Tuesday
Jul 3,2007

By CHURCHILL OTIENO

The EastAfrican

Afghanistan has turned to a development model first tried in Nairobi in 1986 to give its reconstruction a badly needed burst of energy after nearly three decades of war against Russia and a civil war.

The meeting in 1986 in the Kenyan capital was hosted by then President Daniel arap Moi and it was there that the Aga Khan raised, for the first time, the need for governments to provide an enabling environment to attract investments. 

Kenya at the time faced some of the problems bedevilling Afghanistan today, with reluctance by foreign investors to move into a high- risk environment topping the list.

It was at the Nairobi meeting that the phrase “enabling environment” was coined. It signifies the presence of political stability, safety and security, citizens’ rights, predictable democratic practices and efficient legal and administrative frameworks. 

Last week, a similar message was passed on to Kabul during a high-level conference believed to be the largest such gathering held in the Afghan capital in recent years. It was jointly organised by the Afghanistan government and the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) to help spur development in the war-weary country. The World Bank, the United Nations Development Fund and the Asian Development Bank were also involved in hosting the Conference, which was attended by the Afghan President Hamid Karzai, his First Vice-President Ahmad Zia Massoud and several Cabinet ministers and government officials.

The prescription was one that any country that has seen its economy looking up in the recent years knows only too well — open up for business, ease movement of goods and services into and out of the country, fix the infrastructure, attract foreign investment and ensure a secure environment, the ingredients for the so-called enabling environment.

While the case at hand was the reconstruction of Afghanistan, many lessons abound for other developing countries, especially Kenya and the Eastern African region, where the idea was first planted.

Badly in need of foreign investment to set it on the path to growth, Afghanistan is reaching out for goodwill from key regional and world heavyweights in politics, business, aid and civil society.

Key leaders who have chosen to help the country rise, and who participated at last week’s Enabling Environment Conference, included Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, the Aga Khan, Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, Celtel founder Dr Mo Ibrahim and Prince Amyn Aga Khan. Others were representatives from the World Bank, the UNDP and the Asian Development Bank.

The conference provided a rare opportunity for the state, business and civil society — including multilateral institutions such as the World Bank — to come together and discuss the measures that needed to be taken to set the mountainous country on the road to development.

The challenge is huge, but two aspects stand out. First is the need to reduce the insecurity orchestrated by Taliban insurgents, who are yet to accept defeat five years after they were deposed from power post-9/11. Second is the long-thriving growing of opium poppy has ensured that the country remains the chief producer of the heroin worldwide.

The deliberations gave birth to eight action points, whose implementation was seen as key to the country’s development:

1. Enactment of laws to establish the basic legal and regulatory framework that will encourage private sector involvement in social and economic development.

2. Strengthening the governance and operations of civil society organisations to enhance their contributions to the country’s social and economic development.

3. Alleviation of constraints hampering the operations of the private and public sectors.

4. Involvement of the private sector in the provision of public services through private-public partnerships (PPPs) and other means in areas such as power generation and distribution, water supply, transportation infrastructure and social development.

5. Facilitating access to land by clarifying property rights, simplifying procedures for the transfer of titles and allowing for longer-term leases.

6. Significantly expanding the outreach of a broad range of financial services throughout the country.

7. Building the structures, systems and capacity of mediation and arbitration tribunals to ensure efficient and impartial resolution of disputes.

8. Instilling active practice of social responsibility and philanthropy that leads to the institutionalisation of private (business and individual) support for economic and social development through civil society.

Setting the pace at the beginning of the conference, the Aga Khan called for a “great alliance” of government, communities and business to help drive growth in the developing world.

He said that while there are plenty of cases of good work by each of the three, their potential to improve lives is watered down by the fact that they apply their efforts separately.

The Aga Khan, the 49th hereditary Imam (spiritual leader) of the Shia Ismaili Muslims, was joined by several world leaders in calling on governments in developing countries to pursue policies that drive development by accelerating business growth.

“Laying the state’s political foundation is a necessary first step for an enabling environment, but even effective government can take us only so far,” said the Aga Khan, who marks his 50th anniversary as the leader of the Ismaili Community this year. “And that is why we have been talking more in recent years about two other sectors: first, what I often call the role of civil society; and, second, the capacities of the private sector.”

