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Islamic Economic Forum – Datuk Syed Abu Bakar Almohdzar, Managing Director – Malaysia

02.10.2014 / Energyboardroom

“The World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF) has progressed into a globally recognised Foundation that helps build bridges through business within the Muslim world and beyond,” explains WIEF’s managing director Datuk Syed Abu Bakar Almohdzar. Themed “Innovative Partnerships for Economic Growth”, the 10th WIEF, held in Dubai in 2014, will offer a global platform for participants to establish innovative partnerships.


You arrived at the helm of the World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF) in 2008. What objectives did you set as the managing director?

I first joined the WIEF Foundation as a trustee in 2007. One year later, a permanent secretariat for the foundation was established, and I was honored to be appointed by the Chairman, Tun Musa Hitam, as the managing director. The establishment of the permanent secretariat was a very important move for the foundation as we began to invest more resources and commitment to achieve the forum’s objective, which is to promote trade, business and economic collaboration within, and beyond, the Muslim world.

I am personally a strong believer in business partnerships, especially cross-border collaborations, because they have an enormous potential to promote global peace and prosperity. As we continue to work towards engaging the governments, financial institutions, academicians and the business community in dialogues, we also recognise three crucial pillars in our quest to spur global economic growth and promote sustainability. These pillars are: women, young people, and education.

A smart, sustainable and inclusive economy should include these three elements. No one should be excluded or left behind if we were to attain a truly robust global economy. With this belief, the foundation has since then established the WIEF Businesswomen Network (WBN), the WIEF Young Leaders Network (WYN) and the WIEF Education Trust (WET). Under each framework, various programmes have been conceptualised to offer its community equal opportunities and resources so that they are empowered to play active roles in economic development.

What is the aim of each of these three goals of the organisation?

Despite its relatively short history, the WIEF has progressed into a globally recognised Foundation that helps build bridges through business within the Muslim world and beyond. It is undeniable that the foundation has played a key role in fostering relationships amongst countries and increasing cross-border trade activities. The wide range of issues incorporated in the forum and our activities together with innovative structures has allowed us to remain relevant for the benefit of all business people around the world.

With respect to women, it has always been our strong believe that women should enjoy a special place and be empowered accordingly to play an appropriate role in the society. The WIEF Businesswomen Network (WBN) is aimed at providing a networking platform for women entrepreneurs across the world to share expertise and acquire the necessary skills to attain economic self-sufficiency and independence. Programs under the WIEF Businesswomen Network (WBN) include the Regional WIEF Online Marketing Workshops, WIEF Women Entrepreneurial Retreat and WIEF AWESOME Workshop.

Same goes to the youth. The changing dynamics of the world has challenged the way business is carried out. New industries and global business giants are emerging on a daily basis. Weighing against this are political changes, economic instability and resource scarcity which has created demands for a new generation skilled with leadership. The key programme under the WYN is the WIEF Young Fellow Program, which is specially designed to shape future business leaders from all around the world. We aim to instill in them a profound entrepreneurial mind-set and a strong sense of social purpose. Another key programme is the MOCAfest, which is held annually in conjunction with the World Islamic Economic Forum. Its objective is to tap the potential of creative industries to enable economic empowerment.

As for education, I can really discuss this topic at length because education is such a powerful tool. It is the foundation of almost everything in this universe. The WIEF Education Trust (WET) is aimed at garnering support and resources from all around the world to provide education opportunities to the less fortunate and people at large. This is what the WIEF Foundation believes in and this is what we are dedicated to pursue in a small way for the benefit of a better world. The WET’s Global Discourse Series offers issue-based debates, some of the topics discussed were: nanotechnology, zero waste and etc. One newly established component under the WET is the WIEF Social Entrepreneurship Challenge. It targets to offer young people from the rural areas of Malaysia an opportunity to kick-start their career as a social entrepreneur.

To sum up everything, all these three elements essentially work towards the same direction, which is to enable every community of the world to participate in economic activities, and also to be benefited from the economic growth.

From what we have learned is that a lot has to be done in the field of education in Malaysia. What do you think you can achieve through the forum?

