MARC ROUSSOT takes a look at Senegal where the government had recently taken steps in developing the Waqf asset class.
Poverty alleviation, ending hunger, a provision of good health and well-being, quality education, affordable and clean energy, clean water and sanitation, as well as decent work and economic growth — for Senegal, Waqf is no less a tool to achieve these UN Sustainable Development Goals.
The High Authority of Waqf, created by the Waqf law of 2015, is already working on a project for which architectural and technical feasibility studies are underway. On a piece of land located in Dakar that had been provided by the government, a real estate project will soon begin its development thanks to the IDB’s financing. The rent income from this building will be utilized to finance the renovation, construction or the operational costs of several ‘Daara’, the colloquial name for Quranic school.
“From next year onwards, we have the ambition to work on public Waqf projects that will have an impact on priority areas such as health, education, vocational training and integration, youth employment, women’s empowerment,” details Oulimata Diop, the general director of the High Authority of Waqf. “We are currently identifying the needs in these different sectors and we are planning to utilize different types of Waqf, such as land Waqf, cash Waqf and corporate Waqf, to name a few,” she adds.
As an example, the High Authority of Waqf and the Ministry of Technical Education and Vocational Training are considering joining forces and working together on several initiatives, like the construction of training centers.
The Waqf law of 2015 sets a regulatory framework for four categories of Waqf, namely public Waqf, family Waqf, combined Waqf and Waqf of public interest.
The High Authority of Waqf manages every public Waqf that is defined as an asset or assets that may come from the public or the private sector to achieve a public interest goal, for instance, land given to build a school.
However, it is different from a Waqf of public interest where the High Authority of Waqf only plays the role of supervisor and controller. If an Imam gives some books to a Daara, the High Authority of Waqf then does not manage the Waqf.
The High Authority of Waqf also plays this same role of supervisor and controller for the family Waqf also known as private Waqf — asset or assets given to a third party for its own enjoyment — and for combined Waqf — a Waqf composed of both a public Waqf and a family Waqf.
Under these four categories are the usual structures: Waqf land, cash Waqf and corporate Waqf. “We are open to all kinds of Waqf as we want to have a portfolio that is as broad as possible,” shares Oulimata. “Waqf land is the most common type of Waqf in the world, but it is not a very liquid one. This problem does not exist with a cash Waqf, for instance. We also introduced corporate Waqf following Malaysia’s example,” she says.
As of today, there is very little knowledge on Waqf in Senegal. It is impossible to say if the most common type is Waqf land or cash Waqf for instance. To meet this gap, an inventory is planned to be executed in 2018 in parallel with a financial assessment. The next step will be to formalize the existing Waqf so that they can benefit from the legal certainty introduced by the Waqf law of 2015.
“There was a legal vacuum in the past. However, given Senegal’s age-old practice of Islam, Waqf has been set up and is still existing, but the settlers did not go through any form of formalities to protect the assets and guarantee the proper utilization of the Waqf,” explains Oulimata.
This lack of a legal framework led to misappropriation and mismanagement cases that subsequently tarnished the image of Waqf. Hence, the credibility of the High Authority of Waqf is precisely one of Oulimata’s priorities. The institution has to be a model of transparent and virtuous governance to be able to earn the trust of private donors, she believes.