Contents of the ‘Aga Khan Fund for Economic Dev (AKFED)’ category in chronological order.

Nation Media Group Printing Press Commissioning Ceremony (Nairobi, Kenya).

[S]ome people say, is that we live in a “post-fact” society. Yes, a post-fact society. It’s not just that everyone feels entitled to his or her own opinion — that’s a good thing. But the problem comes when people feel they are entitled to their own facts. What is true, too often, can then depend not on what actually happened, but on whose side you are. Our search for the truth can then become less important than our allegiance to a cause — an ideology, for example, or a political party, or a tribal or religious identity, or a pro-government or opposition outlook. And so publics all over the world can begin to fragment, and societies can drift into deadlock. In such a world, it is absolutely critical, more than ever, that the public should have somewhere to turn for reliable, balanced, objective and accurate information, as best as it can be discovered.

Read more »

le Parisien Interview, Gilles Maarek & Gaetane Morin, ‘Aga Khan, l’imam philanthrope’ (Chantilly, France)

[Google translation] How do you perceive the rising tensions around Islam?

This is a concern for the whole world, not only for the Muslim world. The vast majority of these conflicts is not the result of theological problems, but political. Sometimes there instrumentalization of religion for political purposes. The answer is first constitutional. A quarter of the Member States of the United Nations are now reviewing their constitution.We must find a balance between secularism and theocracy, and this is a bigger problem for developing countries for the West. Today, the most thoughtful and the most successful in the Muslim world’s most advanced Constitution, is the Tunisian Constitution.

Read more »

Bujagali Hydropower Project Inauguration Ceremony (Jinja, Uganda)

The second point I would make is that this project has not stopped at the delivery of energy. It is investing in education, it is investing in healthcare, it is investing in social development, it is investing in all those aspects which improve the quality of life of people who live within the ambit of the project. And I think this is an important lesson to be learnt, because ultimately the goal is to improve the quality of life of people in the most complete manner possible.

Read more »

‘A Life in the Service of Development’ published in Politique Internationale (Paris, France)

Practically no countries [sic] in Asia, Africa or the Middle East have a political landscape rooted in a strong two-party system as do many Western democracies. The probable consequence is that in many if not most countries of the developing world, coalition government will be omnipresent in the decades ahead. Yet few of these countries have any established experience with coalition governance (this is true of even the most powerful countries of the industrialised world). This critical challenge will become even more complex in countries where functioning compromises must be found between secular and theocratic forces.

A possible common ground could be found if all the political forces accepted over-arching responsibility to nourish a cosmopolitan ethic among their peoples. This would be an ethic for all peoples, one that offers equitable and measurable opportunities for the improvement of their lives, measured in terms of their own criteria for quality living. Clearly, different peoples will have different visions about a desirable quality of life, in urban versus rural areas, for example.

Read more »

Dushanbe Serena Hotel Opening Ceremony (Dushanbe, Tajikistan)

Thinking of the past, I recollect the important dates of Tajik history. Twenty years ago, independence; sixteen years ago, an agreement between the Aga Khan Development Network and the government of Tajikistan in order to contribute to the development of this country. That agreement has enabled us to share as partners in the work of developing Tajikistan and improving the quality of life of the people of this country. We focused not only on building this hotel, but we worked on rural development, health and education at different levels, the production of energy and including the University of Central Asia and the Ismaili Centre here in Dushanbe. What is the purpose? The purpose is to bring multiple-sector support to the development process of the countries in which we work in.

Read more »

The East African Interview, Peter Mwaura, ‘How East Africans can build one common destiny for and by themselves, step by intelligent step’ (Nairobi, Kenya)

[W]e are looking at quality of life indicators — indicators that are not the same as those of the World Bank, indicators we have tried to develop through our own experience. We are looking at things like security, longevity, disposable income, access to education and employment. We are looking at what really affects people’s attitudes to their own understanding of quality of life. We did discover that communities around the world don’t have the same value systems. They will interpret their own qualities of life very differently from one part of the country to the other….

Imams around the world have businesses, not just the Shia Ismaili Imam. We do not see a conflict and indeed if we lived in an attitude of conflict, I don’t believe we would be living within the ethics of Islam. Islam doesn’t say that a proper practice of the faith means you have to ignore the world. What it says is: Bring to the world the ethics of your faith. If you have wealth, use it properly. But the actual ownership of wealth is not in any way criticisable unless you have acquired it through improper means or you are using it for improper purposes. It is seen as a blessing of God. So this whole notion of conflict between faith and world is totally in contradiction to the ethics of Islam….

