Tunisia gets first Islamic bank

Jun 02, 2010

The first Islamic bank has opened in Tunisia in order to meet the growing demand for alternative finance in the country, Reuters reports.

Launched on Friday (May 28th), Zitouna Bank has been set up with capital of $30 million (€24.6 million) and will offer Islam-compliant financial services to residents in the north African nation.

It has been established by businessman and investor Mohamed Sakher El Materi, who said the financial institution will "develop a comprehensive and innovative range of banking products and services [...] in accordance with the principles of Islamic finance". In order to be compliant with Shari'ah law, customers are not allowed to pay or receive interest on any financial products.

Nine branches of Zitouna Bank have been opened initially, with the aim being to expand by 11 next year. Mr El Materi, who is Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali's son-in-law, stated that he expects the bank's capital to grow to $71 million in 2011.

Tunisia is currently home to 14 deposit banks and eight development banks, with 765 agencies located across the country.