The Towfiq Waqf in Kenya: Establishing a Model to Tackle Fragility in Somalia
Towfiq Welfare Association (Towfiq Trust) Waqf
APIF has functioned extensively in Bangladesh and UAE, financing and facilitating multiple projects, but it has also extended its reach into Africa, in collaboration with the Towfiq Welfare Society (Towfiq Trust) Waqf. In November 2015, APIF approved a Murabaha operation, purchasing a Waqf property for the benefit of the Kenyan Towfiq Trust, in support of educational and health activities in Somalia. Nevertheless, but due to the time it took the association to fill the financing gap as well as a change of scope to a different property followed by reappraisal, the agreement was signed in July 2017. Although this project was relatively small compared to most APIF projects—costing only $3.5 million, $2.75 million of which APIF contributed, the Fund played a role beyond financier during its execution, catalyzing and facilitating this Waqf.
A registered, non-sectarian humanitarian organization based in Kismayo, Somalia, Towfiq Welfare Society (TWS) was the organization Kenyan Towfiq Trust aimed to support through its Waqf collaboration with APIF. TWS was established in the mid-1990s by local intellectuals who realized the need to elevate the education, healthcare, child support, agriculture, emergency relief, and environmental protection levels in South and Central provinces of Somalia, a purpose TWS continues to defy socio-economic challenges to strive for. The 7-story Waqf office building, called “SOMAK House,” which is an office building in a prime, popular location in Nairobi, Kenya, serves as a proper source of funds for TWS’s projects in Somalia.
At the time of appraisal, SOMAK House’s projected income was promising and realistic: the property was almost 97 percent occupied with tenants including the former owner of the property, who wished to stay in the building on a rental basis after its transfer to the Towfiq Trust. Because the demand for office space in Nairobi was on the rise, the project was expected to generate adequate cash flows above debt service for TWS. Although TWS’s net profit after debt service will rest at an annual $98 thousand during the repayment phase, by the completion of repayment after 16 years, net profit will grow to $585 thousand annually as the rental prices are expected to increase by 7.5 percent yearly. Despite its prudent financial management prior to IsDB engagement, TWS will nonetheless benefit enormously from this Waqf, especially in light of recent declines in donations from the Gulf region. With a budget of $2.07 million in 2016 as well as investments worth $4.4 million inside Somalia and $743 thousand outside Somalia, the Waqf’s revenue, $246 thousand at the time of purchase and its growth, represents a major financial impact on TWS.
SOMAK House represents a step towards sustainability and institutionalization beyond dependence on donations for multiple projects executed by TWS. Besides supporting over 700 orphans, TWS operates a number of schools offering different levels of education in most districts of the Lower and Middle Juba provinces in Somalia, the only licensed university in Kismayo, and the Institute of Research and Community Development. The function of Kismayo University lead to the demand of medical education and an educational hospital, which now receives 250 to 300 patients daily. Additionally, TWS sends mobile teams to various districts in Juba to disseminate awareness especially regarding cholera, malaria, and malnutrition. The health concern does not end at medical services, but also exceeds to potable water sources and adequate nutrition: TWS has implemented Water Development Programs in the region, catering to thousands of people with their livestock via artesian boreholes and hand-dug wells along with running the Al-Ansar feeding center since 1998. Moreover, under the aim to increase the agricultural productivity in the area, TWS has implemented, in coordination with other organizations, a number of agricultural projects and supported the reclamation and cultivation of 260 hectares of agricultural land. In the case of the Humanitarian crises and natural disasters, TWS has cooperated with humanitarian relief organizations to implement emergency relief efforts, including food, water, and medicine distribution. Overall, TWS has supported over 400 thousand students, orphans, farmers, and victims of natural disasters.
According to TWS management, having the Waqf asset on their balance sheet—an action that may have not been possible without APIF—is a very positive achievement for the organization, lending it further weight and credibility. As suggested by TWS, APIF plays an important empowerment role for otherwise underprivileged local civil society organizations in line with the prophetic tradition of empowering the destitute to achieve profit (“tuksibu alma’adum”). APIF has showed a high degree of flexibility, allowing a change of scope to another building due to unforeseen circumstances and advising TWS throughout, and the partnership with IsDB lent credibility to TWS and its affiliated institutions. At first glance, the impact of the Waqf on the local economy may seem negligible, but upon further scrutiny, it is evident that the Waqf has benefitted the local economy by applying APIF’s high standards on the pre-existing Waqf building, which would lead to the elevation of building standards. More directly, it led to an inflow of hard currency into the local real estate market.
Utilizing the pre-existing, well-operating management of the SOMAK House and the solid, sustainable governance IsDB supports and resisting the challenges presented by economic fluctuations, SOMAK House will be able to demonstrate an archetype for successful Waqf projects. The collaboration has taught APIF that IsDB governance of Waqf projects is both recommended and effective and that leveraging on neighboring countries’ political and economic stability for the benefit of NGOs operating contexts of fragility, as is the case with Towfiq Trust and TWS, is a great success for all partners.