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His Highness the Aga Khan

Speech by His Highness the Aga Khan at the State Banquet(Maputo, Mozambique)

20 November 2007

 

Please also see: Photographs and Speech in Portuguese

Your Excellency President Guebuza
Your Excellency Madam First Lady
Your Excellency the Prime Minister
Honourable Mayor of Maputo
Honourable Governor of Maputo
Honourable Ministers
Excellencies
Ladies and Gentlemen

I am pleased to express, Mr. President, to you and your guests, and to the people of this country, my profound gratitude for the extraordinary warmth of your welcome.

The Mozambican people have a great gift for making visitors feel at home. As a previous visitor, I know well the special quality of a Mozambican welcome - and I deeply appreciate the kindnesses you have shared with me.

An anniversary is always an occasion for reflection - for looking back and for looking ahead. As we reflect tonight, we can do so with a special sense of hope and promise- in the future of Mozambique and in the future of Africa.

As you know, the future of Africa has been one of my central preoccupations over the past five decades. My interest grew partly out of the history of the Ismaili people in Africa - stretching back over a century and a half. And I was also fascinated by the great drama of national independence in those early years of my Imamat, as proud, ancient cultures - after so many years of colonial rule - began the journey toward stability and progress as self-governing countries.

That journey has often been a difficult one, especially in Mozambique. But that past, sometimes deeply painful, is gone - and Mozambicans now look to a new era of progress and of promise. Over the past fourteen years of post-conflict history - you have gone from negative growth rates in the range of eight percent a year, to positive growth rates in the same range! That is a remarkable accomplishment.

Great challenges remain, of course. 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.

Your growth record is one of the best in Africa - built neither on diamonds nor on oil, as Prime Minister Diogo has put it - but on the development of human potential and the consolidation of the democratic processes.

Mozambique has learned to set careful priorities - to establish clear markers for progress, and then, carefully, to measure its progress against those indicators.

One of the prime qualities which recommends Mozambique as a model is your reliance on professional expertise rather than ideological caveats. In that spirit, you have built a broad consensus among many stakeholders - public and private, from civil society, and from the international community. In pursuing your great goals, you have been inclusive, rather than exclusive. In an era when frustration often breeds cynicism concerning the possibility of progress, Mozambique can provide inspiration and encouragement to other post conflict societies.

And there is more. Even as Mozambique points a path to progress in the economic and social realm, it also plays a leadership role in regional diplomacy. The contributions of former President Chissano in sensitive regions have been particularly appreciated, of course. Mozambique ’s standing as a highly regarded member of the community of nations will enable it to play an increasingly important, strategic role in relations between its neighbors to the south and its neighbors to the north - between the Southern African Development Community and the East African Community.

The key ingredient in all of these efforts - within Mozambique and in its regional neighborhood, is a spirit of genuine partnership - an understanding that we can do things together that we can never do separately. The institutions of our Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) have experienced that spirit of partnership here in many ways, over many years - including our Agreement of Cooperation, signed nearly ten years ago.

Much of our work, as you know, has involved the northern areas, and especially the Mtwara Development Corridor. One project I would highlight is the Unity Bridge, linking northern Mozambique with southern Tanzania. Here we literally reach across national frontiers in a way that will stimulate progress on both sides of the border. Because of the Unity Bridge –and related projects - our investments in the leisure and tourism sector in southern Tanzania can have a multiplier effect within Mozambique. In a similar way, here and elsewhere, progress will accelerate and dreams will come true, whenever we are able to span borders with bridges.

We must also help young people build “Bridges to the Future” - that is the name, in fact, of one of our new scholarship programs. Our philosophy is to build leadership for tomorrow by educating the young on the basis of academic potential – not on social status or family income. That philosophy is at the core of our Aga Khan Academies program.

Many of you were present three years ago when we laid the foundation stone for a new Aga Khan Academy at Maputo. It will be part of an 18 school network - in 14 different countries - all teaching the international baccalaureate curriculum. This system of schools will have significant commonalities. Each one, for example, will be supported by a Professional Development Center - a place for teaching the teachers - using best practice techniques from around the world. These teachers will serve both the Academy and other schools in Mozambique.

In all of these Schools, moreover, our watchword will be “Pluralism” as we develop leaders who can deal effectively with diverse peoples in a globalizing world.

Some commonalities will be easier to develop than others. Here in Mozambique, for example, there is no tradition of residential primary and secondary schools, and there is not a great deal of experience in educating in English. Yet both concepts - residential education and educating in both the national language and English - are two common goals for our wider network of academies. These are questions which we must resolve with prudence - pursuing sound long-term goals, but understanding short-term realities.

On the economic development front, we are planning a new garment factory for export, employing some 700 women in the first phase. We expect the project to begin next June - but its success will depend again on partnership - through an enabling labour environment.

Power generation and rural electrification is another critical area. The Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development recently played a central financing role for one the largest hydroelectric projects in African history, in Uganda - at Bujagali on the Upper Nile. We hope now to apply that experience to projects in Mozambique. Meanwhile, we have also invested in a new fibre optic cable linking Southern and Eastern Africa (including Mozambique ) with Mumbai in India and Marseille in France. This link will enable low cost broadband access to rural communities within Mozambique, and will require additional investment in the existing backbone structure.

While these major infra-structure projects move ahead on one hand, we also work at the micro level - in some 146 villages, including 21,000 households, in Cabo Delgado, for example. There the selling of cash crops, the storage of food, the development of diverse income sources and the creation of Village Development Organizations, have all become commonplace in a very short time. New rural development programs are helping to increase crop yields, to circulate health and nutrition information, and to expand inoculations and sanitation programs.

A recent World Bank report strongly recommends that the countries of Africa should improve agricultural productivity - as the government of Mozambique is working to do. Yet - our experience, particularly in Asia, teaches us that a time will surely come when agricultural productivity can simply go no further - the growth potential will simply run out. And, when that occurs, agricultural economies must seek new activities to sustain their populations.

This scenario may be many years ahead in the case of Mozambique, but diversifying the economy deserves immediate thought. One area where that can start happening now, in my belief, is the leisure and travel sector. AKDN has devoted considerable resources to expanding this sector. We are about to launch, for example, a major renovation project at the Polana Serena Hotel in Maputo, and we see enormous potential for extending into Mozambique our East African safari circuit of travel facilities.

At the same time, in and around Pemba, micro credit projects are creating new economic opportunities - we anticipate a tripling of these programs to the 3 million dollar level over three years. We have also noted the President’s concern about the lack of financial services in rural areas and are ready to address this concern by establishing a rural micro finance bank in northern Mozambique.

In all of these ways, then, our commitment is to add to the foundations you have already laid for future progress. As we do, we realize more and more, with each passing day, the importance of effective partnerships.

It is in that spirit of partnership, then, that I come to Mozambique, grateful for what we have done together in the past, and inspired by the things we will be attempting together in the future. We are proud that we can join you in the great, continuing story of Mozambican progress.

Thank you.

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