Dubai Islamic Bank has begun exploring opportunities in Kenya and other African countries amid diversification efforts to grow its revenue base away from a state of dependence on its predominant UAE income and towards a number of other potential international markets.

Presently the UAE’s largest sharia-compliant lender, the bank makes some 95% of its revenue within the country and is entering a growth phase domestically and internationally.

In an interview with Reuters, CEO Adnan Chilwan stated: “We are exploring opportunities in Indonesia, Kenya and surrounding countries in Africa, the Indian subcontinent and the GCC.”

Chilwan also described Africa as “virgin territory” for Islamic finance. In Kenya, where Muslims make up 15% of the 40 million-strong population, the financial regulator is also preparing a 10-year capital markets development strategy with provisions for Islamic finance.

“We could acquire, set up a JV, establish a finance company or start a greenfield operation as long as we keep management control and operate under our brand,” he continued.

Without giving details of his plans for Africa, he noted that both consumer and wholesale opportunities are currently present, and that returns are “decent and more than acceptable”.

He added that entry into one country would be used as part of a strategy to ease expansion into its whole region, explaining: “Given a five-year scenario, we expect a decent franchise spread across these countries with stable and solid yields across all sectors.”

Within about six to eight years Chilwan hopes that DIB’s international business could grow significantly to reflect anywhere between 10-15% of the group’s overall revenue figures.  On the whole, the comments elaborate on not dissimilar statements made in February this year.

The anticipated shift comes on the back of a variety of measures taken by the bank over the last few years to strengthen its balance sheet, such as, in 2013, DIB’s takeover of Dubai-based mortgage lender Tamweel, in which it already held a majority stake, through a share swap.