What you need to know:
- The Aga Khan University (AKU) is the only private international institution in Kenya that trains doctors and nurses in post-graduate specialties.
- AKU’s Brain and Mind Institute, which is being pioneered in Kenya, is another initiative that has been created in response to the urgent need to address mental health and wellbeing issues.
"We are awarding a charter today, being the latest testament of the journey of academic excellence that is the Aga Khan brand ... ” said President Uhuru Kenyatta at the inauguration of the state- of-the-art Aga Khan University Centre and granting of charter to the university in June.
The President also referred to the long-standing partnership between the Government of Kenya, the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) and the Ismaili community over 100 years – which has immensely benefited Kenyans.
Through AKDN’s healthcare investments in internationally accredited clinical programmes and services, Kenyans and patients from other parts of Africa are now able to access the best and latest innovations in oncology, cardiac, paediatric and maternal diagnostic and treatment services.
The Aga Khan University (AKU) is the only private international institution in Kenya that trains doctors and nurses in post-graduate specialties; and students benefit from knowledge sharing by subject-matter experts and faculties in other countries where AKU operates. Late last year, AKU established a Clinical Research Unit, under its Cancer Centre, to conduct clinical trials specifically for African populations, and to enhance Africa’s involvement in cancer research. This means locally relevant treatments will be available for cancer patients. Also, AKU’s Centre of Excellence in maternal and child health is globally renowned.
Our work, in collaboration with national and global partners, is illustrated in this quote from a recent interview of H.E. Aline Kuster-Ménager, French Ambassador to Kenya “…I would say it is one of our most dynamic partnerships in terms of cooperation with a private institution …. one of them being the centre for cancer and heart disease where our Agence Francais de Development took a major part in the financing”.
AKU’s Brain and Mind Institute, which is being pioneered in Kenya, is another initiative that has been created in response to the urgent need to address mental health and wellbeing issues. It is aimed at building capacity in the domains of mental health and neurosciences and will be a hub for scholarship, exchange and action in these issues, and will also introduce educational, clinical and community-based programmes.
AKDN’s contribution in the health sector extends beyond AKU. The network and its agencies have been working interconnectedly to deliver quality health interventions to Kenyans for decades. The health network under the Aga Khan Health Service (AKHS) and the Aga Khan University Hospital, Nairobi (AKUHN) has grown in the past six decades to encompass three hospitals and 95 outreach clinics serving Kenyans in around 20 counties.
Contributors to healthcare
Ongoing and planned AKHS expansion includes the conversion of the Kisii County outreach clinic to an in-patient medical centre with dental, radiology and laboratory services; substantial upgrading of facilities in the hospitals in Kisumu and Mombasa; creation of new specialist centres in cardiac care, oncology and rehabilitation; and establishment of a further four outreach clinics in the coastal region.
AKDN agencies help people avoid exposure to causes of disease and disability through poverty alleviation, income generation, education, environmental initiatives and capacity building. The Nation Media Group analyses of health issues, publishes health-related articles and broadcasts health discussions; Jubilee Holdings plays a major role in health insurance and wellness programmes; the Aga Khan Foundation supports government efforts to build and reform public health systems; Diamond Trust Bank supports campaigns such as Beyond Zero and Mater Heart Run; Serena Hotels and Lodges provide clean water, free medical consultations and subsidised medication to local communities; an industrial promotion services company, Botanical Extracts, produces artemisinin, which is used in anti-malaria drugs, and so on.
AKDN’s recent investment in health has been significant – Sh40 billion (USD 400 million) between 2018 and 2022. It is notable that all the social development agencies under the AKDN are not-for-profit – making them among the largest private sector contributors to healthcare in Kenya.
AKDN also ensures that it remains relevant by addressing contemporary issues.
For example, its considerable contribution towards the government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. AKUHN is one of the few private institutions authorised by the Ministry of Health to provide Covid-19 testing and vaccinations to the public. Through our partnerships with the German Development Bank – KfW, and the US and British governments, we were able to provide thousands of test kits, PPE and a 100-bed isolation unit in Nairobi.
AKDN Agencies collectively contributed millions of shillings to the National Emergency Response Fund, and AKU trained thousands of healthcare workers in the implementation of Covid-19 clinical protocols.
Today, as we celebrate Imamat Day, to commemorate His Highness the Aga Khan’s 64th anniversary of becoming Imam (spiritual leader) of the Shia Ismaili Muslims, it would be appropriate to acknowledge His Highness’s vision and efforts in bringing a comprehensive set of world-class private health interventions to Kenya.
A quote from his speech in 2012 aptly summarises the impetus behind this: “The broader philosophy of the Aga Khan Development Network is founded on the premise that developing societies deserve the best and that settling for less, though often tempting, is an increasingly dangerous option.”
Dr Azim Lakhani is the Diplomatic Representative of the Aga Khan Development Network in Kenya.