Pakistan, 1960. His Highness the Aga Khan posing with pupils at the Aga Khan Girls Secondary School of Kharadar.
Pakistan, 1960. His Highness the Aga Khan posing with pupils at the Aga Khan Girls Secondary School of Kharadar

AKDN / Cumber archives

Supporting inclusive growth


As the world entered the 1960s, war-damaged Europe had mostly completed its reconstruction and embarked on a widespread economic boom. For the countries of Africa and Asia, however, issues of economic progress were only beginning to come to the fore.


In 1963, His Highness set up a group of companies under the corporate name Industrial Promotion Services (IPS). Each company was created to provide venture capital, technical assistance and management support to encourage and expand private enterprise in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.


At the time, IPS’s investments focused on providing goods and services that these regions lacked, as they began to emerge from a colonial and conflict-stricken past. The aim was to improve livelihoods through the creation of jobs and the inflow of investment.


Nairobi, Kenya, 1981. His Highness the Aga Khan visiting Nation Printers & Publishers. The Sunday Nation and Daily Nation were launched in 1960.

Nairobi, Kenya, 1981. His Highness the Aga Khan visiting Nation Printers & Publishers. The Sunday Nation and Daily Nation were launched in 1960.

AKDN / Christopher Little

These interventions are now part of the wider Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED), which also works in the areas of Nairobi, Kenya, 1981. His Highness the Aga Khan visiting Nation Printers & Publishers. The Sunday Nation and Daily Nation were launched in 1960.


Finance, Media and Tourism Promotion. AKFED manages recognised brands in the countries where it operates – Diamond Trust and Habib banks, Nation Media Group and Serena hotels, to name a few – the aim being to build sound enterprises and strengthen local economies. Its companies invest in building local human resources over time including managerial, technical, marketing and financial skills, and any surpluses generated are reinvested in development activities.


The AKU convocation ceremony held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on 24 February 2015.
The AKU convocation ceremony held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on 24 February 2015.

AKDN / Zahur Ramji

Melinda French Gates, co-chair of the Gates Foundation, considers AKU an essential institution, asserting at last year’s convocation ceremony that the “Aga Khan University is not only a global resource – it is a transformative force for public health and women’s health”.

"His Highness has been the inspiring founder of universities and colleges – because education is one of the democratic pillars that he recognises,” said Adrienne Clarkson, the former Governor General of Canada, in 2016. “He emphasises always that there must be scientific problem-solving with a continued openness to new questions.”

In northern Pakistan, a teacher at the Aga Khan Higher Secondary School, Ghakuch, holding a lesson outdoors with her students.
In northern Pakistan, a teacher at the Aga Khan Higher Secondary School, Ghakuch, holding a lesson outdoors with her students.

AKDN / Kamran Beyg

“Educating for leadership must imply something more than the mere development of rote skills,” said His Highness in Atlanta in 2008. “And training that develops skills, important as they may be, is a different thing from schooling in the art and the science of thinking.”

The art and science of thinking is the central focus for the institution known today as Aga Khan Schools (AKS). Its centres of learning equip young students, from toddlers to teens, with the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values to thrive in a complex and dynamic world. At Aga Khan Schools, learners are taught to make ethical choices, to embrace pluralism and to serve in their communities.

His Highness the Aga Khan meeting with primary school students and their teacher at the Aga Khan Academy in Mombasa.
His Highness the Aga Khan meeting with primary school students and their teacher at the Aga Khan Academy in Mombasa.

AKDN /Gary Otte

Built on the framework of the International Baccalaureate (IB), the Academies curriculum embodies themes designed to give exceptional students the skills to lead in their fields globally and locally by promoting international awareness, social responsibility, creativity and high ethical standards. It admits students based on merit alone, regardless of socio-economic background or a family’s ability to pay.

While nurturing these talented students to become homegrown, global-quality leaders, the Academies also work to strengthen national education systems through the continuous professional development of teachers.


In Tajikistan, communities learning green disaster mitigation measures such as gabion weaving to help stabilise slopes and riverbanks.
In Tajikistan, communities learning green disaster mitigation measures such as gabion weaving to help stabilise slopes and riverbanks.

AKAH Tajikistan

This required synergy between the operating agencies and between the country units, and a head agency with intellectual capacity, added Mr Ruhl. “That’s why His Highness created AKAH, and that’s the mission that we have.”

Today, AKAH is helping communities in both dense urban centres and remote mountain villages to combat climate change by rethinking the ways buildings are designed, constructed and operated – putting green building principles at the heart of development.


More broadly, these principles are leading AKDN’s efforts to green the built environment across all its institutions and programmes and reach net zero carbon by 2030.


Kyrgyz Republic, 2016. His Highness the Aga Khan greeting the students of UCA's founding undergraduate class in Naryn.
Kyrgyz Republic, 2016. His Highness the Aga Khan greeting the students of UCA's founding undergraduate class in Naryn.

Iskender Ermekov

“Students of world history remind us how Central Asia, a thousand years ago, led the world in cultural and intellectual achievements,” said His Highness at last year's UCA convocation ceremony. “This region is where medicine was founded, where algebra got its name, where the Earth’s diameter was precisely calculated, where some of the world’s greatest poetry was penned.”


“This happened because the societies were open to new ideas, open to change, open to scholars and people from many backgrounds,” he added. “That kind of openness can again unlock the doors to the future, and allows us to take on the great questions of our time and place.”


In Delhi, India, His Highness the Aga Khan visiting the restoration work of the Nila Gumbad and Sundar Nursery.
In Delhi, India, His Highness the Aga Khan visiting the restoration work of the Nila Gumbad and Sundar Nursery.

AKDN / Gary Otte

The Aga Khan Historic Cities Programme, for example, has shown how the creation of parks and gardens, conservation of landmark buildings, improvements to the urban fabric and the revitalisation of cultural heritage – in many cases the only assets at the disposal of the community – can provide a springboard for social development.


Through the 1990s and since, AKTC has been linking cultural heritage work with social and economic development in cities including Cairo, Kabul, Hyderabad, Delhi and Djenné.


In 2019, the inaugural Aga Khan Music Award prize-giving ceremony was held in Lisbon, Portugal.
In 2019, the inaugural Aga Khan Music Award prize-giving ceremony was held in Lisbon, Portugal.

AKDN / Antonio Pedrosa

Created in 2000, the Aga Khan Music Initiative sought to help revitalise a part of global heritage that was fast disappearing – the living musical traditions of diverse societies across the world where Muslims have a significant presence. The Initiative’s work to foster music education and mentoring, creation and performance, production and dissemination then transformed into the Aga Khan Music Programme, incorporating a mechanism as well for recognising excellence and exceptional creativity – the Aga Khan Music Awards, established by His Highness in 2018.