Aga Khan’s Efforts To Improve The Lives Of People

September 02, 2007

By Rosliwaty Ramly

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 2 (Bernama) — The Aga Khan Development Network is a group of private, international, non-denominational agencies working to improve living conditions and opportunities for people in some of the poorest parts of the developing world.

Created and chaired by His Highness the Aga Khan, the 49th hereditary Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims, the Network is a contemporary endeavour of the Ismaili Imamat to realise the social conscience of Islam through institutional action.

The Network’s organisations have individual mandates that range from the fields of health and education to architecture, rural development and the promotion of private-sector enterprise.

According to Sam Pickens, the Network’s Communications Officer, together they collaborate in working towards a common goal – to build institutions and programmes that can respond to the challenges of social, economic and cultural change on an ongoing basis.

Sam elaborated that the Network brings together a number of agencies, institutions and programmes that have been built up over the past 40 years and, in some cases, date back to the early twentieth century.

The Network’s agencies conduct their programmes without regard to the faith, origin or gender of the people they serve, he added.


The Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED) works to strengthen the role of the private sector in developing countries by promoting entrepreneurial activity and supporting private sector initiatives.

Sam noted that AKFED plays a catalytic role in mobilising investment in developing or transitional economies.

“It makes investments in industrial production, infrastructure, tourism development, financial services, aviation and media. It promotes the creation of the enabling legal and fiscal structures that ensure the viability of private sector initiatives,” he added.

Sam said due to its institutional background and ethical framework, investment decisions are based more on prospects for improving the lives of people in the developing world than on bottom-line profitability.

“AKFED takes bold but calculated steps to invest in environments that are fragile and complex. It has assisted in the rehabilitation of economies after civil conflict or internal turmoil in environments as varied as Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Mozambique, Tajikistan and Uganda,” he added.


The Aga Khan Agency for Microfinance (AKAM) seeks to alleviate economic and social exclusion, diminish the vulnerability of poor populations, reduce poverty and help people become self-reliant.

AKAM operates in both urban and rural settings and offers a range of microfinance services, including micro-insurance, savings services, housing credits and education loans.

Sam explained that loans are accompanied by training in basic business concepts so that borrowers can become financially self-reliant entrepreneurs.

Meanwhile the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) seeks sustainable solutions to the long-term problems of poverty, hunger, illiteracy and ill health throughout the world, with special emphasis on the needs of rural communities in mountainous, coastal and other resource-poor areas, he added.

In this aspect, Sam emphasised that AKF focuses on rural development, health, education, environment, and the strengthening of civil society.

Its programmes include the Aga Khan Rural Support Programmes, the Mountain Societies Development Support Programmes and the Coastal Rural Support Programmes.


Apart from that, Sam said various agencies have been created such as the Aga Khan Education Services, the Aga Khan Health Services and the Aga Khan Planning and Building Services.

The Aga Khan Education Services operates more than 300 schools and advanced educational programmes at the pre-school, primary, secondary and higher secondary levels in Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Kenya, the Kyrgyz Republic, Uganda, Tanzania and Tajikistan.

It aims to diminish the many obstacles to educational access, quality and achievement.

The first of a planned network of over 20 Aga Khan Academies was inaugurated in Mombasa, Kenya, in December 2003, dedicated to expanding access to education of an international standard of excellence in Asia and Africa.

It features a curriculum based on the International Baccalaureate, a special emphasis on the humanities, and a robust system of international student and teacher exchanges.

“Admission is merit-based and needs-blind,” Sam said.

The Aga Khan Health Services (AKHS) with 325 health centres, dispensaries, hospitals, diagnostic centres and community health outlets, is one of the largest and most comprehensive private, non-profit health networks in the developing world.

Meanwhile the Aga Khan Planning and Building Services (AKPBS) works to improve the built environment through design and construction, village planning, natural hazard mitigation, environmental sanitation and improved water supply systems.

Sam stressed that AKPBS achieves these aims by providing material, technical assistance and construction management services for rural and urban areas.

He noted that two universities, Aga Khan University (AKU) and the University of Central Asia (UCA) are part of the Network.

AKU, Pakistan’s first private, autonomous university, headquartered in Karachi, is a major centre for education, training and research in the health sciences and teacher education.

Chartered as Pakistan’s first private international university in 1983, it has since established branches and institutes in East Africa and the United Kingdom. AKU is also creating a new Faculty of Arts and Sciences campus in Karachi.

The second university, the University of Central Asia is the world’s first university dedicated exclusively to education and research in mountain regions and societies.

Located on three campuses, in Khorog, Tajikistan; Tekeli, Kazakhstan; and Naryn, Kyrgyz Republic, it will offer a Master of Arts degree within the School of Development and a Bachelor of Arts programme based on the liberal arts and sciences.

Sam said the School of Professional and Continuing Education, which is already offering classes, is Central Asia’s first provider of formal, university-based, non-degree educational programmes, offering vocational, professional development and personal improvement opportunities to youth and adults.


He emphasised that the Network’s initiatives in culture, architecture, architectural education, urban revitalisation and traditional music are the responsibility of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC).

The Trust focuses on culture as a means of enhancing the physical, social and economic revitalisation of communities in the Islamic world, Sam added.

Its programmes include:

* The Aga Khan Award for Architecture, established in 1977, which is the world’s largest prize for architecture. Presented every three years, it not only awards individual architects for exemplary contemporary work but also singles out projects that propose innovative and replicable solutions to problems of social development.

* The Aga Khan Historic Cities Programme, which was set up in 1992 to implement conservation and urban revitalisation projects in culturally significant sites of the Islamic world. Such projects bring environmental, conservation and socioeconomic components to bear on development issues in urban and rural setting.

* The Education and Culture Programme, which consists of four major units: the Aga Khan Programme for Islamic Architecture at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT);, a virtual archive of materials on architecture, urban design and urban development; the Music Initiative in Central Asia, which works to ensure the preservation of Central Asia’s musical heritage and its transmission to a new generation of artists and audiences; and the Museum Projects which develops museum and exhibition projects, including two museums in Cairo and Toronto.

Sam said the Network’s agencies make a long-term commitment to the areas in which they work and that they are guided by the philosophy that a humane, sustainable environment must reflect the choices, made by people themselves, of how to live and improve prospects in harmony with the environment.

Sustainability is, therefore, a central consideration from the outset, he added.

While each agency pursues its own specific mandate, Sam noted that they all work together within the overarching framework of the Aga Khan Development Network so that their different pursuits can interact and reinforce one another.

“Their common goal is to help poor communities achieve a level of self-reliance whereby they are able to plan their own livelihoods and help those even more needy than themselves,” Sam concluded.

For further information, log on to


Author: ismailimail

Independent, civil society media featuring Ismaili Muslim community, inter and intra faith endeavors, achievements and humanitarian works.

One thought

  1. it is good to see this brief article. Nontheless it is needed to improve by ading some basic examples. for instance the work of aga khan in the earth quak area and other parts of the world. so his efforts are not only for the poors but for the human being to develope a sense of concience in them that how to live in the society.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.