He said one of the major obstacles to development today “is that the efforts of all three sectors are too often scattered and fragmented”.

President Karzai told the conference that the long-term future of Afghanistan would depend on Afghans themselves. “Afghanistan’s prosperity today and in the future will be linked to our ability to attract and support private business,” he said. 

Malaysian Premier Badawi said one of his country’s key decisions in the 1980s was to progressively reduce the role of the state in conducting business. “We made the private sector, not the public sector, the primary engine of growth. We opened and liberalised our economy,” he said.

Speaking to journalists later, the Aga Khan urged patience with emerging countries as they work on reconstructing their economies.

“Society does not change that quickly,” he said. “I don’t expect a country that has just come out of decades of civil war to change within a few years,” the Aga Khan said in response to reports that some local businessmen had misgivings about the Kabul Government’s commitment to implementing the conference’s action points.

He discussed AKDN’s involvement in organising the Enabling Environment Conference as part of efforts to rebuild Afghanistan.

“Here we are talking about a young government working with a constitution that has not been tested?. What people are looking for is confidence in the process of change,” he said.

The Aga Khan said it was important for development agents to understand the value systems that drive poor communities and to find ways of working with them to improve their living standards.

He added that there is a need to develop civil society at the community level to help in driving growth.

“Ultimately, it is civil society that brings development. It is not the money, it is the institutions. You need money, but what changes lives are the institutions,” said the Aga Khan.

He said there were instances where international development agents have misled emerging countries, citing Africa, where countries that attained independence 50 years ago were discouraged from investing in higher education.

“Experts looked at the cost of producing a Bachelor of Arts graduate on a balance sheet and realised the individual would never bring back the money put into higher education. As a result, many African countries did not invest in higher education. 

“Several years later, experts came back and declared higher education in Africa a disaster,” he said, adding that many of the affected countries were today turning to civil society to help them provide decent higher education.

When he took the floor, Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said the key to growth for the developing world were bold policy reforms, each country’s diaspora and the repeal of foreign investment caps.

Mr Aziz said most of these decisions required great courage, adding that experience around the world shows that the three things have helped emerging countries sustain development.

“In Pakistan, we are already seeing the benefit of the government having insisted on reforms that saw ministries solely focused on policy formulation, new institutions created for regulation and business left to the private sector,” he said.

He said the second thing was tapping the often immense potential inherent in a nation’s diaspora, citing the case of China: “The single-most important factor that propelled China’s growth initially was the Chinese diaspora.” 

The third point, he said, was allowing unlimited access for foreign investment in national economies. He discounted investment caps favoured by some countries to limit the level of equity that foreign investors can hold in different sectors.

“I call it the investment rate card. They tell you that as a foreign investor, you can only hold 30 per cent in this sector and 50 per cent in the other. In Pakistan, we have no such rate card,” he said in a keynote address during the closing of the conference.

Mr Aziz said developing countries should compare equity and debt: “If you go for equity, you pay back if the investment makes money, but if you go for debt, you pay back either way.” 

The PM said such policies have helped his country sustain annual growth for eight years, consistently registering more than 7 per cent in the past five years.

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  Posted in         Ismaili News
Sunday
Jul 1,2007

His Highness the Aga Khan became Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims on July 11, 1957 at the age of 20, succeeding his grandfather, Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan. He is the 49th hereditary Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims and a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) through his cousin and son-in-law, Ali, the first Imam, and his wife Fatima, the Prophet’s daughter.

Introduction

Son of Prince Aly Khan and Princess Tajuddawlah Aly Khan, the Aga Khan was born on December 13, 1936, in Geneva. He spent his early childhood in Nairobi, Kenya, and then attended Le Rosey School in Switzerland for nine years. He graduated from Harvard University in 1959 with a BA Honors Degree in Islamic history.Like his grandfather Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan before him, the Aga Khan has, since assuming the office of Imamat in 1957, been concerned about the well-being of all Muslims, particularly in the face of the challenges of rapid historical changes. Today, the Ismailis live in some twenty-five countries, mainly in West and Central Asia, Africa and the Middle East, as well as in North America and Western Europe. Over the four decades since the present Aga Khan became Imam, there have been major political and economic changes in most of these areas. He has adapted the complex system of administering the Ismaili Community, pioneered by his grandfather during the colonial era, to a new world of nation-states, which even recently has grown in size and complexity following the newly acquired independence of the Central Asian Republics of the former Soviet Union.

