Wissam Fattouh, Secretary General of the Union of Arab Banks (UAB), announced that UAB targets studying and pointing out the negative impacts of the Arab uprisings on economy, setting strategies for the recovery of Arab economies, boosting Arab economic solidarity and bolstering Arab-Arab relations in a way to keep economic safety as well as increasing efforts to face the challenges and improve the Arab-International banking relations.
Before launching the Arab Banking Conference 2012, UAB opened a regional office for North Africa in Tunisia, throughout the turmoil the region witnessed in 2011, Fattouh said in his interview with Amwal Al Ghad.
Central Bank of Tunisia approved that UAB’s office will be at the Tunisia’s Professional Association of Banks and Financial Institutions. Both offices will start business during the first half of the current year. In addition, the Union’s office in Abu Dhabi will resume its work again as a regional office for Arab Gulf Cooperation Council countries (AGcCC).
What are the most important topics on the agenda of the Arab Banking Conference 2012?
Arab Banking Conference will discuss important topics such as the importance of Arab economic security, ways of bolstering relations among Arab countries and the challenges and prospects of Arab-Arab financial and investment relations.
The conference is organized by UAB in collaboration with Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates, Emirates Banks Association, World Union Of Arab Bankers and regional and international organizations, under the name of “Challenges of the Arab Economic Security”.
The Conference will discuss also the concept of green economy as a way for implementing sustained growth subject to environmental conditions.
What are the Union of Arab Banks’ strategies this year?
The Union’s strategies this year include a study for the Arab transmission reflections and confining the causalities and activating the Arab economic cooperation to set mechanism and plans to limit challenges as well rooting the Arab relations in order to keep the economic security for countries and nations.
What are the conference’s aims?
The conference has many aims; one of its prominent is finishing the first phase of the Arab banking network and launching the pre-paid card, in addition to reactivating the center of mediating and controlling, providing a project for amending and developing the center’s system. In addition to that, is to join the foreign banks in the Arab counties to the Union’s membership under the name “the Participant Members”, but on one condition to work under the supervision of the Central Bank and to become members in the local Arab banks assemblies in each country.
Also it aims to enhance the administration of researches and studies, as the issues this year will include a number of books encyclopedia, one of this book is “the Arab Banking Laws and Legislations”, the Islamic Arab Banking encyclopedia and the banks and the Arab banking institutions.
Do you have any special plans for inaugurating the Union regional office in Abu Dhabi?
We have a plan for enhancing the Union’s activity in a number of countries; Iraq is one of them, jointly with United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Union of Iraqi Banks. The second country is Saudi Arabia, jointly with the Trade and Industry chamber in Jeddah and the Islamic Bank for Development, moreover, the Arab Maghreb Countries. This will be through the Union’s office in Tunis and preparing programs in French language, in coordination with French banking and governmental institutions, one of them is the French Banks assembly and also Ecole Supérieure des Affaires (ESA) in Lebanon.
Were the UAB’s expansion plans adversely affected by the Arab Spring Revolts?
Despite the difficulties the Arab region encountered during 2011, the UAB has managed to turn these difficuties into challenges which then turned into successes. The UAB had made necessary contacts with the concerned entities such as the Central Bank, Emirates Banks Association and Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Union had obtained approvals to reactivate the Abu Dhabi office, as the regional office covering all the UAB’s activities in the GCC countries, and to establish a further regional office in Tunisia for the North Africa (Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania and Libya).
Additionally, the Union had received the approval of the Central Bank of Tunisia and made the Tunisian Banks Association responsible for the UAB’s Tunisian office. The Abu Dhabi and Tunisian office will start to work within the first half of the current year.
How would you describe the relation between the UAB and the international institutions?
The relation between them is doing great. The UAB communicates with the world’s financial and economic decision makers. The Union has signed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with international organizations, European and US banks associations such as the Euro Banking Association (EBA), the French Banking Federation (FBF), Italian Banking Association (ABI), World Bank and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
Moreover, the Union has worked on activating its relation with Arab Monetary Fund (AMF). We have managed to maintain an extensive network of strategic relations and alliances.
The Union has also established a network of communications and mutual cooperation with the international regulatory bodies so as to take part in drafting regulations and decisions issued by those bodies such as Basel Committee and Financial Action Task Force (FATF) on Money Laundering. The UAB would also be able to participate in periodic meetings held by these regulatory and legislative bodies.
Worth to mention that this participation did not occur before, so there would be an effective participation for the banking sector in drafting the international resolutions and recommendations after being a recipient only.
The UAB has recently become a member in the OECD’s International Network on Financial Education.
What are the strategic initiatives taken by UAB?
UAB has taken many initiatives in collaboration with top regional and international organizations such as “Mediterranean Partnership Fund” to support micro, small and medium enterprises which is launched by Italy’s foreign ministry. UAB signed a partnership contract with the Italian government to raise the awareness about banks’ role in financing SMEs and open lines of credit. The Union will be doing studies about the requirements which Arab countries need to implement social and economic development.
In addition, the Union participated in establishing “Union of Francophone Banks” as the Union organized Francophone Banking Summit in Paris in last March 2011, under the auspices of French president Nicolas Sarkozy and in the presence of the chairman of the International Monetary Fund. In addition, the Union has set guiding principles of social responsibility for Arab banks in collaboration with Schema Company and under the sponsorship of an American association to be launched at the next general assembly of UAB.
Besides, there is an initiative for establishing a joint committee between UAB and Islamic Development Bank as Dr. Ahmed Mohamed Ali, chairman of Islamic Development Bank Group, approved the Union’s offer to implement joint cooperation. A committee is composed to set plans including holding training programs about Islamic banking, mobilizing resources, issuing Arab Islamic Banking Encyclopedia, organizing joint conferences about Islamic Finance and issuing periodical publications.
What about the UAB’s training programs?
UAB held 39 symposiums in 2011 in Arab and foreign countries in which 248 financial and banking institutions participated and the total number of participants were 1176. In addition, UAB organized four conferences and three forums in which 700 financial and banking institutions participated.