In 2016, I found myself in the hustle and bustle of Lagos, working as the Access to Finance Intervention Leader for the DFID-funded DEEPEN programme. The programme aimed to improve the quality of low-cost private schools in the city, and I was faced with the task of improving access to finance and business development services for the entrepreneurs running these schools. It is said that Nigeria is the only country in the world with almost equal populations of Christians and Muslims. As a result, I quickly found myself working with a number of Muslim school owners. I found their financial needs to be different from their non-Muslim counterparts as they required finance products to be Sharia-compliant. To support them, and the financial institutions serving them, I quickly had to learn on the job and I soon developed the foundations of an understanding of Islamic finance. Two years later, I was managing the Small and Medium Enterprise Facility (SMEF) in Somalia, and I found myself back in the world of Islamic finance. With the project moving in the direction of increased focus on access to finance, I made the decision to pursue a qualification in Islamic Microfinance.
A flexible way to learn
A colleague sent me the link to the Certified Expert in Islamic Microfinance course on the Frankfurt School Development Finance website and I enrolled soon after. I was initially apprehensive about starting the course as I knew I was about to enter a particularly busy phase at work with a number of deadlines and extensive travel. However, the flexibility of online learning meant I was able to fit studying around my schedule. The course contained seven units, each of which included online lectures, additional reading and an online test, which I needed to pass to move onto the next unit. The course content is easy to understand and contains practical examples that brought the concepts to life. I actually found examples from Somalia, which were particularly relevant to my work! In addition to the end of unit tests, I was assessed through assignments and an exam at the end of the six-month course. Although the course was very flexible overall, I found having deadlines for the assignments helpful as they kept me on track to ensure I was ready for the final exam.
Applying my learning
Whilst I was studying, I was able to apply my newfound knowledge to the projects I was working on and I continue to do so now. Completing the course has given me greater confidence to write and converse about Islamic microfinance and I now understand the rationale behind why Islamic microfinance products are designed in the way that they are. Since completing the course, I have continued to make use of the FSDF e-Campus network and find it to be a useful source of information.
For now, I’m focused on applying what I’ve already leant, but I certainly wouldn’t rule out enrolling for another e-Campus course in the future!