His Highness the Aga Khan has hailed Portugal for being leader on the global stage in being a country of opportunity.
In his speech at the Senate Chamber, His Highness noted that Portugal is “a country that seeks to honour both its past achievements and its future opportunities, to embrace both the gift of social stability and the promise of social progress.” “The Portuguese Parliament,” he added, “is to be commended for its role in that encouraging story.” He said.
In his welcoming remarks, the President of the Assembly of Portuguese Parliament spoke of the Aga Khan’s and the AKDN’s “notable” actions in addressing the “many challenges which the modern world faces.” He added that their “commitment to education, with emphasis on children’s education, the programmes to fight poverty and the provision of health services, development programmes for rural communities, the supportive spirit and social commitment are hallmarks” of their work in improving the condition and quality of life of communities in need around the world.
The Aga Khan has invested a huge amount of money in bettering the lives of people around the world. In East Africa for instance, His Highness has invested in health by setting up a series of reputable hospitals across East Africa alongside speacialised healthcare facilities. Under the umbrella body- Aga Khan Foundation (AKF), the health programmes seek to strengthen community resilience by addressing the leading causes of death and disease among women and children aged below five. The Foundation’s health programmes are part of a broader AKDN effort to contribute to health systems.
Activities of the supreme leader have been many and impactful. These are found in all sectors of East African economies including agriculture, tourism, media, finance, insurance telecommunication, and manufacturing. They are divided into three main categories based on the work they do all under the umbrella of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN).
He has also invested in Education, a key sector in poverty alleviation in Africa.
In this, His highness is working closely with the Ministries of Education in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, the Foundation aims to enable more children to access education, stay in school longer and attain improved learning outcomes. AKF complements government efforts and contributes to policy dialogue by implementing innovative programmes that apply the latest research and practice to developing country settings.
In a historic address to Portugal’s Members of Parliament that received a standing ovation, His Highness the Aga Khan praised Portugal as a leader on the global stage, one that is widely acknowledged as a country of opportunity, and thanked Portugal for a “progressive partnership” with the Ismaili Imamat. The speech took place in the Senate Chamber at the invitation of His Excellency Eduardo Ferro Rodrigues, the President of the Assembly of the Republic, with whom His Highness also held bilateral meetings today.
According to a statement seen by The Exchange, the address coincides with global celebrations taking place in Lisbon commemorating the Diamond Jubilee of the Aga Khan, marking 60 years of his leadership as the 49th hereditary Imam (spiritual leader) of the Shia Ismaili Muslims.
The Ismaili Imamat and the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) share a long history with the Government of Portugal that has included partnerships to help improve the quality of life for people within Lusophone communities and around the world. Portugal is also home to a sizeable Ismaili population within Europe, and the Aga Khan Foundation, an agency of the AKDN, which has been operating in the country for almost four decades in the areas of early childhood development, education, civil society, economic inclusion and care for the elderly.
Mayor of Lisbon, Fernando Medina, also echoed these sentiments in his speech saying, “His Highness the Aga Khan exercises his mandate with a very clear purpose to support humanity. This is the humanist spirit of intercommunal dialogue which has created such honour for the community which he has led for so many years, fifteen million faithful throughout the world. And action which, through the Aga Khan Development Network, covers critical areas for human development such as health, education, culture, rural development and the promotion of entrepreneurialism. This changes human lives and it changes the world for the better.”
Other projects that His Highness has invested in, in East Africa include: The establishment of over 200 community libraries across East Africa to help foster a reading culture among the youth. The foundation also works with government and private sector partners to increase agricultural productivity and incomes in isolated rural communities. The Foundation’s rural development programmes typically link elements such as increased agricultural productivity, savings and credit, human skills development, infrastructure development and the management of natural resources.
In East Africa, AKF’s Coastal Rural Support Programme has raised incomes for coastal communities in Southern Tanzania and the semi-arid rural areas of Kenya’s Coastal Region.This has touched on common aspects of the economies of the region. For example, in southern Tanzania, micro saving skills among women in Lindi and Mtwara has helped communities, of whom about 43% did not have access to financial services, meet their basic needs. In Kaloleni, Kilifi and Kinango, three of Kenya’s poorest and most drought-prone districts, the work by the Aga Khan agencies to build dams and small farm reservoirs that provide access to water for domestic and productive use in the target communities, has helped numerous households increase their agricultural production and incomes.
AKF’s educational programmes support 1,300 primary schools across East Africa, benefiting over 320,000 children in Southern Tanzania, the West Nile region of Uganda, as well as the Coastal, Nairobi and North Eastern regions of Kenya.
Through effective Public-Private Partnerships in line with the respective health policies and strategic plans of the Governments of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, AKF and its sister AKDN agencies provide high quality health services (primary to tertiary) that seek to ensure a continuum of care and set quality standards in the region. Human resource development at different levels builds the core of AKDN’s contribution to health system development in East Africa, while technological innovations such as the use of e-health (telemedicine) and mHealth (mobile health) platforms help reach out to lower income groups and the marginalised. AKDN has also developed a network of community health workers who provide health promotion and disease prevention education, thus improving the health behaviours of communities.