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In 1975, Ahmad Mohamed Ali Al-Madani led the first steps of the then newly-established Islamic Development Bank, having been appointed by Organization of the Islamic Conference member countries as the bank’s first president.
Thirty-eight years later, Ali still holds the same post as the regional lender continues to promote trade financing, economic cooperation and poverty alleviation in the Muslim world.
“Poverty alleviation is one of the main strategic objectives of the IDB Group,” said Ali in an interview with Paul McNamara, which was published in the Islamic Business and Finance on Nov. 6, 2006. “It is basically our raison d’etre.”
Ali said the bank addresses both the impacts and root causes of poverty by employing either short-run solutions – such as promoting economic growth that is expected to trickle down to the poor, thereby increasing their incomes – or long-term strategies, which are mostly focused on the delivery of social services including health care, infrastructure and education.
“The bank is keen to provide assistance where it is needed most, where the impact on poverty reduction is most potent and visible,” said Ali, noting that around 25-30 percent of the bank’s operations in 2006 were devoted to the provision of health care, education, water supply and sanitation and food security services mostly to the least developed member countries.
In March 2008, the bank unveiled a five-year initiative to alleviate poverty in the Muslim world. The US$ 10 billion Islamic Solidarity Fund for Development will back literacy and microfinance improvements in the poorest of the bank’s 56-member countries, 80 percent of which are located in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Given such contributions, Ali still finds it hard to gauge the success of the bank’s projects in fostering development.
Ali stressed in the 2006 interview: “Development is a … complex and multifaceted issue that may not necessarily be captured by a handful of indicators.”
He argued that since most developing countries benefit from multiple donors, various development partners must ‘harmonize’ their policies and procedures both at the planning and implementation phases to create consensual country-specific goals and benchmarks.
“In its appraisal techniques, the bank has introduced the ‘Log Frame’ approach, which allows the measurement of outputs and monitoring indicators to assess the impact of the outcomes on the lives of people including realization of the Millennium Development Goals of the United Nations,” Ali explained in the interview with McNamara, adding that “the continued sustainability of a project many years after the project has been completed” is also another criterion in determining the success of a development project.
Ali previously served as Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Minister of Education from 1972 to 1975. He was the Secretary General of the Muslim World League from 1993 to 1995.
Ali holds a bachelor’s degree in commerce and a law degree from Cairo University, Egypt. He earned his master’s and doctorate degrees in public administration from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and State University of New York, respectively. He is married and has four children.