Our one simple goal for all the programmes under the WIEF Education Trust (WET) is to provide additional platforms for people to attain knowledge through our global network. We see our programmes complementing the mainstream education system by offering them the global exposure and hands-on experience. It is our commitment to provide support in any way we can when it comes to education.

Next month the forum will celebrate its tenth anniversary in Dubai, what can we expect this year from the forum?

The 10th WIEF is a high level platform for leading global government leaders, captains of industries, academicians, regional experts, professionals, corporate managers, policy makers, innovators, business leaders and investors to network and discuss opportunities for business partnerships. Dubai could not be a better place to host the 10th WIEF with its vision to play a key role in shaping the USD 8 trillion Islamic economy and be the global capital of Islamic economy.

Themed “Innovative Partnerships for Economic Growth”, the 10th WIEF will offer a global platform for participants to establish innovative partnerships to push through the seven pillars of the Dubai Capital of Islamic Economy initiative launched in 2013 namely, Islamic finance, Halal food industry, Halal tourism, Islamic digital economy, Capital of Islamic art and design, center for Islamic economy standards and certification, and international centre for Islamic information and education. We see promoting innovative partnership as an important dimension towards attaining overall economic well-being. It offers tremendous opportunities for players with varying expertise and resources to join forces and create joint ventures that are greater in value than the sum of their parts. Innovative partnership with the right synergy between the partners concerned will no doubt help provide a wider pool of knowledge and experience as well as increased productivity and efficiency to facilitate greater economic growth.

The Dubai Forum will also give more focus on interactive sessions that would allow more participants to engage on business related issues that are more direct interest to them. This year, two new sessions will be introduced for the Forum namely Business Exchange and Ideapad. Business Exchange is a thematic business matchmaking session. Selected companies will be given an opportunity to give 3-minute pitch on stage about their business in the presence of potential investors and collaborators. The session on Ideapad on the other hand will provide the opportunity for entrepreneurs and innovators with brilliant new ideas to make a 15-minute pitch on stage, to captivate an international crowd of potential partners and investors.

We expect the Business Exchange and Ideapad sessions to provide exciting opportunities and we hope to see more innovative business ideas taking flight with more partnerships sprouting across borders, all in the name of promoting peace and prosperity between nations.

I would also like to take this opportunity to invite all business people and your esteemed readers to attend our Forum in Dubai and to take advantage of the opportunities made available to all participants at the Forum. The 10th WIEF Forum will be held at Madinat Jumeirah Conference Centre Dubai on 28-30 October 2014. You are welcome to visit our website to find out more: www.10thwief.org.

Do you expect to have oil and gas in the agenda in the future?

We would definitely be happy to include oil and gas in the forum agenda if the opportunity arises as it is itself a huge industry with enormous economic potential. In fact, there are already many discussions for the oil and gas industry to consider Islamic financing products in view of the recent financial crisis, which has caused the industry to experience a shortage of capital through conventional sources. We do believe that Islamic finance has the potential to unlock the largely untapped liquidity of the industry. It may benefit the oil and gas industry by adding flexibility to the marketplace.

Looking ahead, you have been here since 2008. What would you like to achieve?

Since its inception, each of our annual forums offers a platform for the host country to showcase its economic vision, potentials and capability to attract investors and promote business collaboration. At the same time, the forum also helps participating businessmen coming from various parts of the world to widen their network and ventures into new markets thereby enhancing economic relations between nations. Hence, it will be our sincere hope to see more business partnerships sprouting across borders.

To date, we are happy to note that the WIEF’s footprint has been extended beyond the Muslim world to countries such Spain, South Korea, Japan and China. Through the outreach of the WIEF Foundation, all these countries have expressed their interest to initiate business collaborations with Muslim countries, which has indeed opened up a new chapter for the global economy.

You mentioned there is still a lot of work that needs to be done regarding education and technical know-how. So, if you were invited to give a speech to university students, what would be your piece of advice to them?

My advice is “what you learn is only the beginning, but what you pursue will be your journey.”

Also, I would encourage them to do what they like, not what their parents or anyone else wants them to do. That is a must. They have to enjoy what they do. One thing I would recommend: always be yourself. I would encourage people to cultivate an entrepreneurial mindset in whatever you do.


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