In recent years, crowdfunding has emerged as a dynamic force in the Maldives, providing individuals, organizations and causes with a powerful tool to mobilize financial support from a broad audience. However, the unregulated nature of crowdfunding in the Maldives presents both exciting opportunities and daunting challenges. At its core, crowdfunding involves raising small sums of money from a large number of people, typically through online platforms and social media. It has become a versatile mechanism, utilized for diverse purposes, from supporting start-ups to addressing humanitarian crises. Crowdfunding thrives on community engagement and collective action. PROFESSOR DR AISHATH MUNEEZA writes.
In the Maldives, crowdfunding has gained momentum primarily through social media and online platforms. It serves as a lifeline for addressing various financial needs, such as medical emergencies, educational expenses and community development projects. One standout example is the International Aid Campaign (IAC), initiated by EHEE, the Maldives’s first registered humanitarian organization. IAC operates as a unity platform, raising awareness about global crises and channeling funds to support those in need. IAC serves as a shining example of successful crowdfunding in the Maldives. Since its inception in 2016, IAC has supported over 2,000 projects, benefiting more than five million people, with a total project value exceeding MVR6 million (US$386,229). This remarkable success underscores the potential of crowdfunding to drive positive change on a significant scale. On the 1st June 2022, the Bank of Maldives (BML) unveiled ‘Kindly by BML’, a groundbreaking online fundraising platform, marking the first of its kind in the Maldives. This initiative is part of a series of 12 monthly community-driven projects to commemorate the bank’s 40th anniversary. ‘Kindly by BML’ offers a secure, user-friendly platform for nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to initiate fundraising campaigns and receive donations aimed at creating a meaningful social impact within their respective fields.
NGOs using this platform have the flexibility to create multiple campaigns, monitor donations through readily available reports and effectively promote their causes across various social media platforms. To be eligible for registration on ‘Kindly by BML’, NGOs must be locally registered and have been in operation for a minimum of two years. Tim Sawyer, CEO and managing director of BML, emphasized the importance of this platform, which not only facilitates secure donations but also nurtures a culture of kindness and positive change in the Maldives through community involvement. On the 30th August 2023, the Tadamon Crowdfunding Academy launched a transformative training program in the Maldives, involving 10 carefully selected civil society organizations (CSOs). Funded by the Islamic Solidarity.
Fund for Development and managed by the IsDB, the initiative is executed by the United Nations Development Programme.
The CSOs participating in the program will receive training in crowdfunding, a novel fundraising tool. These organizations were chosen based on their potential to drive positive change in their communities, focusing on critical areas such as gender data, climate, gender based violence, employment and poverty reduction, and social protection.
The program aims to empower CSOs by enhancing their fundraising capabilities and equipping them with crowdfunding skills, fostering knowledge-sharing and addressing environmental and economic challenges in island communities. Upon completion of the program, these CSOs will have the expertise to launch crowdfunding campaigns on local or international platforms, fostering meaningful societal transformation in the Maldives. Fundraising for vital causes in the Maldives has found a platform on international crowdfunding websites like SimplyGiving.com. One noteworthy campaign is dedicated to supporting the Maldives Children’s Home, also known as ‘Kudakudhinge Hiyaa.’ This initiative focuses on children’s well-being, emotional support, human rights and social welfare.
The story behind Kudakudhinge Hiyaa is rooted in the recognition of the need for alternative care institutions in the Maldives, especially for children below the age of nine. Established by the Ministry of Gender and Family in collaboration with Crown Company, this safe haven provides refuge for orphans and vulnerable children who lack primary care. Located in Villingili ward of Male’, Kudakudhinge Hiya officially opened its doors on the 11th May 2006, under the patronage of President Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom and Nasreena Ibrahim. Its operations commenced on the 7th October 2004, prior to the inauguration of the new facility. The generous contributions from fundraisers and donors play a pivotal role in supporting this noble cause, demonstrating the power of crowdfunding in making a positive impact on society.
