Post Report WHC 2016

The World Halal Conference 2016 was held at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre in Malaysia on 30 of March through 31 of March, 2016. This event was organised by the Halal Development Corporation (HDC) and hosted by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI). The conference was attended by 1646 participants from 50 countries. This year, WHC brought together Heads of Governments and prominent leaders to share their views, provide insights into the "Halal at the Forefront of Economic and Social Change".

In the opening ceremony key address, by The Hon. Dato' Sri Mustapa Mohamed, Minister of International Trade and Industry Malaysia, attention were drawn to the various Malaysia initiatives in promoting the Halal industry in. These include finance, food and logistics, and all make a big contribution to the growth of the country. This is all aimed at job creation and business opportunities to enable the growth our economy throughout the world, and to establish Malaysia as the world's global Halal hub.

In his welcoming remarks, Tun Abdullah Haji Ahmad Badawi underscored that this year's event has taken on a slightly different focus. That is, how halal can be one of main contributors to social well being, as well as how to further stimulate higher economic growth. There have been significant successes here since the 1970s in areas such as Islamic banking, which has been transformed into a vibrant and dynamic system. Also, Malaysia's expertise in halal has provided a benchmark for interested parties worldwide to promote their own halal industries.

To further strengthen the halal industry in both in the Netherlands and South Africa, the Ambassador's Panel on Strategic Foresight on Economic and Social Aspects reiterated that one needs to find a common ground. It is extremely important for everyone to understand the concept of an integrated society and to live in an integrated manner, especially in the context of Islamphobia in Europe.

The Ministerial Panel on Global Halal Economic Outlook focused on the importance to harmonise the various quality infrastructure legislations, with reference to developing a common approach for halal that must be accompanied by mutual recognition to realise its potential all around the world. As such there is a need for a common halal standard and a single certification which will eliminate technical barriers to trade and allow trade to flow more smoothly.

Malaysia's strategic approach to halal is to have a blueprint in the form of the halal development industry masterplan. The first phase is to gain global acceptance by building a foundation to network and collaborate with stakeholders across the world, even countries where Muslims are the minority. The next stage is to develop an ecosystem for the halal industry that moves beyond food to transportation/logistics, tourism, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, etc, by creating supporting institutions such as Islamic Banking and Finance and the halal food industry.

On facilitating trade and economic Development through strategic collaborations, the session discussed the emerging megatrends to further promote the halal industry. Using megatrends will show undeniable growth which eventually cannot be denied by the international community, including those which are currently sceptical due to market forces. The use of the virtual market space will be the new front in halal as it will allow SMEs to showcase their products internationally without needing to face financial barriers, unlike in the last when SMEs are discouraged to go for international exhibitions. There is a need to set up a dedicated halal virtual platform for such SMEs.

Rebranding is an essential part of widening the appeal of the Islamic Economy industry, whether we call it Muslim Friendly economy. This was highlighted in the session on Globalisation of Islamic Economy: The Industry Perspectives. It is important not to re-invent the wheel but to specifically label the halal related products as animal source free. Our mindset has to be global, we have to think wider in terms of customer appeal. The rigid mindset is harming the globalisation of Islamic economy.

From the discussions on Strategic Investments, Connecting Partners, Creating Business, it could be gathered that we need to be more agile in terms of understanding the needs of the industry to be more cost effective and marketable. There are many opportunities to tap into various segments such as pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, complex food and other segments which should be capitalised on. Regulators and policy makers are also very supportive in making things happen for both MNCs and SMEs, and in the creation of the supply chain, which are very good news.

In conversation with the Hon. Senator Dato's Sri Abdul Wahid Omar, Minister in Prime Minister's Department of Malaysia, Government has a strategic plan in adopting holistic approach to develop halal ecosystem, not limited to certification, but also supply chain, cosmetic, halal ingredients, pharmaceutical sectors. 11th Malaysia Plan has a section on halal industry, we have also publish a strategic paper 18A dedicated to halal industry development.

In relation to the E-Commerce & Halal, a roadmap needs to be developed to promote the use of e-commerce as it is a driver and tool for the halal industry due to the vast potential to access wider markets in the virtual space. An ecosystem needs to be set up to encourage ecommerce uptake, especially SMEs and micro-SMEs. This requires the prioritisation of customers and seller safety through the vetting, monitoring and renewal of product to ensure its integrity and safety. The halal industry and Islamic banking & finance must be streamlined to further facilities the use of ecommerce in halal, removing barriers of trade by consolidating international legal trade requirements and providing a common, user-friendly platform for sellers and consumers. This is to assist SMEs and micro-SME which may not have the knowledge in technical know-hows, lack access to digital & technical resources, as well as other challenges in taking the business international with issues such as culture and language.

YB Khairy Jamaluddin, Minister of Youth and Sports Malaysia in his session on Youth and Lifestyle explained the role of youths, which comprises a significant composition of the population of most countries, have a huge impact on policy. Increasingly the Muslim population, including the youth, are realising their obligation and responsibilities as Muslims, which will have an impact on consumer choices. Youths of today are also more acute to quality, more technology savvy, product sensitive, and particular of the quality in customer service. The halal industry must identify the changes in trends, tastes and values of this market segment. There is also need to encourage youths to venture into entrepreneurship by lowering barriers to entry for young people to start businesses, reducing protocol, red tape and unnecessary regulations. Only when the halal industry adapts to these changes in trends and be sensitive to the needs of the young people, can there be greater growth in halal.

Talents Today, Leaders Tomorrow session highlighted that halal is the fastest growing industry in the world, these is an urgent need to begin preparing human capital talents in the market. Universities and the halal industry need to work more closely to identify gaps, as students are incapable of going directly into the industry without additional training. It is crucial for the halal industry needs to communicate their needs which have to be practical, not theoretical, when it comes to industrial collaboration, to perfect human capital development and readiness as it will have an effect on graduate readiness with required skills, such as soft skills and communication/business language.