Creating energy can be a source of environmental damage. The question is what is the most cost-effective way of creating this energy with minimum damage. I believe the partners in Bujagali have gone through massive environmental analysis and come to the conclusion that this is one of the least environmentally damaging initiatives in East Africa, because it impacts a very, very small area of land and a small percentage of the population, who were all relocated in good conditions. I have seen situations where energy has been produced by windmills, by solar batteries and the damage that they have done to the environment is simply incredible. Because these types of energy creation don’t work everywhere. And when they don’t work, they get written off in three years but nobody pulls them down. So they stay there and they are awful. We still don’t really know a great deal about the technology of these new energy sources.

Read more »

Restored Polana Serena Hotel Opening Ceremony (Maputo, Mozambique)

There is one other larger context I would like to mention today — the story of the Serena Hotel Group as a whole. Stretching back now over nearly four decades the Serena Group has contributed significantly to the economic progress of the places where it operates. And we intend that this same thing will happen in this country.

To begin with, attracting visitors to this country — business leaders and leisure travellers alike, one-time visitors and repeat customers — will itself produce foreign exchange at the time of such visits as well as later foreign investment, often as a result of those stays. And in both cases, there will be important multiplier effects for other enterprises, as well as for government revenues.

As the Serena Group has learned in so many other places, world-class travel facilities can be crucial components of what we call an “enabling environment” — a setting in which additional development initiatives can take root and thrive.

Read more »

Address to the Conference Marking Nation Media Group’s 50th Anniversary, ‘Media and the African Promise’ (Nairobi, Kenya)

I am convinced that the best way for media, in Africa and elsewhere, to maintain their independence is to prove their indispensability. This is not an easy task. Information flows more quickly, over longer distances at lower cost than ever before. But sometimes more information, in and of itself, can also mean more misinformation, more confusion, more manipulation, more superficial snapshots of events, lacking nuance, lacking context, or hiding agendas….

In my view the time has come when a sometimes dysfunctional relationship born out of government inexperience or media shallowness can be replaced by a new level of constructive intellectual empathy. I am convinced that an improved relationship is now possible. No! It is essential if African development is to progress at the pace African peoples need and want….

I am pleased to tell you that The Aga Khan University is planning to establish a new Graduate School of Media and Communications, based in East Africa and dedicated to advancing the excellence of media performance and the strengthening of ethical media practices throughout the developing world. The School will be driven, above all, by an absolute commitment to quality.

Read more »

Foreword to the Daily Nation 50th Anniversary Special Supplement, ‘After 5 decades, the future depends on ability to adapt’ (Nairobi, Kenya)

My own role in the Nation Media Group has also evolved considerably. Seven years ago I gave my personal shares in NMG to the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED) — the economic development arm of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN). The move not only gave NMG a new source of corporate strength but it also anchored the company in a broader development philosophy designed to bring excellence and best practices to societies in the developing world. It also allowed NMG to benefit from the Network’s significant experience in East Africa.

Read more »

Acceptance Address – 2009 Nouvel Economiste Philanthropic Entrepreneur of the Year Award (Paris, France)

The goal [of AKDN’s strategy] is clear: the aim is to create or strengthen civil society in developing countries. This single goal, when it is achieved, is in fact necessary and sufficient to ensure peaceful and stable development over the long term, even when governance is problematic…. The essence of our development strategy is thus to create these where they are lacking or need to be reinforced….

The various organisations within the AKDN fall into two categories which both share the same goal of supporting development: commercial companies (grouped together into the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development, known as AKFED) and those non-profit enterprises which I call “para-companies,” that work toward social or cultural goals. The reason for this dual structure is that civil society cannot emerge solely by starting businesses or solely by building hospitals, schools and universities or cultural facilities….

Para-companies are designed to be economically independent…. [They are] conceived to produce a surplus to ensure their survival and development as long as an entrepreneurial philosophy underpins the creation process and later the day-to-day management. This notion of surplus, it should be pointed out, in no way conflicts with the non-profit status of para-companies.

Read more »

Khorog City Park Opening Ceremony (Khorog, Tajikistan)

Access to green spaces is clearly an important value for the residents of Khorog. Our vision for the Park is that visitors will truly think of the time they spend here as “quality time” — in the fullest sense of that word — moments in their lives during which their spirits will be deeply enriched, hours filled with experiences that they will both enjoy and remember as times of blessing.

