Maputo, Mozambique, 21 November 2007 – His Highness the Aga Khan, spiritual leader (Imam) of the Ismaili Muslims, yesterday praised Mozambique as a model of successful post-conflict development and hailed the country’s economic performance and tenacity in overcoming difficulties.
“In an era when frustration often breeds cynicism concerning the possibility of progress, Mozambique can provide inspiration and encouragement to other post-conflict societies,” he said.
The Aga Khan, who is chairman and founder of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) with projects throughout Africa, noted that Mozambique's economic growth was one of the best in Africa despite continued problems. “The problems of poverty, disease and, illiteracy here are still enormous. But your recent progress has been built on sound principles – and for that reason, Mozambique has become a valuable model for the whole of the developing world,” he said.
The Ismaili leader made the remarks at an official banquet in Maputo, held in his honour by Mozambique's President, His Excellency Armando Guebuza, who invited him to the country. Mozambique was the first leg of the Aga Khan’s 9-day tour of Southern Africa that also includes Madagascar. The visit is the Aga Khan’s second to Africa since July 11, which marked the start of his year-long Golden Jubilee celebrations.
In his address, the Aga Khan said that Africa has been one of his central preoccupations during his 50-year Imamat, because of the century and a half of history of the Ismaili people in the continent and the independence movement of many African nations as they “began their journey toward stability and progress as self-governing countries.” The Aga Khan said he was proud to participate in the “great, continuing story of Mozambican progress.”
The Aga Khan announced that AKDN will expand its involvement in Mozambique to establish a garment factory, as well as the country’s first microfinance bank. He also said the people of Mozambique will benefit from the construction of a new undersea high-speed fibre optic cable that will link Southern and Eastern Africa with Mumbai in India and Marseille in France – a project co-financed by the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED) – the network’s economic development arm. The cable will also serve Kenya, Tanzania, Madagascar and Rwanda.
The Ismaili leader said he saw great potential in Mozambique as a tourist destination and announced more investments in that sector.
As he arrived at Maputo International Airport earlier in the day, the Aga Khan was greeted by Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Alcinda Abreu, and a cheering crowd of local and visiting Ismaili community members, as well as troupes of traditional singers and dancers.
Today, the Aga Khan is scheduled to meet with Mr Eduardo Mulembwe, the President of the Assembly of the Republic of Mozambique, after hosting a luncheon in honour of Mozambique’s President Guebuza. On Friday the Aga Khan is expected to visit field projects in Mozambique’s north-eastern Pemba region before departing for Madagascar.
In Pemba's Cabo Delgado region, the Aga Khan Development Network is involved in rural support projects designed to reduce poverty in the remote areas of the country. The programme covers 146 villages and benefits 21,000 households.
Secretariat of His Highness the Aga Khan
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Golden Jubilee of His Highness the Aga Khan
His Highness the Aga Khan completed his 50 th year as the 49 th hereditary Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims on 11 th July 2007, succeeding his grandfather, Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah. The Aga Khan leads a community of 15 million Ismaili Muslims living in some 25 countries around the world and is a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family). In the Ismaili tradition, the Imam’s Jubilee celebrations offer occasions to launch new social, cultural and economic development projects. In keeping with the ethics of the faith, these projects aspire to improve the quality of life for the most vulnerable in society. During the Jubilee year, the Aga Khan is expected to travel to a number of countries to meet with members of the Ismaili community and visit projects of the AKDN. He is also likely to announce the creation of new development institutions and projects and the significant expansion of existing ones.
The Aga Khan Development Network
His Highness the Aga Khan is founder and Chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), a group of private, non-denominational development agencies working to empower communities and individuals to improve living conditions and opportunities, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, Central and South Asia, and the Middle East. The Network’s nine development agencies focus on social, cultural and economic development for all citizens, regardless of gender, origin or religion. The AKDN’s underlying ethic is compassion for the vulnerable in society. Its annual budget for philanthropic activity is in excess of US$ 300 million.