The unregulated environment and the need for regulation
While crowdfunding in the Maldives has yielded positive outcomes, it operates within an unregulated landscape. The absence of specific regulations leaves campaigns vulnerable to issues like transparency deficits, accountability gaps and legal ambiguities. These unregulated waters can lead to fraud, misuse of funds and disputes among participants. The need for regulating crowdfunding in the Maldives is underscored by several compelling reasons. First and foremost, regulation can serve as a safeguard to ensure fair practices within the crowdfunding landscape. By establishing clear rules and standards for crowdfunding campaigns, regulatory measures can enhance transparency and provide crucial protection for contributors, thus fostering trust within the ecosystem.
Secondly, crowdfunding transactions frequently entail financial exchanges, rendering participants vulnerable to various risks, including potential fraud and data breaches. In an unregulated environment, these risks can become amplified. Therefore, regulatory oversight is imperative to implement adequate safeguards and risk mitigation measures to protect all involved parties. Lastly, the evolution of crowdfunding may lead to the emergence of equity based crowdfunding, where contributors receive shares in a venture. In such cases, robust regulatory frameworks become essential to safeguard the rights and interests of investors, ensuring they are not left exposed to potential exploitation or fraudulent activities. In conclusion, crowdfunding regulation in the Maldives is not just a matter of choice but a necessity to foster fairness, mitigate risks and protect the rights of all stakeholders in this burgeoning financial landscape.
Challenges in regulating Islamic crowdfunding in the Maldives are multifaceted and require careful consideration. Firstly, the implementation of comprehensive data protection and cybersecurity laws is paramount. As crowdfunding inherently involves the collection and transmission of personal and financial data, robust legal frameworks are necessary to ensure that contributors’ sensitive information remains safeguarded from potential breaches and cyber threats. Secondly, the establishment of secure and efficient payment gateways is essential to facilitate seamless and secure contributions. However, the Maldives faces limitations in accessing international payment gateways, which can hamper the ease of transactions within online crowdfunding platforms. Lastly, banking limitations pose a notable challenge, particularly in the form of restrictions on the use of local currency cards for internet payments. These restrictions can create hurdles for individuals looking to participate in online crowdfunding campaigns, hindering the overall accessibility and inclusivity of the crowdfunding ecosystem. In addressing these challenges, the Maldives can lay a stronger foundation for regulated crowdfunding, ensuring both security and ease of participation for all stakeholders.
Introducing Islamic crowdfunding in the Maldives holds significant potential for various sectors, making it an appealing prospect for the government, entrepreneurs and philanthropic organizations alike. Given the country’s growing digital infrastructure and tech-savvy population, crowdfunding can serve as a catalyst for innovation and entrepreneurship, providing start-ups with access to much-needed capital.
Additionally, Islamic crowdfunding can play a pivotal role in addressing pressing social issues, such as healthcare, education and community development, by mobilizing resources from both domestic and international contributors.
Furthermore, in a nation characterized by its picturesque landscapes and vibrant culture, Islamic crowdfunding can promote tourism-related ventures, amplifying the Maldives’s global appeal. Thus, the most suitable time to introduce crowdfunding is now, as it aligns with the Maldives’s aspirations for economic diversification, social development and increased international engagement.
The Capital Market Regulatory Authority (the Authority) in the Maldives, as per Section 65 of the Maldives Securities Act (Law No 30/2020 which is the 2nd Amendment to Maldives Securities Act), is vested with the authority to create regulations and guidelines to introduce innovative mechanisms like Islamic crowdfunding. This enables the Authority to facilitate the growth of the capital market while ensuring that these new mechanisms align with the legal framework in the Maldives.
By doing so, the Authority can establish a robust and secure regulatory framework for Islamic crowdfunding activities, enhancing transparency, protecting the interests of both contributors and campaigners, and fostering the growth of entrepreneurship and social initiatives through crowdfunding platforms. This regulatory role represents a significant step toward embracing Islamic crowdfunding as a viable and regulated financial tool within the Maldives’s financial landscape.
The article first appeared in the IFN Volume 20 Issue 43, dated 25 Oct 2023.(https://www.islamicfinancenews.com/is-it-not-the-right-moment-for-the-maldives-to-consider-regulating-islamic-crowdfunding.html)