UK-based bank Standard Chartered is considering Islamic banking opportunities in North Africa now that Islamist parties are set to form governments in Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia.

“Political developments in North Africa indicate that 2012 will have strong focus on Islamic banking, so there is an opportunity for growth there. It is difficult to say whether we will establish our Islamic banking presence there, but we will consider moving in when the time is right,” says Wasim Saifi, global head of Islamic banking, consumer banking, at Standard Chartered.

Most recently, Nigeria and Oman have allowed Islamic banks to enter the market. According to Saifi, there is increasingly clear regulatory focus and a direction to grow Islamic banking around the world.

“Islamic banking is growing at twice the pace of commercial banking. The Islamic institutions are growing and becoming more sophisticated. There are still a lot of opportunities for growth, about 80 per cent of Muslims still bank with commercial banks,” says Saifi.

The company predicts that Islamic banking assets in the UAE will account for 38 per cent of total consumer banking assets next year, and Islamic liabilities to constitute 27 per cent.  

Standard Chartered announced new consumer services for its Islamic banking division, Saadiq, which includes sharia-compliant solutions for individuals and small to medium enterprises (SMEs).