The CGAP microfinance blog highlights the lack of progress in developing laws to facilitate microfinance since the Arab Spring. One point the post makes is that "The irony in all this is that only in Syria and Yemen, two countries still heavily affected by the uprisings, did the governments sanction savings mobilization by MFIs meeting minimum standards."
It is interesting to me that in both these countries where microfinance was sanctioned by the governments there have been Islamic microfinance institutions, in Jabal al-Hoss in Syria and Hodeidah in Yemen. There is still much to do in both countries, and in both countries there are more pressing needs with the departure of Ali Abdallah Saleh from Yemen and the continued fighting in Syria against Bashar al-Assad.
However, despite the continued unrest in both countries, there have been examples of demand for Islamic microfinance which suggests that there is probably demand in other countries where the Arab Spring has run its course. These countries should move forward on both conventional and Islamic microfinance development as a top priority. Some may point out that there are more weighty concerns in the forefront today, but I would argue that the development of programs to provide economic opportunities should be at the forefront because the Arab Spring largely arose out of one man, Mohammed Bouazizi, very publicly died after setting himself on fire due to having his livelihood snuffed out by the police when they confiscated his fruit crates and electronic scale.
It is fair to question whether Islamic microfinance is well developed enough to be moved to the top of the agenda alongside conventional microfinance. However, with so many resources being devoted to developing the (macro) Islamic finance industry, there should be an equivalent commitment to developing Islamic microfinance. Today, two of the biggest Islamic microfinance programs are being facilitated with funding for technical support from the US international aid agency USAID in Afghanistan and Iraq. Where are the Islamic finance institutions who claim to embrace corporate social responsibility, ethical finance and a concern for the poor in laying the groundwork for Islamic microfinance to develop across the MENA region after the Arab Spring?