Kampala, Uganda, 22 August 2007 - His Highness the Aga Khan said Africa’s enormous potential made him optimistic about the continent’s future. “My optimism grows out of several observations: beginning with the continuing rich potential of Africa’s natural resources - including the remarkable talents and the resilient spirit of its peoples.”
The spiritual leader of the Ismaili community made the remarks during a banquet he hosted in honour of Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni. Uganda was the last leg of the Aga Khan’s 12-day tour of East Africa as part of his Golden Jubilee visits.
“This is a special evening for me - the closing moments of the first of my Golden Jubilee visits to places which have had particular meaning for the Ismaili Community, for the institutions of the Aga Khan Development Network, and for me, personally, over the past half century,” he said.
The Ismaili leader praised Uganda’s and Africa’s new spirit of pluralism and said that the region deserved excellence in development.
“If one key to unlocking the potential of Uganda, and all of Africa, is a spirit of pluralism, then another key should be a commitment to excellence. There was a time, earlier in my Imamat, when mediocrity was considered tolerable here because it was good enough for Africa, he said.
The Ismaili leader urged the African nations to see diversity and difference as a source of potential strength in the increasingly globalised world. He noted that adherence to normal world-class standards was once seen as unrealistic for Africa. But he said that view was no longer sustainable.
“But in the rapidly globalizing world of the 21st century, the progress of every country and continent will depend on its ability to meet universal standards. To settle for less is an increasingly dangerous option,” he said.
The emphasis on quality and excellence has been a recurring theme of the Aga Khan’s visit to East Africa which was punctuated by announcements of new quality educational institutions. Earlier on Wednesday in Kampala, the Ismaili leader presided over a foundation stone laying ceremony for a new Aga Khan Academy in Kampala that will provide quality education for exceptionally gifted children.
Last week in Tanzania, the Aga Khan announced plans to build a major university campus in Arusha – seat of the East African Community. The new campus will be part of the Aga Khan University (AKU), becoming the East African Community’s first regional institution of higher education. The Tanzania announcement came just days after the Ismaili leader lay the foundation stone for a new AKU Faculty of Health and Sciences- a US $250 million health sciences campus to be established in Nairobi, Kenya.
“In all of these efforts, we see ourselves as partners with the people of East Africa,” ended the Aga Khan. “It is in that spirit of partnership, then, that I conclude this journey, grateful for what we have been able to do together in the past, excited by the things we will be attempting together in the future, and looking forward to many return visits to this very special place, “ said the Ismaili leader.
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The Aga Khan Development Network
His Highness the Aga Khan is founder and Chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), a group of private, non-denominational development agencies working to empower communities and individuals to improve living conditions and opportunities, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, Central and South Asia, and the Middle East. The Network’s nine development agencies focus on social, cultural and economic development for all citizens, regardless of gender, origin or religion. The AKDN’s underlying ethic is compassion for the vulnerable in society. Its annual budget for social development is in excess of US$ 300 million.
Golden Jubilee of His Highness the Aga Khan
His Highness the Aga Khan completed his 50th year as the 49th hereditary Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims on 11th 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.