View of Islam

The Aga Khan has emphasised the view of Islam as a thinking, spiritual faith, one that teaches compassion and tolerance and that upholds the dignity of man, Allah’s noblest creation. In the Shia tradition of Islam, it is the mandate of the Imam of the time to safeguard the individual’s right to personal intellectual search and to give practical expression to the ethical vision of society that the Islamic message inspires. Addressing, the International Conference on the Example (Seerat) of the Prophet Muhammad in Karachi in 1976, the Aga Khan said that the wisdom of Allah’s final Prophet in seeking new solutions for problems which could not be solved by traditional methods, provides the inspiration for Muslims to conceive a truly modern and dynamic society, without affecting the fundamental concepts of Islam.During the course of history, the Ismailis have, under the guidance of their Imams, made contributions to the growth of Islamic civilisation. Al-Azhar University and the Academy of Science, Dar al-Ilm, in Cairo and indeed the city of Cairo itself, exemplify their contributions to the cultural, religious and intellectual life of Muslims. Among the renowned philosophers, jurists, physicians, mathematicians, astronomers and scientists of the past who flourished under the patronage of Ismaili Imams are Qadi al-Numan, al-Kirmani, Ibn al-Haytham (al-Hazen), Nasir e-Khusraw and Nasir al-Din Tusi.

Achievements of the Fatimid Empire


Achievements of the Fatimid Empire dominate accounts of the early period of Ismaili history, roughly from the beginnings of Islam through the 11th century.
Named after the Prophet’s daughter Fatima, the Fatimid dynasty created a state that stimulated the development of art, science, and trade in the Mediterranean Near East over two centuries. Its centre was Cairo, founded by the Fatimids as their capital. Following the Fatimid period, the Ismaili Muslims’ geographical centre shifted from Egypt to Syria and Persia. After their centre in Persia, Alamut, fell to Mongol conquerors in the 13th century, Ismailis lived for several centuries in dispersed communities, mainly in Persia and Central Asia but also in Syria, India and elsewhere. In the 1830s, Aga Hassanaly Shah, the 46th Ismaili Imam, was granted the honorary hereditary title of Aga Khan by the Shah of Persia. In 1843, the first Aga Khan left Persia for India, which already had a large Ismaili community. Aga Khan II died in 1885, only four years after assuming the Imamat. He was succeeded by the present Aga Khan’s grandfather, and predecessor as Imam, Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan.

A Tradition of International Service

In recent generations, the Aga Khan’s family has followed a tradition of service in international affairs. The Aga Khan’s grandfather was President of the League of Nations and his father, Prince Aly Khan, was Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United Nations. His uncle, Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, was the longest-serving United Nations’ High Commissioner for Refugees, United Nations’ Coordinator for assistance to Afghanistan and United Nations’ Executive Delegate of the Iraq-Turkey border areas. The Aga Khan’s brother, Prince Amyn, worked at the United Nations Secretariat, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, following his graduation from Harvard in 1965. Since 1968, Prince Amyn has been closely involved with the governance of the principal development institutions of the Imamat. The Aga Khan’s eldest child and daughter, Princess Zahra, who graduated from Harvard in 1994 with a BA Honors Degree in Third World Development Studies, heads the Social Welfare Department at the Secretariat of His Highness the Aga Khan at Aiglemont, France. His elder son, Prince Rahim, who graduated from Brown University (USA) in 1995, and holds a business degree from the University of Navarra, Spain, has similar responsibilities in the Imamat’s economic development institutions. His younger son, Prince Hussain, who graduated from Williams College (USA) in 1997 and holds an M.A. in Economic and Political Development from Columbia, has been involved the cultural and environmental projects of the Aga Khan Development Network.In consonance with this vision of Islam and their tradition of service to humanity, wherever Ismailis live, they have elaborated a well-defined institutional framework to carry out social, economic and cultural activities. Under the Aga Khan’s leadership, this framework has expanded and evolved into the Aga Khan Development Network, a group of institutions working to improve living conditions and opportunities in specific regions of the developing world. In every country, these institutions work for the common good of all citizens regardless of their origin or religion. Their individual mandates range from architecture, education and health to the promotion of private sector enterprise, the enhancement of non-government organisations and rural development.

