It is guided by its own experience in husbanding companies and institutions, which have now grown into large institutions, taking their place on the stock exchanges of developing countries. Many of those large institutions began as entities that were run by a few people. AKDN also works to build many of the characteristics of healthy, robust economies, including employable skills, support for small and medium sized companies and savings and credit programmes that increase financial inclusion, among others.
The Aga Khan Foundation (AKF), for example, works not only to bring prosperity to a region, but it also puts into place the means to do so, building roads, bridges and markets. Its “Accelerate Prosperity” programme promotes entrepreneurship, placing emphasis on women and youth entrepreneurship, and the growth of start-up and early stage businesses. It also focuses on skills development in vocational and technical trades.
The Aga Khan Agency for Microfinance (AKAM) supports these efforts by providing finance to, among other things, entrepreneurs and small and medium-sized companies. Its ultimate aim, of course, is to support entrepreneurs create the means for expanding their businesses and becoming a part of the productive infrastructure of a nation.
The Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development, which works with other AKDN agencies and often collaborates with local and international development partners, works to create and operate companies that provide goods and services essential to economic development. These range from banking to electric power, agricultural processing, hotels, airlines and telecommunications. AKFED takes a long-term view in order to build viable, self-sustaining and profitable companies.
Kabul Serena (an AKFED project company)
The Kabul Serena Hotel, another significant investment, was inaugurated in 2005, the first five-star hotel to open in Afghanistan in more than 35 years. The hotel, representing a US$39 million commitment, was built at the request of the Afghan Government to provide accommodation of an international standard for diplomats, investors and other travellers visiting the country. The hotel aims to aid the revival and development of central Kabul, and to help revive the crucial hospitality and tourism industries in Afghanistan. It directly employs nearly 400 people, bolstering the economy through the sourcing of materials from local producers, craftsmen and artists.
Habib Bank (and AKFED project company)
Through investments in Habib Bank, AKDN is making financial services available to Afghanistan’s entrepreneurs and burgeoning private sector. The Habib Bank has been able to draw on its experience in 26 countries to help update Afghanistan’s banking laws and regulations and to build capacity within the industry.
In all of these approaches, there is an emphasis on the development of local human resources over time, whether in remote and impoverished villages or in major cities in the developing world.