Casiana Dusa is a prominent investment adviser and a multi-jurisdictional lawyer with over 12 years of experience in Dubai and Romania. Islamic Finance certified, Ms Dusa has extensive knowledge of UAE law and specialises in project finance and business expansion in the Middle East. We sat down with her to learn about her passion for Islamic Finance and dream to establish the sector in her native Romania.
What makes Islamic Finance so interesting to you?
My initial contact with the Muslim world was a few years ago, during a business gathering which I attended in Dubai, then it has gradually turned into a true passion consolidated throughout the following years of effective practice in the United Arab Emirates on legal and investment consultancy. In fact, my interest in Islamic Finance was firstly sparked by its prominent emphasis on business-society relations, along with the underlying rigorous social and moral criteria derived from Shariah and Muslim religion. In particular, I was attracted by the stability of business relations fostered by the prohibition of Riba and Gharar, as well as by the risk sharing / partnership-oriented approach implemented in local investment models (where investors are not acting as simple creditors, but rather as business partners).
Murabaha, Mudarabah and Musharakah are the first mechanisms I learnt about and which reflect such approach. Murabaha comes with a cost-plus mark-up mechanism, where the financier waives all interest, but gains from the mark-up of which the borrower is aware ab initio. In Mudarabah, one party provides capital, while the other party perform the labor and provides the business know-how, while the profit will be shared based on parties’ agreement, pre-determined quantum. Last, but not least, in Musharakah, both parties combine their efforts, services, assets or liabilities with the goal of making profit, that will be shared based on capital contribution.
Finally, Islamic Finance is interesting to me as it brings a positive impact both to the society and to the business growth, being guided by rigorous principles and criteria highly influenced by religion, while substantiating partnership / win-win oriented business models.
How did you get involved in Islamic Finance?
After discovering my passion for Islamic Finance, I decided to go extra-mile by acquiring deeper knowledge on the topic. To this purpose, I successfully passed four exams organized by CIMA Dubai, being awarded the prestigious Diploma in Islamic Finance. Since then, I have been constantly researching, strategizing and planning potential mechanisms by which I could efficiently implement such know-how to generate a positive impact in my home country thus contributing to the growth of Romanian businesses wishing to internationalise in Muslim markets.
In effect, I started my challenging mission by advising on a pro-bono basis Romanian entrepreneurs that approached me with regards to their business matters in the United Arab Emirates, being in need of local knowledge and expertise. In the meanwhile, I founded Romanian Arab Investment House which aims to connect Arab and Romanian entrepreneurs in law and business by matchmaking, leads generation and knowledge sharing, striving to become the partner of choice for entrepreneurs who wish to do business in Romania and the Middle East or wish to develop joint Muslim-Romanian sustainable ESG projects by applying mechanisms they both feel comfortable with.
In this context, my membership with GIIIF is a valuable opportunity which I am planning to leverage in three ways: firstly – to gradually implement Islamic Finance models in Romania and eventually establish a strong practice in my region; secondly – to introduce or enhance the ESG elements in the projects I am involved in, both locally and internationally, in Muslim markets; thirdly – to share knowledge with like-minded peers, cooperating on clients’ projects or developing common projects, all being aimed at supporting the mission of GIIIF.
How do you support entities in Muslim majority markets?
The philosophy of Romanian Arab Investment House is precisely to connect businesses from Muslim majority markets with Romanian entrepreneurs, by implementing Islamic Finance principles and ESG insights, aiming to create a common and sustainable business language for such entrepreneurs. This endeavor is of paramount importance, as not only it would radically optimize the efficiency of any international transactions and would streamline the deal-making process, but it would also generate new promising opportunities that would otherwise not be possible. Basically, any action that raises awareness on Islamic Finance in non-Muslim markets implicitly leads to better business between Muslim and non-Muslim entrepreneurs and eventually to the growth of Muslim majority markets.
You are hoping to establish Islamic Finance in Romania. What challenges do you face from a regulatory and cultural perspective?
Indeed, I hope to establish Islamic Finance in Romania, but it is important to point out that such goal is just the peak of the mountain. Practically, it is a step-by-step process which I have already started. The first phase would be to mitigate the regulatory and cultural challenges, while raising awareness on the benefits that Islamic Finance can bring to sustainable investments. The conventional banking and investment rules radically differ from Islamic models which discrepancy often leads to entrepreneurs’ reluctancy. Moreover, the cultural differences rooted from different religious beliefs have a major impact on how a Romania-Muslim business is dealt with. Hence, the religion plays a crucial role in Muslims’ life to such an extent that even the Islamic laws, the finance and the practice are based on the religious principles of Islam, known as Shari’ah, set forth by the Qur’an and the Traditions of the Prophet Mohammed. By contrast, the religious element under the same fields in European countries is less prominent.
What advantages does the Islamic model have in support sustainable investments?
To begin with, sustainable investment is ESG-oriented, which means that it regards environmental protection, social good and governance for driving positive change and stability. With the emphasis on business-society relations and their rigorous social and moral criteria derived from Shariah, the Islamic finance principles and the impact/sustainable investment overlap in several points. Practically, I see the Islamic model as the best premise for a sustainable investment in any jurisdiction.
Please tell us about any projects you are currently working on that meet both ethical and sustainable criteria.
Islamic ethics are the pillar of a healthy society. In Arabic, the term is known as ‘akhlaq’ and it is often used to define Islamic morality, referring to inner attributes of human being formed into habits and characteristics. The sustainability comes along with community enabling support and positive impact by meeting the ESG criteria, beyond financial gains. According to several specialists, Islamic ethics and sustainability have become essential features of Islamic Finance, which I am striving to consolidate in Romania through my challenging project focusing on the implementation of this model locally. In concrete, such implementation shall be performed gradually, depending on the absorption degree of the respective model, by using a throughout screening process on each project proposed by my clients.
What is your outlook for 2023-2024?
In brief, my main goal for 2023 – 2024 is to move my promising mission extra-mile, by establishing a prominent presence of Islamic business models in Romania, then converting Islamic Finance to an established practice preferred by entrepreneurs dealing with Muslim-Romanian sustainable investments.
To this purpose, I have designed a detailed strategy comprising several directions of which: raising awareness on Islamic Finance models through informative articles, webinars and other online gatherings for Romanian entrepreneurs; implementation of Islamic finance principles in Romanian projects that meet ESG criteria; matchmaking activities between Romanian and Muslim entrepreneurs aimed at generating successful sustainable deals.
Last, but not least, I am planning to boost GIIIF mission in Romania and contribute to its global endeavours, along with its esteemed members and amazing CEO Sophia Shepodd Innocenti.