That will happen in part because of the music and dance and other cultural events that will be presented here — especially in the new open-air theatre. It will happen in part because of the group discussions and lively conversations that will take place here and the children who will play here — swimming in the summer, for example, and skating in the winter. It will happen in part because of the great celebrations that will take place here, including holiday ceremonies and festivals. And it will also happen because this will be a wonderful setting for individual reflection and contemplation, inspired by the beauty of this place — including the sounds and the sight of running water, in itself a mysterious, ever-changing and always-inspiring natural force. We see Khorog Park as a place of continuity — playing an intimate role from the earliest weeks of a child’s life until that child grows to become a grown-up with his or her own family. And we also see it as a place of change — a park for all seasons of the annual calendar — transforming itself to capture the particular beauty of each particular time of the year.

Read more »

Financial Times Interview, Rachel Morarjee, ‘Coffee with the FT: His Highness the Aga Khan’ (London, United Kingdom) ·· incomplete

“If you try to put social development ahead of economic support, it doesn’t work. You have to do both together. A community whose economics don’t change is not one that can support community structures, education, healthcare, it doesn’t have the wherewithal.”

I ask whether he thinks this long-term view is key to his success and he says that many projects can take 25 years to come to fruition. He cites a hospital in Pakistan that now produces world class doctors a quarter of a century after it opened. It would be hard to find Western donors who would remain with a project for that long.

Read more »

Signing Ceremony for three agreements: 1) The First MicroFinance Institution the Central Bank of Portgual. 2) The Aga Khan University and Ministries of Health and Higher Education of the Government of Syria. 3) The Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development and City of Damascus (Damascus, Syria)

I believe that Islamic cultures have immense power and immense opportunity. It is up to us Muslims to illustrate those civilisations, those cultures of the past and the present. And one of the ways to do so is to revive the effectiveness of cultural assets in communicating to people. And historic buildings do not need to be thought of only as unproductive buildings.

Cultural assets can and should become contributors to cultural dialogue, cultural understanding, pride in one’s heritage and make an economic contribution to the country. And this is why it is so important to develop the leisure industry not only in terminology of modern buildings, but cultural assets speak to people. And if we want to bridge the gulf of misunderstanding between many countries in the Ummah and other countries outside the Ummah, one of the ways to do so, I believe, is to have our cultural assets speak for our history, speak for our traditions, speak for our values, speak for our ethics.

Read more »

Various events during the August 2008 visit to Syria (Syria) ·· maybe missing

MAYBE MISSING: We regret that some (or many) of the speeches during this visit are not available in the Archive. Listed below are some events he attended where Mawlana Hazar Imam made or may have made a speech. We would be very grateful if any of our readers who may have these speeches, or others from the visit, would kindly share them with us. Please click here for information on making submissions to NanoWisdoms; we thank you for your assistance.

Read more »

State Banquet (Dhaka, Bangladesh)

Technology is also transforming our economic lives. Economic value is no longer tied to how much land one controls or how many machines or factories one owns. Within our lifetimes, predominantly “Agricultural Societies” and “Industrial Societies” of the past have been joined, and sometimes supplanted, by what many call the “Knowledge Society,” propelled by the digital revolution, and focusing on the creation and management of information. In a Knowledge Society, the most productive investments we can make are investments in education. And education is another priority we share with the Bangladeshi people.

Read more »

Bujagali Hydropower Project Foundation Stone Ceremony (Jinja, Uganda)

The great issue of development, everywhere in the world, is whether the power supply will grow more quickly than the economy, or whether economic growth will outstrip the power supply. Uganda has been suffering from the latter condition and the consequences have been grave….

Skyrocketing [electricty] costs work to reinforce the cycle of poverty for millions, and they badly impair the ability of Ugandan companies to compete in international markets and thus to expand employment. The result of continuing power shortfalls can be a downward spiral of disappointment and discouragement.

The Bujugali project was not merely a desirable option as we began to examine it a few years ago. It was a fundamental necessity. [J]ust imagine for a moment the transformation that can take place when the cost of power is cut by more than half, as it will be in the early stages of this project, and then is later cut in half again…. I believe that the Bujagali project will propel a great chain of positive developments — an exciting upward spiral.

