Man walks past a branch of Al Baraka Bank. RAMZI BOUDINA, REUTERS

Specialist Islamic financial institution, Al Baraka Bank, has joined several traditional banks in South Africa in aligning its Corporate Strategy and Social Investment responsibilities with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

This follows the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the International Al Baraka Banking Group B.S.C and the global office of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); facilitating a partnership designed to accelerate the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the countries in which the financial organisation has a presence.

The move also sees the bank become the first of the 17 international subsidiaries and representative offices within Al Baraka Banking Group B.S.C. to join its parent company in linking its Corporate Social Investment objectives to the UNDP's efforts.

 Al Baraka Banking Group, an international leader in Islamic finance, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the UNDP in July last year, facilitating a partnership designed to accelerate the implementation of the Sustainable Development agenda in the 17 countries in which the financial organisation has a presence.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was adopted in September 2015 by world leaders as a means of eradicating poverty, reducing inequality and exclusions, safeguarding the future of the planet and ensuring the world's people might enjoy enjoy peace and prosperity. The UNDP, as the SDGs integrator globally aims to work with countries and partners to accelerate the achievement of SDGs through its policy and advisory services and programmatic interventions that are targeted to ending poverty, improving capacity for basic service deliveries and strengthening resilient people and societies.

Speaking at a recent breakfast function in Durban, Dr Ayodele Odusola, UNDP Resident Representative in South Africa, said: "Al Baraka Bank's vision aligns with the UNDP's vision of expanding peoples' opportunities and building resilient societies and the mission of accelerating the Sustainable Development Goals."

The function was the result of interaction between the two entities and was to lay the foundation for operationalising the partnership between Al Baraka Bank and UNDP in South Africa.  

Outlining the seven SDGs which Al Baraka Bank have identified and aligned to its business strategy, Acting Chief Risk Executive, Mr Ebrahim Hassan, said in his address: "In view of the vast socio-economic challenges facing South Africa, we believed the most responsible approach to making a telling and sustainable impact was to link our efforts with Al Baraka Banking Group's existing alignment with the UNDP initiative. We have, accordingly, identified seven of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals in which, we believe, we can make a tangible impact here in South Africa."

President and Chief Executive of Al Baraka Banking Group, Mr Adnan Ahmed Yousif, who is also Chairman of Al Baraka Bank South Africa, said: "We are delighted that our South African subsidiary has become part of the alignment with the UNDP's Sustainable Development Goals, thus demonstrating the bank's commitment to actively living by our Group values, by assisting appreciably in the empowerment and upliftment of the less privileged in that country."

“The seven SDGs chosen by Al Baraka Bank are considered multipliers as they have a trickle-down effect on all other SDGs,” said Dr Odusola, as he expressed his appreciation of the Bank’s intention to “go beyond profit to benefit people and planet”.

UNDP’s partnership with the Government of Gauteng in organising a Small and Medium Enterprises Summit, which aimed at connecting SMEs and linking them to markets, is a prime example of ongoing initiatives in the country.