The East African
Monday, March 3, 2003

Africa's Future Bright - Aga Khan

THE AGA Khan last week expressed cautious optimism about the future of certain parts of Africa.

Speaking at the conclusion of a visit to Madagascar in the course of a working tour of East Africa, he said, "A fresh approach to ethics in public life and in the private sector, an improved recognition of the inherent pluralism of contemporary societies, and increased opportunity to build high competence in the sectors of greatest need, are features of the new horizons that I see in Africa today."

The Aga Khan, the spiritual leader of the Ismaili Muslims, was received by Prime Minister Jacques Sylla and President of the Senate Rajemison Rakotomaharo. He used the opportunity of his fourth visit to the country – but the first since 1966 – to review contemporary development challenges and revitalise the Ismaili Muslims’ historic links with the Indian Ocean region. The Ismailis in the region are reported to have roots stretching back to the ninth and 10th centuries when communities settled in Madagascar, the Comoro Islands, Mauritius and Reunion.

Like their sister communities in the anglophone and lusophone countries of the eastern coast of Africa, the Ismailis of the francophone Indian Ocean are well positioned to support the institutional initiatives being contemplated by the Aga Khan Development Network in the region.

In the course of various meetings in Madagascar, the Aga Khan situated the Network’s capabilities in a wider international context, citing instances where its initiatives have helped rehabilitate countries emerging from crises. These included reviving the economic and social sectors in Uganda and helping to rehabilitate the economies of Mozambique and Tajikistan following civil war.

The Aga Khan toured Tolagnaro (formerly Fort-Dauphin) in southeastern Madagascar, the northwestern port of Mahajanga and several sites in the capital Antananarivo. These included a 10-hectare plot on the outskirts of the city where the Aga Khan Education Service, the specialised educational agency of the Network, has been developing plans to create a "centre of excellence."

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