Read more »

New York Times Interview, G. Pascal Zachary, ‘Do Business and Islam Mix? Ask Him’ (New York, USA) ·· incomplete

[AKDFED’s] main purpose “is to contribute to development,” [the Aga Khan] adds. “It is not a capitalist enterprise that aims at declaring dividends to its shareholders.” Central to his ethos is the notion that his investments can prompt other forms of economic growth within a country or region that results in greater employment and hope for the poor.

Economic developments experts say the Aga Khan’s activities offer a useful template for others — including philanthropists like Bill Gates and George Soros — who are trying to assist the world’s poorest by marrying business practices to social goals, but whose foundation work usually stops short of owning businesses outright in poor countries.

Paul Collier, an economist at Oxford University who specialises in the problems of poor countries, says he believes that aid agencies could benefit from operating more like venture capitalists — and more like the Aga Khan. “He gets a multiplier effect from his investments that’s really lacking in foreign aid,” Mr. Collier says. “I’m impressed with his way of accepting risk and thinking long term.” …

Mixing business and charity, while long at odds with mainstream capitalist practice, is growing in prominence, making the Aga Khan an unlikely innovator.

Read more »

Philip Jodidio Interview (2nd) published in ‘Under the Eaves of Architecture’, ‘The Processes of Change’ (London, United Kingdom)

The vast majority of buildings in the developing world are not “architectured” buildings in the sense of the Western profession. That does not mean that quality buildings do not happen. They happen through a whole series of different processes, and not just the architectural process. The inherited knowledge of builders is remarkable. There is a whole body of inherited knowledge in developing countries, and in the Islamic world in particular, which is not driven by Western definitions of architecture.

When the Award started, the question arose about whether we were talking about that small window of “architectured” buildings in this enormous environment or whether we were talking about the whole process of change of that environment? … Very early on there was consensus that the Aga Khan Award could not be just for “architectured” buildings, it had to be an award for quality buildings no matter what the process of their creation…. The Award was very definitely an initiative to recognise the processes of building quality….

I think that the Award must evolve. Institutions that do not evolve tend to get marginalised. There are needs ahead of us which must be addressed by the Award. The biggest concern I would have is to recognise the processes of change, and to be certain that the Award plays an appropriate role in working with those processes so that they are not exclusive of quality in design or environmental concerns.

Read more »

Kampala Serena Hotel Opening Ceremony (Kampala, Uganda)

Our intention is that the model we have adopted elsewhere in the region will also be applied here in this country — so that this major new hotel in the capital city can be followed, as soon as the necessary allocations are granted, by a quality circuit of new resorts and safari lodges in the Ugandan countryside. When that happens, a new East African travel circuit will be completed — featuring world class, state-of-the-art facilities, comprising a unique array of inspiring attractions, and offering a holiday experience “second-to-none”….

[O]ur goal is not merely to build an attractive building or to fill its rooms with visitors, but also to make a strategic investment which many private investors might be reluctant to make, but which promises to produce a magnificent multiplier effect as its impact ripples through the local communities….

AKFED is ready to take justified investment risks — to a greater extent than many other investors. We are ready to be patient investors, with a far-ranging vision. We are long-term players, maintaining our presence even during periods of economic or political turbulence.

Read more »

Kabul Serena Hotel Opening Ceremony (Kabul, Afghanistan)

[T]here are some who will ask: why build an hotel in Afghanistan at this stage of its struggle for development? And why build one of a five star level? In 2002, the Government of Afghanistan asked the Aga Khan Development Network — the AKDN — to help in restoring Kabul’s hotel capacity, which had been almost totally destroyed by the civil war. The government wanted to ensure that state visitors, diplomats, government officials, foreign and local investors, donor agency representatives and tourists travelling to Kabul would have acceptable accommodation. The Kabul Hotel had been a notable landmark and centre of activity in the city since it was built in 1945; hence it was an obvious candidate for restoration….

[I would like] to explain briefly why we attach importance to our work in the field of culture…. Our experience in situations as diverse as remote parts of Northern Pakistan, to Delhi, Zanzibar and Central Cairo, is that the restoration of historic communities and important cultural assets serves as a trampoline for economic development. The restoration activity is a source of direct employment for workers and skilled craftsmen, many of whom live in adjacent neighbourhoods. The refurbished facilities themselves become an attraction for tourists, generating more opportunity. And as the residents of surrounding areas find themselves with new sources of income, they spend some of it improving their own homes and neighbourhoods.

Read more »