RELIGION

Seeing demand, Morocco approves first Islamic banks

Morocco has become the latest Muslim-majority country to authorize Islamic banks, amid growing market demand for Sharia-compliant banking.

The Moroccan central bank announced this week it has approved five Islamic banks, fulfilling a long-standing promise of the Islamist party leading a coalition government since 2011.

Among them are leading national banks Attijariwafa, linked to the royal family, state-owned Banque Centrale Populaire and private BMCE Bank of Africa. All three hold increasing assets around French-speaking Africa.

The others are CIH Bank and Credit Agricole du Maroc.

Four of the five will be partnerships between Moroccan banks and Islamic financial institutions in the Gulf.

Morocco had long been reticent about Islamic finance, but now sees it as a growth prospect.

Sharia forbids interest, which is central to many banks' operations.