The story of Africa’s journey is inspirational.
We see compelling evidence that Africa is a continent of opportunity, of hope and of confidence.
Africa’s strength has always been her people. Their resilience, sense of community and self-help, ingenuity and resourcefulness in innovating fresh solutions — often in the most difficult circumstances — is responsible for the continent’s progress and exciting prospects.
The fastest growing economies in the world are in Africa — many of them projected to grow above five per cent per year.
Here, there is also a growing youth population — an impressive 60 per cent of Africa’s population is under 25 — a significantly higher proportion than in the West.
The continent is poised to provide a new market for goods and services at a time the population in the West is diminishing.
Imagine the opportunities for employment and investment in Africa!
TAKING AFRICA FORWARD
My early childhood was in Kenya in the 1940s. From the time I became the 49th hereditary Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims in 1957, an integral part of my daily life and work has encompassed seeking to improve living conditions and opportunities in Africa.
All of us engaged in Africa are witnessing a palpable new spirit of confidence. This is a reflection of the efforts of the African people coming together in thoughtful, impactful endeavours to improve their lives as well as their countries’ prospects.
I commend President Paul Kagame’s leadership and insight for hosting this Conference and Heads of State present for their commitment to addressing the central issues and challenges of our time.
I am pleased that the Nation Media Group, which I founded in 1959, has been instrumental in initiating this Festival and conceptualising its thought leadership agenda — and that it has played a substantial role in promoting responsible journalism and thoughtful discussion of issues and opportunities on the African continent.
In keeping with this mission, this Festival brings together some of the best minds of Africa to take this agenda forward and, most importantly, implement many of the ideas and solutions that will be discussed.
We recognise that there is much work to be done. We have an opportunity — and responsibility — to assist people and communities construct strong, resilient foundations, to ensure sustainable progress and lasting, positive change and to support and lift the hopeful voices of Africa’s youth.
This can most readily be accomplished when government, the private sector and civil society work together to create an enabling environment where people can plan and build for future generations of their family.
Sound development rests on learning from, and working with, people at the grassroots to help them articulate and realise their aspirations.
It requires good governance and forging a better appreciation of the importance of pluralism across all sectors of society.
QUALITY OF LIFE
To this end, the Ismaili Imamat and the Aga Khan Development Network are committed to expanding our efforts, in partnership with others, to improve the quality of life for all Africans.
I am confident that Africa will continue to be a leader, in drawing on its historical experience, in building resilient, pluralistic, economically-strong and environmentally sound communities, rooted in solid values and communal support structures that societies in the West and elsewhere will admire and emulate.
The rest of the World has much to learn from Africa.
This speech was delivered on behalf of the Aga Khan by Dr Azim Lakhani, AKDN Diplomatic Representative for Kenya in Kigali on December 8.