Kabul, Afghanistan, 23 June 2004 - The Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, charged with promoting private sector investment in the developing world, have signed a US$7 million investment agreement to finance the refurbishment and expansion of the Kabul Serena Hotel as part of a US$28 million project begun in late 2002.
The restoration, renovation and expansion of the fifty-year old facility will give Afghanistan its first hotel of international standing with 180 rooms, a variety of restaurants, sizeable banqueting facilities, health and leisure facilities, and a shopping arcade. The refurbished hotel, which was severely damaged and in a major state of disrepair as a result of decades of conflict in Afghanistan, will also have several meeting rooms and conference facilities for up to 350 people.
Prince Amyn Aga Khan, a Director of AKFED and Chairman of its Executive Committee, said that the hotel should help the country to revive its tourism industry and would have a major, positive impact on the economy. "Serena has had a long-standing and close relationship with IFC elsewhere, particularly in East Africa. I am delighted to see this co-operation now extended to the Kabul Serena Hotel which is destined, I hope, to change the economic and social landscape of Kabul."
Peter Woicke, Executive Vice President of IFC said, “IFC is committed to supporting the reconstruction strategy of the government of Afghanistan, which includes enabling private sector development.” He added, “ IFC expects that this investment will provide a powerful demonstration effect to the international investor community and help spur much-needed wealth and job-creating capital inflows into Afghanistan.”
The Kabul Serena Hotel is a Soviet-era hotel built amidst gardens. It dominates a busy junction in the city’s commercial centre and overlooks Zanegar Park, an open public space being rehabilitated by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture. In the past, the hotel has served as a refuge for the famous carved wooden effigies moved from Nuristan and other masterpieces that were moved in 1996 from the Kabul Museum. The re-design of the hotel is being undertaken by ARCOP Associates of Montreal and New Delhi, led by award-winning architect Ramesh Khosla whose credits include the Mughal Sheraton in Agra, the Centrum in Los Angeles and the World Trade Centre Concourse in New York. Khosla has already worked with AKFED on the Serena Hotels in Quetta and Faisalabad which set standards of innovative design and excellence in those cities.
The opening of the Kabul Serena Hotel later this year will bring to 23, the number of hotels, resorts and lodges operated by the Serena Group around the world. The group started its presence in East Africa in the 1970s with hotels and lodges in Kenya, and has since expanded to Tanzania, Zanzibar, Uganda, Mozambique and Pakistan.
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The Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED) operates as a network of affiliates with more than 90 separate project companies employing over 15,000 people and is active in 17 countries in Asia and Africa: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, India, Kenya, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritius, Mozambique, Niger, Pakistan, Senegal, Tajikistan, Tanzania, and Uganda. The Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) is a group of private development agencies working to empower communities and individuals, often in disadvantaged circumstances, to improve living conditions and opportunities, especially in Africa and Asia. The Network’s agencies work for the common good of all citizens, regardless of their gender, origin or religion and its underlying impulse is the ethic of compassion for the vulnerable in society.
IFC’s mission is to promote sustainable private sector investment in developing countries, helping to reduce poverty and to improve people’s lives. IFC finances private sector investments in the developing world, mobilises capital in the international financial markets, helps clients improve social and environmental sustainability, and provides technical assistance and advice to governments and businesses. From its founding in 1956 through Financial Year 2003, IFC has committed more than US$37 billion of its own funds and arranged US$22 billion in syndications for 2990 companies in 140 developing countries. IFC’s worldwide committed portfolio, as of Financial Year 2003, was US$16.8 billion for its own account and US$6.6 billion held for participants in loan syndications.
Serena Hotels and lodges enjoy a long-established reputation for the highest standards of comfort and service within environments that meticulously promote indigenous architectural, craft and cultural traditions. In the regions where they operate, Serena properties have been at the forefront of human resource development, of generating foreign exchange revenue, of providing employment to local residents and of bringing environmental sensitivity to the tourism industry in the region. Serena operates 22 hotels, inns, resorts, safari lodges and tented camps in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Mozambique and Pakistan.
Since 2002, the AKDN has embarked upon an ambitious expansion of its humanitarian assistance work in Afghanistan to include a number of development initiatives addressing issues of food security, infrastructure rehabilitation, upgrading and support for healthcare and educational institutions, water and sanitation, revitalisation and urban development in Kabul and the need for investment in priority sectors of the economy such as microfinance, telecommunications and tourism. These follow on the commitment of US$75 million towards the reconstruction of Afghanistan announced by the Aga Khan in January 2002.