Indonesia: Jokowi Calls on Muslim Nations to Lead in Innovation

Tia Asmara
160802_ID_WIEF_1000.jpg Representatives at the 12th World Islamic Economic Forum pose for a group photo after the opening ceremony in Jakarta, Aug. 2, 2016.
Courtesy of Indonesian Ministry of Finance - WIEF

Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo called on Muslim nations on Tuesday to emphasize innovation, saying they should exploit their relatively younger population to advance in the fields of artificial intelligence and genetic engineering.

“The Muslim community should use one of its fundamental strengths, which is its demographic potential,” he said in his opening remarks during a three-day meeting in Jakarta aimed at improving the business skills of small and medium enterprises in Muslim nations.

Jokowi and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak jointly opened the 12th World Islamic Economic Forum, which brought together government and private sector leaders as well as scholars and regional experts from about 70 countries.

Jokowi, leader of the world’s most populous Muslim nation, said the Muslim world should exploit its “demographic bonus” to fuel innovation even as it grapples with economic, political and trade-related challenges.

According to the nonpartisan Pew Research Center, the median age of the world’s Muslim population stands at 23 years, seven years younger than the median age of non-Muslims.

This gives Muslims power to enhance innovation, Jokowi said.

He also said that despite facing many challenges including high unemployment among the younger generation, Islamic fashion, cuisine, arts and architecture in Muslim nations are surging and have vast business potential to fuel the international economy.

The theme of the meeting is “Decentralizing Growth, Empowering Future Business” and is aimed at boosting “efforts to strengthen decentralization of growth through empowerment of micro, small and medium enterprises,” a conference statement said.

It said that the global Islamic economy was thriving as more Muslims are becoming increasingly active as investors and manufacturers, bankers and traders, competitors and suppliers.

It cited Muslim consumer spending as an example, saying it was rising as demand for ethical finance, investment and insurance services, and for halal food, modest fashion and halal tourism increases.

“Even non-Muslims are attracted to the Islamic economy’s underlying socially-conscious ethos embodied in the various sectors,” the statement said.

Key issues to be discussed include sukuk (Islamic bonds) for infrastructure financing, integration of halal sectors and Islamic finance.

Attention is to be given to the halal food industry, development of the modest fashion industry and improving funding access for smaller enterprises, among other topics.


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