Glimpses from Zakat Sector in Sub-Saharan Africa

When my friend Dr Mohammad Aliyu Dahiru, a bright young scholar trained at the International Islamic University Malaysia and who currently teaches at the International Institute of Islamic Banking and Finance of the Bayero University at Kano, was getting ready to make his presentation
on the status of the zakat sector in Nigeria, he was certain about one thing. He was certain of the “lunch-time questions” he would have to tackle that day. He was certain that discussions would invariably veer around the infamous abductions by Boko Haram. Yes, Nigeria has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. But Dr Aliyu had an excellent story to tell. He spoke eloquently on charitable and good giving by the Nigerian Muslims. His presentation threw up the many distinct characteristics and peculiarities of the zakat sector in Nigeria. Nigeria has a population of 168.8 million with approximately 55 percent as Muslims. Its 36 states plus the capital territory Abuja have a huge land mass of 923,8000Sqkms. Its GDP and Per Capita GDP during 2012 stood at USD244 trillion and USD1400 respectively. Its economic growth during 2013 was an impressive 7 percent. However, 68.8 percent of its population lived below the poverty line of USD1.25 a day and 84.5 percent below USD2.00 a day.

Historically, Zakat has been in practice for centuries in Nigeria through Sokoto Caliphate that existed during 1884-1904. The system however received a setback during the subsequent colonization when the introduction of tax system threatened to replace the zakat system. The system received a new boost in 1999, when twelve states within the Federal Republic of Nigeria adopted Shariah penal law codes in addition to their longstanding systems of Shariah personal law. The status of zakat system in the twelve states currently reveals a great diversity and it is in varying stages of development.

In Nigeria, out of twelve provinces with significant Muslim population that have adopted Shariah as the source of their legislation nine have already implemented the laws. Kaduna has already drafted the law and will be the 10th province to have a zakat law shortly. Sokoto as the 11th such province has initiated the process for enactment. Gombe is the only province that is yet to take any step in this regard. Of all, only two provinces – Borno and Yobe – have enacted regulations and rules to facilitate zakat management. These developments were based on the section 4, sub section 7 of the 1999 Federal Constitution, which gives rooms for introduction of Shariah in any state that wishes to do so. The list of the laws covered in this section include the following:

  • Bauchi State Zakat and Endowment Fund Collection, Administration and Distribution Law, 2003
  • Zamfara State Zakat  (Collection  And  Distribution)  and  Endowment  Board  Law,  2000, 2003
  • Niger State Zakkat (Collection and Distribution) and Endowment Board Law, 2001
  • Zakat Collection and Distribution Committee Law 2000, Jigawa State
  • Kano State Zakat and Hubusi Commission Law 2003
  • Katsina State Sharia Commission Law, 2000
  • Borno State Zakat and Endowment Board Law, 2001
  • Yobe State Religious Affairs Board 2001
  • Kebbi State Zakat and Sadaqat (Collection and Distribution) Board Law, 2000

Beneficiaries of zakah include Imams, Qur’anic/Islamiyya school teachers, as well as all categories needy people, e.g. medical assistance to the less privileged and purchase of essential drugs for the needy patients, the disabled, the sick and elderly. In South Western Nigeria zakat management was initially left to Individuals and local scholars. However, now NGOs actively participate. Some of these organizations include the Ansar ud-deen Society of Nigeria, the Nawair ud- deen Society of Nigeria, the Islahudeen, and Da’wah Front. Key challenges to zakat management in Nigeria are as follows:

  • Lack of national coordination resulting in diverse practices of zakat
  • No strong legal backing for enforcing the zakat in some states
  • Too much emphasis on traditional methods of zakat collection from farmers and cattle rearers.
  • Lack of political will and minimum support from some state governments for application of
    the Shariah.
  • Lack of expertise in the zakat institutions
  • Shortage of full time staff
  • Inclination among people who are not from the same area to send back their zakat to relatives
  • Lack of women staff that could communicate with fellow women needy and wealthy.
  • Lack of trust and confidence among the public towards the institutions dues to cases of
    misappropriation of zakat

Malawi: In Malawi, the Islamic Zakat Fund has been in operation for about 23 years. The Fund spends all zakat on education – primary, secondary and higher – as well as overseas education. Currently, the Zakat Fund funds over 600 students in secondary schools. Education has been top priority for the Fund as the impact has been very good so far with over 700 beneficiary graduates currently occupying high government positions. All donations made to IZF are tax-exempt. An amount of about 2 million dollars was collected over the last 3 years, with about USD800, 000 in 2013. IZF has been spending less than 2 percent on a lean administration with just three staff including one volunteer.