Recognition for the Aga Khan’s Work

 
Over the years, the Aga Khan has received numerous decorations, honorary degrees, and awards in recognition of the various dimensions of his work. He has received civilian decorations on one or more occasions from the governments of France, Portugal, Côte d’Ivoire, Upper Volta, Madagascar, Iran, Pakistan, Italy, Senegal, Morocco, Spain, and Tajikistan. In October 1998, on the occasion of the Award Ceremony of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, he was presented with the Gold Medal of the City of Granada.

His Highness has been awarded honorary degrees by universities in Pakistan, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. He has also received numerous awards and prizes from various professional organisations in recognition of his work in architecture and the conservation of historic buildings.

The title His Highness was granted by Her Majesty the Queen of Great Britain in 1957, and His Royal Highness by His Imperial Majesty the Shah of Iran in 1959.

Source: http://www.akdn.org/about.html

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  Posted in         Islamic Articles
Wednesday
Jun 20,2007

Roshan, Cisco, Aga Khan University Hospital and the French Medical Institute for Children Team up to Expand Healthcare Access by Linking Afghan Hospitals to International Medical Institutions

Kabul · June 20th, 2007 /PRNewswire/ — Roshan, the leading telecom operator in Afghanistan, today launched a pioneering Telemedicine solution in Afghanistan to expand healthcare access and delivery across the country. Using broadband technology, wireless video consultation and digital image transfer, the Telemedicine project will provide hospitals in Afghanistan with real-time access to specialist diagnosis, treatment and training expertise from abroad.

Roshan has teamed with Cisco, Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH), French Medical Institute for Children (FMIC) and other technology suppliers to launch the project. The first phase of the project has already linked FMIC in Kabul, Afghanistan to AKUH in Karachi Pakistan, enabling access to a broad array of radiology expertise provided by AKUH. Subsequent phases will link major Afghan regional hospitals to the FMIC, which is being developed as an Afghan center of medical excellence. Eventually, the links can be extended to medical institutions in Europe and North America. The Telemedicine project developed in Afghanistan is also seen as a model for addressing healthcare delivery shortcomings in other developing countries where access to medical diagnosis, treatment and training is limited.

“Access to healthcare, especially specialist diagnosis and treatment, remains a critical problem in Afghanistan,” said Karim Khoja, CEO of Roshan. “Telemedicine technology provides a solution that has the potential to dramatically expand access to quality medical care for Afghans whose only option previously was to seek specialist diagnosis or treatment overseas. Telemedicine not only immediately enhances access to medical diagnosis and treatment, but it also helps to build and sustain the nation’s healthcare capacity through sharing of expertise. Patients will now benefit from the international knowledge without the need to transport specialists to the country.”

“Our Government is striving to improve the quality of life of our people and providing quality healthcare is one of our top priorities. Telemedicine is the perfect marriage between the speed, convenience and cost-effectiveness of wireless and broadband technology. This innovative use of technology and telecommunications to enhance healthcare delivery will help underpin our efforts to meet the nation’s other development challenges,” said Amirzai Sangin, Minister of Communications and Information Technology, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

“At Cisco we believe that quality healthcare is one of our world’s most vital needs. That is why we have taken a leadership position to develop technologies, such as our medical grade network that enables collaboration and sharing of health information over a secure and intelligent infrastructure. We are proud to be a part of this collaborative effort to deliver a telemedicine solution to Afghanistan,” said Sam Alkharrat, Cisco Managing Director, Gulf & Pakistan. Cisco, together with other telecommunications suppliers, is providing digital image transfer systems and video consultation for the Telemedicine project.

Telemedicine involves the use of broadband technology that provides real-time high speed access for the transfer of medical imaging, video, data and voice. Applications include the ability to send real-time X-ray, ultrasound and CAT Scans (Computerized Axial Tomography) for evaluation. The technology also enables e-learning and training through video consultation.

