Accord signed between Cote d'Ivoire and the Aga Khan Development Network
Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, 4 March, 1998
His Highness the Aga Khan, Imam (spiritual leader) of the Shia Ismaili Muslims, and Ivoirian President Henri Konan Bedie yesterday signed an Accord of Co-operation for Development envisaging an expanded commitment by the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) to Cote d'Ivoire. The Accord will permit the optimal utilisation of the human and financial resources of the Ismaili Imamat (office of spiritual leadership) and the AKDN for social and cultural development activities in West Africa.
The signing of the accord authorises the establishment of an AKDN mission in Cote d'Ivoire.
In a speech made during an official visit to Cote d'Ivoire at the invitation of the Government, the Aga Khan situated the Accord in the context of the World Bank's recent inter-faith dialogue on development at which nine major religious traditions were represented. The dialogue with religious leaders initiated by World Bank President James Wolfensohn and the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Aga Khan said, had recognised that the world's major religions shared ethical principles, underlying the development of civil society, as well as the common objectives of combatting the "iniquities of our times and the growing marginalisation of the weakest in society."
The dialogue, he said, had revealed a common consensus that development could not be measured in economic terms alone, and needed imperatively to address the quality of life for individuals, access to and improvement of, education, public health, preservation of national cultures and care for the environment. This integrative approach, the Aga Khan noted, had been a premise of the Network's activities for more than half a century. He went on to observe that the Accord would point new perspectives of co-operation in areas of activity in which the Network had a proven track record in East Africa, and West and Central Asia, and which went well beyond economic development. In his speech, the Aga Khan also paid tribute to the stable and tolerant environment within which Cote d'Ivoire had achieved social and economic progress.
The Aga Khan noted that the fundamental concepts of ethnic and religious pluralism and a commitment to serve all, had underpinned the achievements of one of the most glorious periods of Islam and the Ismaili Imamat, the Fatimid Caliphate in Egypt.
The Accord foresees co-operation beyond the existing West African ventures of the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED). The Network envisages an expansion of the social dimension of its activity. Initially, AKFED will seek to adapt to an Ivoirian agro-industrial project, its successful experiences of an agricultural support programme in East Africa. Similar to agricultural support services provided to small farmers in Kenya, the project will provide materials and technical assistance to help rural farmers in the cocoa and coprah sectors increase their productivity and income levels.
AKFED's industrial development affiliate, Industrial Promotion Services (IPS) was incorporated in Cote d'Ivoire in 1965. Beginning with a jute sack manufacturing operation, drawing on its experience in Bangladesh, IPS has expanded into the packaging sector (jute, polypropylene and plastic), metal products (corrugated sheets, drums, utensils) and agro-processing (palm oil, cocoa butter, coconut oil). Widely recognised for their enlightened training, employment and social welfare policies, these companies have sought to enhance opportunities for regional trade and commerce creating affiliated enterprises in Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Senegal. In 1997, in consonance with the Government plan, a US $270 million joint venture between AKFED and the Swiss-Swedish company Asea Brown Boveri (ABB) was selected to build a 450 megawatt power generating plant at Azito which will be the largest in West Africa.
Over the past two decades, in addition to its involvement in economic development, the AKDN has supported efforts across the region to find solutions to challenges of the built environment, particularly as they concern local cultures. One of the earliest seminars sponsored by the Aga Khan Award for Architecture was held in Dakar, Senegal in 1982 to examine the most critical aspects of urbanisation in African cities. In the years since, medical centres, educational and cultural institutions in Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania and Niger have received the Award for accomplishments including design, the use of local materials and building techniques and their contribution to social, cultural and economic life.
The Aga Khan Development Network is a group of private development agencies with specific mandates that range from health and education to rural development, culture, the built environment and the promotion of private sector enterprise. The agencies working together, seek to empower communities and individuals, often in disadvantaged circumstances, to improve living conditions and opportunities, especially in Asia and Africa. The Network's underlying impulse is the ethic of compassion for the vulnerable in society and its agencies work for the common good of all citizens, regardless of their origin, gender, or religion.