advancing trade and improving the economic conditions of people around the world.
The ITFC helps businesses gain better access to trade finance without exorbitant rates of interest or fraud and provides them with the necessary trade-related capacity building tools to help them compete successfully in the global market. Using alternative financing methods based on profit-and-loss sharing, the ITFC has been able to provide favorable terms of trade to entities ranging from fair trade coffee cooperatives in Indonesia to groundnut farmers in Gambia.
“A lack of reasonable trade financing results in huge missed opportunities to leverage the power of trade for growth and development,” said Azzad Vice President and Portfolio Manager Jamal Elbarmil. “Providing affordable trade finance can unlock the trading potential of millions of individuals and small businesses in underserved parts of Asia and Africa. In line with our mission to use investment capital to promote a sustainable economy, we are pleased to participate in this process.”
According to the World Bank, extreme poverty has fallen dramatically in emerging economies over the last 30 years. Between 1981 and 2011, the percentage of people in the developing world living on less than $2 per day fell from 70 percent to 36 percent.
The United Nations says that trade has been a primary reason for this poverty reduction. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon called trade finance “the lifeline of trade,” saying that “access to affordable flows of trade financing” is a key step to allow developing countries to “integrate in world trade.” The estimated value of unmet demand for trade finance is between $110 and $120 billion in Africa and over $1 trillion in Asia.