Kusi Ideas Festival sets the stage for Pan-African innovation marketplace

Saturday December 10 2022
Prince Rahim Aga Khan

Prince Rahim Aga Khan, the Chairman of the AKDN Environment and Climate Committee. PHOTO | COURTESY | AKDN


Speech by Prince Rahim Aga Khan



Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to congratulate the Nation Media Group on holding this fourth edition of the global, award-winning, Kusi Ideas Festival.

Since it was founded by His Highness the Aga Khan in 1959, during the struggle for Independence and Pan-Africanism, the Group’s path has been closely entwined with the history of Kenya, East Africa and the African continent.


Yet again, Nation Media Group has shown thought leadership in encouraging dialogue on key issues affecting not only the countries where the Group is active but also the rest of Africa.

Like the Kusi trade winds that opened new markets and enabled trade and the flow of ideas between Asia and Africa for centuries, Nation Media Group, which is a part of the Aga Khan Development Network, has sought to enable a “Pan-African ideas transaction market” to discuss the issues facing Africa and what actions the continent should consider to secure a bright future in the 21st century.

The theme of this year’s Festival – Climate Change – is timely as climate breakdown is the most crucial existential threat that Africa, and indeed the world, is currently facing.

The continent has, in recent times, seen a multitude of natural disasters due to climate change, including floods, locust infestations, water scarcity, and food shortages.

Currently, some 40 million people in the Horn of Africa are facing famine as a result of the drought, which is robbing Africa, whose strength has always been her people and their resilience, of her most valuable resource.

Today, you will hear how temperatures in Africa are rising – and are set to rise faster than the global average during the 21st Century. You will also hear that while Africa has contributed negligibly to the changing climate, being responsible for only two to four per cent of global emissions, it stands out disproportionately as the most vulnerable continent in the world to climate change – a vulnerability exacerbated by the continent's prevailing low levels of socioeconomic growth.

More importantly, however, you will hear from some remarkable individuals and organisations that have responded to the challenges posed by climate change.

This festival brings together some of the best minds in Africa to take this agenda forward and, most importantly, implement the ideas and solutions that will be discussed here.

The Aga Khan Development Network is also transforming its business and programmatic models to respond to this crisis.

The Network, which is present in more than 30 countries globally, and whose agencies have operated in 14 countries in Africa in the sectors of education, health, finance, media, culture, tourism, industry and infrastructure for over 100 years, is making environment and climate a core strategic priority. Our overriding principles, encapsulated in the AKDN Environment and Climate Commitment Statement, are as follows:

1. We will exercise responsible stewardship of the environment: AKDN’s operations help to restore and protect the natural environment wherever possible and do not contribute to its degradation.

2. We will put people at the centre, and focus on improving the quality of life of the poorest and most vulnerable — our key stakeholders.

3. We will demonstrate proactive, socially responsible and values-oriented leadership: All AKDN operations, across agencies and institutions, will have net-zero emissions before 2030.

4. We will lead by example and share our experiences with others to influence policies, raise awareness, increase impact and effect social transformation. This includes engaging suppliers with credible and significant carbon reduction targets across their operations and value chain; educating and promoting research so future generations can engage in an informed and meaningful way with the challenges of environmental degradation and climate change and sharing with partners and stakeholders the innovations deployed in achieving AKDN’s commitment.

The following are some examples of AKDN’s activities across Africa as our agencies endeavour to meet their target of net-zero emissions before 2030:

1. All AKDN agencies have developed activity-specific tools to measure their greenhouse gas emissions, and are working on their respective road maps and budgets toward meeting the commitment.

2. Each of the Serena Hotels in Kenya has maintained its Gold Eco-rating Certification recognised by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council. In the last five years, thanks to the installation of solar plants in all our properties in Kenya, we have eliminated more than 4,500 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions and generated over six million kilowatt hours of clean energy. In addition, all our lodges actively support eco-tourism, climate resilience, water and energy conservation, re-forestation and species conservation projects.

3. We work with rural communities, alongside government and civil society, to strengthen climate resilience, so that in the face of major climatic changes, they not only survive but also thrive. This is achieved through developing understanding and local ownership for adaptation and mitigation measures.

4. We have changed agricultural practices for tens of thousands of farmers, to whom we provide a guaranteed price and market, towards more nature-based solutions, and thereby strengthened their resilience.

5. Through schools across East Africa, we are advancing a new concept – Play, Pluralism and Planet – to ensure the next generation of leaders are climate-aware, climate-empathetic and climate-resilient. In AKDN schools, multiple environmental projects have been active for many years, including beach clean-ups, Green Clubs, and tree planting.

6. Along the Kenyan Coast, we will plant more than 500 acres of mangroves with local communities, to enable carbon sequestration and encourage new forms of environmentally conscious, community-based development. In Kenya alone, we have already planted more than 12 million trees in the last few years.

7. As you will hear, the Nation Media Group has embarked on an ambitious digital transformation journey, which should make a marked contribution to our emissions reduction targets.

All of us here recognise that the challenge is immense, and there is much work to be done, work that can most readily be accomplished when government, the private sector and civil society institutions all work together. To this end, the Ismaili Imamat and the AKDN are committed to expanding their efforts, in partnership with others, to improve the living conditions, opportunities, and quality of life of people in Africa, underpinned by our strong ethics and values, which include concern for vulnerable people, compassion, generosity and excellence.

Thank you.