 Uganda: In this country of approximately 10 million Muslims, the House of Zakat and Waqf has been engaged in zakat and waqf management for last two years. Uganda has no dedicated law for zakat and waqf. The House operates as a private voluntary organization and is currently engaged primarily in creating public awareness about zakat and waqf.

Mozambique: It is a country with about eighteen percent of population being Muslims who live in the remote areas in Northern part of the country. The voluntary actions by the Muslim community was in response to severe floods a couple of years back. There seems to be a total lack of awareness among the public about zakat. Charity in general, is a tax-deductible expense and total collection of charity funds by the community was in the range of USD300, 000 over last 3 years.

Zambia: In Zambia, the Islamic organization ZANZAWI received zakat from outside donors initially; and then started collecting zakat from internal donors. With charity funds, it has established a clinic with consultancy fee less than that in government hospitals and a school catering to both Muslims and non-Muslims. In line with advice from SANZAF, it is now targeting the poor, and providing conditional support to education seekers. It also supports tertiary education. Under a house-building scheme, it has assisted poor families to acquire about 40 houses (these are all located near masjid). The poor are identified from those who come to masjid based on imam’s recommendation.

Tanzania: The country has a population of about 45 million out of which 25 million are Muslims. There are a few NGOs who collect and distribute zakat, the largest being an association of expatriates from Yemen. There is no national body for management of zakat and zakat is not mandatory. Therefore, there is hardly any accurate information about collections. Efforts are on to unite all Islamic organizations to form a national zakat organization. In Zanzibar, the new Waqf and Trust Commission Act (2007) puts the Commission in charge of zakat management and empowers it to create a special organization or entity or trust to execute this function.

Kenya: Kenya has a population of 43 million population out of which about one-third are Muslims. Unfortunately, there is no organized effort for collection and distribution of zakat here in spite of the huge Muslim population. Notwithstanding the presence of many rich Muslims in Kenya, they seem to pay on their own.

Zimbabwe: In Zimbabwe, the Islamic Welfare Fund has been in existence for over 30 years. The Fund benefits from the services of a committee of volunteers to collect zakat with three full time staff to distribute zakat. Since the country has been going through an economic downturn, collections and distribution have dried up with USD20, 000 on average being distributed every month among widows, aged and orphans for education, health care, and janazas.

Botswana: This country has a population of 1.7 million people that includes about 10,000 Muslims. Zakat collected is approximately 1 million USD per year as it is an affluent country. Bulk of money is utilized for education assistance, right through to university level. Interestingly a lot of zakat appears to have been distributed under the Ibn Sabeel category because most people coming to South Africa come through Botswana and most of them turn paupers when they reach Botswana and therefore, need help. Since there are a handful of ulema in the country, there is no aggressive zakat collection.

Mauritius: This is a country with a sizable number of well-to-do Muslims and several Muslim NGOs. However, zakat collection and distribution is undertaken privately and voluntarily.

Overall, the presentations and the discussions that followed brought out several facts very clearly.
1. Differences in geo-politic realities affect zakat management. There is thus, great diversity in the zakat management practices.
2. There is a need to revisit the Fiqh of minorities, as it relates to zakat. The interpretations of asnaf, the definition of zakatable assets, the legal and institutional infrastructure for zakat etc. are to a
large extent influenced by whether Muslims are account for a majority or minority among the population.
3. Data is extremely scarce, but may be tackled to some extent by seeking the assistance and services of the local imams.
4. Capacity building is extremely important and large percent of zakat should go to this, especially in Africa.
5. A major change in mindset of all stakeholders is needed. There is a lot to be done in the matter of improving the administration and governance and disclosures. Transparency and accountability was a precondition to credibility and fund raising.
6. It is extremely important to build public awareness about zakat-related obligations.
7. Issue of monetization needs to be looked into; cattle etc may be monetized in the interest of efficiency.
8. Zakat organizations should work together to build synergies especially in the matter of building supporting infrastructure, undertake advocacy, training of zakat personnel, and also look at the possibility of intra-network financial assistance and investments. All participants agreed in principle to take the matter forward and move towards creating an African Zakat Network in the foreseeable future.

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