AfREC Partners with CMSS to Co-Convene Seminars on Mauritania and Kenya

AfREC partnered with the UWA Centre for Muslim States and Societies (CMSS) to co-convene two seminars exploring aspects of the intersection of Islam and Africa.

The first seminar, on 14 November 2019, was by Dr Max de Vietri, a Research Fellow in both AfREC and CMSS, who spoke on ‘The Islamic Republic of Mauritania: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow’.

Mauritania stands at the crossroads of modernity, with deep potential tensions between different groups (“white” Maures, “black” Afro-Mauritanians, and “Haratin”), threatening the country’s socio-political stability. Recent discoveries of world-class hydrocarbon reservoirs offshore southern Mauritania, an area principally peopled by Afro-Mauritanians, further adds to these tensions. This could cause an uprising of a merged portion of the black African population against Maure dominance, with a potential balkanisation of the country in a similar scenario to that of the former Sudan. This seminar explored these tensions and explained their roots. It also proposed potential remedies that can be formulated as public policies and joint government-industry actions to counteract potential instability.

Dr Max de Vietri is a graduate geologist (UNSW, 1975) with 44 years of international experience and has been instrumental in finding and championing the evaluation of significant hydrocarbon and mineral discoveries, most especially in Africa and the Near-East. He is an “Officer of the National Order of Merit for the Islamic Republic of Mauritania”. This is the second such award given to a foreigner by the Mauritanian Government, the first being to the French President Charles de Gaulle. He was the Honorary Consul for the Republic of Mali in Perth between 2005 and 2016. Max has a Graduate Diploma in Business (1988), a Masters in International Relations (2010), and a Doctorate in International Affairs awarded with Chancellor’s recommendations in 2015. Max presently heads African Geopolitics, a socio-political advisory group that assists African governments and foreign companies in the natural resources industries to work together on the African continent.

The second seminar, on 21 November 2019, was by Dr Shamim Samani, also a Research Fellow in both AfREC and CMSS, on ‘Financial Inclusion: Women-focused Islamic Banking in Kenya’.

“Development theories see inclusion and access to finance as a critical factor in overcoming persistent income inequality and slower growth in economies. Well-functioning financial systems are not only significant for channelling funds to the most productive uses and help to boost economies, but also for improving opportunities and reducing poverty. As the importance of a healthy financial system continues to be focused on globally, development practice progressively recognises the ethical and religious suitability of financial systems. Islamic finance is thus fast becoming a significant commercial sector in many countries including Kenya that seeks to service not only its Muslim population, but also offers ethical banking to non-Muslim clients.” With a focus on Islamic finance and banking in Kenya, this presentation examined the prospects for financial inclusion of women through Islamic women-focused banking. The presentation was based on research done on Islamic banks in Kenya.

Dr Shamim Samani is a researcher specialising in women and development. She has worked in the public, community and academic sectors in Australia and currently is a research fellow at the Centre for Muslim States and Societies and the Africa Research & Engagement Centre at the University of Western Australia. As an academic, she has coordinated and lectured in postgraduate programs related to sustainable development. Highly enthusiastic about equity and inclusion, she works as a practitioner and researcher on various projects, is an advisor and trainer in equity and inclusion in the workplace and volunteers within community development initiatives.

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