EWING, New Jersey — The Aga Khan Foundation USA (AKF USA) established in 1981 is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving education in poorer nations and combating global poverty, hunger and health. Most programs are primarily involved in Africa and Asia.
As an agency of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), the AKF USA performs a support role in regard to the network’s other various agencies that are more directly involved in aid projects. AKF USA provides both technical and financial support to these other agencies, as well as works with U.S. based governmental and private institutions to engage in partnership with AKDN.
A large portion of AKF USA’s mission is also to perform a teaching role. It both educates other AKDN agencies on the best strategies for reaching the impoverished abroad, and also increases awareness of AKDN to the American population. AKF USA garners volunteers for AKDN through various outreach campaigns.
AKDN is a collection of agencies directed toward combatting specific issues in the developing world. Created and chaired by the Aga Khan, the 49th hereditary imam, or spiritual leader, of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims, AKDN works in 30 countries, employing roughly 80,000 people most of whom are stationed in poorer developing nations.
Believed to be a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad, the current Aga Khan was born in 1936 in Geneva, and succeeded his grandfather as Aga Khan in 1957 when he was only 20 years old. He founded AKDN in response to the ethical principles of Islam, which promote the idea of responsibility to one’s community and society.
Despite the fact that AKDN is founded and chaired by a religious leader of the Islam faith, the organization both employs and helps people regardless of their religious identity.
AKDN has focus areas in: Architecture, Civil Societies, Culture, Economics Development, Education, Health, Humanitarian Assistance and Rural Development. This shows the network’s, and Aga Khan’s, commitment to increasing investment and development in poorer nations through a wide disparity of methods.
Funding for AKDN comes from both individuals’ and corporations’ donations worldwide, as well as aid from various national governments and private sector partners. Some notable partners of this network are: the government of Afghanistan, the Canadian International Development Agency, the government of Japan, the government of India, Oxfam, Harvard University, Microsoft and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
They also garner funds from the project companies of the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development, which immediately reinvests all their profits into future development and aid projects.
One innovative project created by the AKDN is the Aga Khan Academies. Dedicated to expanding quality education across the poor nations of the world, the Aga Khan Academies are a series of schools which will be placed in key areas across Africa, the Middle East and Asia. The academies include grades ranging from pre-primary school to higher secondary education.
The first academy came into operation in 2003 in Mombasa, Kenya. Since then there has been a second created in Hyderabad, India in 2011 and a third in Maputo, Mozambique in 2013. The aim of these schools is to help children become leaders in their nations, both in the government and business sector. Selection for the schools is based on merit and not on the financial means of the parents. With courses in chemistry, physics, literature, history and more, these academies will offer a broad multidisciplinary education that emphasizes the humanities.
AKDN has also recently been working in Afghanistan to strengthen local government capabilities by training district governors in the nation. A Memorandum of Understanding was signed on August 5 between the Independent Directorate of Local Governance (IDLG) of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the University of Central Asia (UCA).
Aga Khan Foundation USA is a vital part of a global collaborative collection of agencies who work in a wide variety of ways to encourage development around the world.
– Albert Cavallaro
Sources: AKDN, AKDN 2, AKDN 3, Telegraph India, Partnerships Inaction, Partnerships Inaction 2, ABC News