Much has been said about increasing the economic cooperation between Muslims and to push for increased trade and investment between OIC nations. But despite all the endless calls and talks and forums and seminars, nothing has happened.

Intra-OIC trade still currently represent 14.3% of total global trade for OIC countries. In comparison, intra-EU trade accounts for over 70% of total EU trade. Even intra-ASEAN accounts for 23% of ASEAN’s global trade!

Muslims it seems are more inclined to trade among the non-Muslims. It is not by default that the FTA between Malaysia and Pakistan in November 2007 remain the first and only free trade agreement thus far between OIC nations.

Collective GDP of all OIC member countries account for less than 5% of the world’s total and of the 57 OIC member countries, 31 are categorised as least-developed with low income per capita.

Considering that we account for more than 25% of global population and controlling over 60% of the world’s natural resources, registering a measly 7% of total global trade with a worth just over US$800 billion is just totally unacceptable.

There are plenty of other instances that would further accentuate this sad scenario, but first, let’s ask ourselves this question: “What is wrong with this picture?”

“We cannot, as Muslim countries and business people, continue on the existing path,” said Ebrahim Rasool, Western Cape Premier at the recent World Islamic Economic Forum 2007 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

“We must ask ourselves why we are not making the kind of impact in the world as a collection of Muslim states, at a socio-economic and geo-political level?”

Halal, a common denominator by the Muslim states, should be viewed and used as a catalyst to project ourselves forward.

It is also a known fact that Muslims remain as mere end consumers in the great chain of Halal food supply. Muslims therefore need to play a more active role in the industry, by forging closer collaborations in the production and distribution of Halal products and services.

To achieve this, Muslim countries rich with natural resources, technological expertise and the financial means, must take the lead.

Trade and investment potentials are abound in the Halal industry, and they do remain one of the best ways to get actively involve in the industry and own a significant percentage of the lucrative global Halal industry.

“Maybe the answer lies in the fact that we largely export raw materials without beneficiation, we do not develop our people’s potential into human capital, and we do not harness productively our surplus capital into innovation, technology and social justice,” Ebrahim added.

Spill over businesses are also waiting to be discovered. Many of the developing OIC countries lack basic knowledge and expertise but never the vision and willpower to better itself.

A little sadakah for the benefit of the ummah would definitely go a very long way, for eternity in fact.

The Prophet, may peace be upon him, also said, “The solidarity of the Muslims is in their mutual love, mercy and sympathy; (and) is that of a body; if an organ aches, the whole body sympathises with it with sleeplessness and fever.”

The original article first appeared in The Halal Journal issue May 2007. This copy has been edited extensively for suitability to the web.