LAKHANI: Aga Khan’s Diamond Jubilee: A celebration of solid partnership


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The government, the commercial sector and civil society all have a responsibility to create an environment of interacting forces coming together for development.

Political stability; safety and security; citizen rights; predictable democratic practices; and an efficient, impartial legal and administrative framework are imperative.

Civil society has to be active to complement the other sectors. 

However, the energies of the three sectors can be fragmented, sometimes resulting in duplication and waste.

Coordinated collaboration can overcome such fragmentation.

On Tuesday, His Highness the Aga Khan will mark his Diamond Jubilee, or the 60th year as the 49th hereditary Imam (spiritual leader) of the world’s Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims.

In Islam’s ethical tradition, religious leaders not only interpret the faith, but also have a responsibility to help improve the quality of life of their community and societies they live in.

The Aga Khan is the founder and chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), a group of agencies now present in over 30 countries.

The Diamond Jubilee offers an opportunity to reflect on how this civil society role has evolved in fruitful partnership with the government to benefit Kenyans.

AKDN Kenya covers not-for-profit social development – Aga Khan Foundation (AKF), Aga Khan Health Services (AKHS), Aga Khan Education Services (AKES), Aga Khan University (AKU), and Aga Khan Academies (AKA)).

For-profit economic development – Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED), Diamond Trust Bank, Habib Bank, Jubilee Insurance, Industrial Promotion Services (IPS), Tourism Promotion Services, Nation Media Group, and Property Development and Management.

His Highness’ philosophy has made AKDN one of the largest private development networks in Kenya.

It has over 15,000 employees (99 per cent Kenyan).

Every year, it touches 7.5 million Kenyans directly plus 4 million indirectly.

Estimates for last year show annual budgets for social development of Sh18 billion ($175 million); and revenues generated by the economic development firms of Sh65 billion ($635 million).

In health care, last year, AKU, AKF and AKHS supported three hospitals and 54 outreach medical centres; treated 30,000 inpatients and a million outpatients; provided access to 50,000 through 14 public dispensaries; and saw 94,000 patients at free medical camps.

In education, AKU, AKF, AKES and AKA educated 6,400 students.

Over a million students were impacted through AKF programmes for public and low-cost private schools.

AKU provides post-graduate education for doctors.

Students in nursing only pay 12 per cent of their costs; and 25 per cent of the AKA’s budget is used for scholarships and bursaries.

The AKU Hospital in Nairobi is the only hospital in Kenya with a renowned Joint Commission International Accreditation for quality.

Offering this quality, while being required to recover costs and remain sustainable, means higher charges for services even as a not-for-profit institution.

IPS initially focused on import substitution, moved to agroindustry export, and is now in infrastructure projects such as SEACOM, the undersea fibre-optic cable.

Four AKFED firms are listed on the Nairobi Securities Exchange, enabling the sharing of profits with Kenyans.

IPS’s Frigoken programme helps 70,000 farmers with training, finance, and a guaranteed market.

A pioneering spirit has been an integral part of AKDN.

Its schools were the first to accept students of all denominations.

The Aga Khan Hospital was the first multi-racial hospital; Jubilee Insurance Company was set up to extend insurance to non-Europeans and was the first listed insurance firm; the Nation was the first newspaper to provide independent voices for nationhood in the years just preceding independence; and Serena Hotels demonstrated sensitivity to the environment and local cultures at an early stage.

AKU plans Sh14 billion ($138m) expansion.

Also, at a presentation by the Ismaili community and AKDN of Sh13.25 million for the recent drought relief, we reiterated our commitment to working with the government on development priorities such as youth unemployment and agriculture.

Dr Lakhani is the diplomatic representative, Aga Khan Development Network Kenya

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