March 31, 2011 / 1:37 PM / 7 years ago

Mauritius launches its first Islamic bank

PORT LOUIS (Reuters) - Mauritius’ first fully-fledged Islamic bank launched operations on Thursday, as the Indian Ocean island seeks to become a regional Islamic banking hub.

Mauritius wants to tap into the roughly $1 trillion Islamic finance industry, and the central bank also plans to offer sharia-compliant short-term liquidity tools.

Hesham Shokry, chairman of Century Bank said its first two to three years would focus on wholesale banking and treasury and wealth management. Wholesale banking, he said, would comprise debt and equity capital markets and fund management.

“Corporate or institutions will now have access to funding alternatives, not only because our offerings will only be Sharia compliant products, but also because wholesale banking is quite different to traditional banking products or services,” he said.

Qatari investors and British American Investment Group are providing the capital.

Developing an Islamic finance industry on the Indian Ocean island that has a buoyant offshore banking sector has been a pet project of Bank of Mauritius Governor Rundheersing Bheenick.

“We need to develop our own niche market and strive to become a regional hub for Islamic finance,” Bheenick told the bank’s launching ceremony late on Tuesday.

The palm-fringed island’s growing offshore financial sector pitches itself as a financial platform bridging Africa, the Indian sub-continent and Asia.

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