The initial service provided will be teleradiology, the electronic transmission of radiological patient images. There will be an average of 60 to 80 transmissions and 10 to 15 teleconferences between hospitals per month, with the numbers increasing over time. Telemedicine capabilities will gradually be expanded to address different services and procedures including evaluation of tissue samples and the on-line performance of medical and surgical procedures.

“This project not only represents cooperation between the companies and institutions involved, but is also an important collaborative effort between Afghanistan and Pakistan to address regional healthcare needs,” said Firoz Rasul, President of Aga Khan University. “Telemedicine will dramatically expand the healthcare diagnostic and education of health professionals, who will be accessible to the people of Afghanistan and will allow hospitals across the nation to leverage AKUH’s world-class medical expertise.”

“FMIC is on the front lines of healthcare delivery in Afghanistan, serving per month an average of 4,000 patients in the out patients department, 3,000 patients in radiology and 14,000 lab tests. Telemedicine is already allowing us to expand the resources at our disposal and draw on the expertise of AKUH for specialist consultation, second opinions and treatment input, resulting in speedier diagnosis and treatment and better outcomes for patients,” said Kate Rowlands, General Director, FMIC. “As the project expands to Afghanistan’s regional hospitals, patients across the nation, regardless of their socio-economic status, will benefit from the combined expertise and resources of FMIC and AKUH.”

Roshan has spearheaded development of the Telemedicine project from initial conceptualization through implementation as part of its ongoing commitment to serving as a catalyst for the reconstruction of Afghanistan.

About Roshan

Roshan (Telecom Development Company Afghanistan Ltd) is Afghanistan’s leading Telecom Operator, with a countrywide network of 180 cities and towns. Roshan is owned by an international consortium made up of the following shareholders: The Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED) – 51%, Monaco Telecom International (MTI), a subsidiary of Cable & Wireless – 36.75%, MCT Corp – 12.25%. Roshan directly employs more than 900 people and provides indirect employment to more than 20,000 people. Roshan has invested over US$ 260 million in Afghanistan and is the country’s single largest investor and tax payer contributing approximately 6% of the Afghan Government’s overall domestic revenue. Roshan is deeply committed to Afghanistan’s reconstruction and socio-economic development.

About the Aga Khan Development Network

The Aga Khan Development Network, which has been supporting humanitarian assistance and rehabilitation in Afghanistan since 1995, works for the common good of all citizens, regardless of their gender, origin or religion. In all its activities, AKDN is guided by Islam’s ethic of compassion for those less fortunate. At the same time, the Islamic ethic discourages a culture of dependency, lest it undermine a person’s dignity. AKDN’s ultimate aim, therefore, is to help the poor achieve a level of self-reliance whereby they are able to plan their own livelihoods and help those even more needy than themselves. Its programs in Afghanistan come under a comprehensive development agreement signed by His Highness the Aga Khan and President Hamid Karzai.

About Aga Khan University Hospital

Aga Khan University Hospital in Karachi is committed to providing the diagnosis of disease and team management of patient care. These facilities are backed up by highly specialized doctors and nurses as well as quality support services. The Hospital’s multidisciplinary approach to diagnosis and care ensures a continuum of safe and high quality care for patients.

About French Medical Institute For Children (FMIC), Kabul

FMIC focuses on its missions of providing quality care, being accessible to all sections of society, upgrading the human capacity within Afghanis and providing a model for sustainability. FMIC has established itself as a reputable hospital delivering high quality care for children. Volumes have continued to soar; in 2006, FMIC served 1,280 inpatients and 23,000 outpatients in the clinics in one full year and already in the first five months of 2007, it has seen 987 inpatients and 13,365 outpatients in clinics, growths of 85% and 39% respectively. Pediatric cardiac surgery has been introduced for the first time in Afghanistan and over 170 cases done to date. Sophisticated orthopedic and general surgery cases are being performed regularly. Laboratory at FMIC is being monitored regularly for quality for its hematology/clinical chemistry testing and over 70 tests are being done on-site, with other tests being sent to Karachi. Radiology services include a CT Scan, general radiography and ultrasound.

Source: http://www.prnewswire.com/mnr/roshan/28731/

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  Posted in         Ismaili News