Following a successful Africa Halal Week 2019, Malaysia’s biggest halal certifying body has partnered with local organisations to launch the “Halal Centre of Excellence” digital platform in South Africa.
Africa Halal Week, hosted at the Cape Town International Convention Centre between 7-9 October 2019, explored the economic potential of the growing halal industry. Hundreds of delegates were in attendance and over 60 local exhibitors displayed their products and services to potential investors from at least 23 different countries.
After a successful launch last year, the City of Cape Town, Wesgro and the Western Cape Department of Economic Development and Tourism jointly embarked on another business to business venture. The latest venture hopes to make South Africa part of the global initiative to secure and maintain the quality of halal goods and services. In a joint venture by iConsult Africa & Serunai Commerce, the Halal Centre of Excellence platform will provide digestible “halal knowledge” to both business and the public, with information for the public mainly relating to how consumers can go about identifying and verifying halal products while the business aspect deals with sourcing and identifying halal operators.
Speaking on VOC’s Breakfast Beat show, head of international partnerships and global events for Serunai Commerce, Intan Suriya said they were excited to see the interest in their work.
“Ma-Sha-Allah, [the reaction] was amazing! We didn’t expect to see so many businesses who are already very interested in halal. We also have the SMEs [small and medium-sized enterprises] coming to us and asking advice on how they can tap into the industry and start exporting. They wanted to know, to understand a bit more technology, so they come and speak to us.”
“Interestingly, there was also a lot of interest from the public, wanting to understand more about the halal market. It was very well organized and it was really huge,” exclaimed Suriya.
As numerous bodies at the event highlighted, the halal industry has expanded immensely over the past few years. Upon having noted both the growing number of Muslims around the world as well as the growing interest in the halal market, the conference and exhibition covered a range of sectors including tourism, Islamic banking, modest fashion, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, film and media, cuisine as well as investment and trade opportunities.
The ‘Halal Centre of Excellence’ exists mainly to increase awareness around what the term “halal” really means.
Suriya interestingly noted that two industries which have seen immense growth and interest are cosmetics and, more importantly, Shariah compliance.
“As you can see, ‘halal’ is not only about the food that we eat. It is also about cosmetics, about pharmaceuticals. For food, it will become our flesh and blood. But for cosmetics, whatever you wear, you must know whether it is halal and if it breaks your wudu (ablution) or not.”
“These two things are becoming flesh and blood and [determine] whether our wudu is valid or not so it is pertinent for our health awareness. The Halal Centre of Excellence here is to give awareness to halal operators and also to the people of Africa, about what being ‘halal’ means.”
Principal Consultant at Serunai Commerce, Mahellah Omar said that a specific focus will be put on the halal certification bodies. Omar emphasized the importance of the maintenance of certification.
“Certification use on our site is to inform the public and the halal operators on how to get the certificate and also how to maintain the certification…”
“All the information that we gathered is from the certification bodies, not only from Malaysia, but also from South Africa. All this information is actually very critical to businesses because the minute you have ‘halal’ your ingredients must be halal too, and it must be certified within these certification bodies.
For businesses, it is important for them to be able to look at traceability – for them to know where to find the right sources of products and certify properly.”
The Malaysian nationals expressed admiration toward the Muslim community in Cape Town and South Africa. The pair noted the immense potential the country’s halal market possesses, given its geographical position and diversity.
“When I first came here, I was surprised that there is somebody that is looking like me. Somebody so far away but looks like me who is a Malay. So, after going around, you have a huge market here. We notice that here, the Muslims are all structured and united. You also have a lot of your own things, like the fish, your meat, your agriculture, which actually can go far and away from South Africa to be used for export. So, having halal certification, since Muslims are all over the world, and now having more purchasing power…this is the time.”
“With the local certifiers reaching out to the masses here, especially to the different industries and the SMEs, that means that the [halal] industry is growing strong and Insha’Allah, when you work hand in hand with us, there will be bigger prospects in the future.”
Surinya explained that compliance is an important aspect of security:
“At the moment, in Malaysia, we set up an International Halal Authority Board called “IHAB” and we bring together all these good certification bodies all over the world who follow the processes very, very strictly. The process is that they have to be audited every two years. The Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (JAKIM) checks very seriously in terms of processes…”
As the world moves toward the fourth industrial revolution, Africa Halal Week shed light on how much the continent stands to benefit from the technological innovations of other continents and their respective countries. The pair is of the opinion that halal certification should also go digital.
“We feel that it is about time we have all our halal processes digitized so we can manage full traceability and be able to serve the industries and the public better. The authority of Malaysia recognized 79 certification bodies worldwide in over 45 countries.”
“In the world today, there are about 400 to 600 unregulated certifying bodies. For example, in Japan alone, there are more than 100 certification bodies. Some of them are set up for maybe just over three months just to make a quick buck and then they disappear. So what happened to the business owners? What happened to the public trust after that?” questioned Omar.
The app, called “Verify Halal” is available for download on Google Play Store for Android and IoS users.