Welcome Address

Dr ​Sulaiman Shahabuddin​, President, Aga Khan University​​​​​​​​


Our Chief Guest, the Honourable Ezekiel Machogu, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Education of the Republic of Kenya
Princess Zahra Aga Khan
Chairman Zakir Mahmoud and members of the AKU Board of Trustees
Chairmen and members of the Kenya University Council and the Uganda Council
Colleagues, supporters, and friends of the Aga Khan University
Family members of the graduands
And most, most importantly, our class, our granduands of 2023:

Hamjambo, As salamu alekum, good afternoon, and welcome! ​​

Today, more than 700 women and men in four countries stand ready to jump forward into the next phase of their lives and careers. Their families are watching; their friends are watching, their professors are watching – not only in Kenya, Pakistan, Uganda, Tanzania, and the United Kingdom, but around the globe. Cabinet Secretary Machogu has honored us with his presence today. Your Honour, if AKU is flourishing, it is due to the outstanding support it continues to receive from the Government of Kenya, and the Governments of the countries where the university operates. 

The Swahili saying has never been more apt: Furaha hukolea tukiwa wengi: “Joy has flavor when we are many.” And we are many, and we have much, much to celebrate. 

Today, I feel fortunate. Fortunate to lead this remarkable AKU during a pivotal period in its history. Fortunate to witness this crowning moment, the culmination of the hard work of the graduands, the sacrifices of their family members, and the dedication of our faculty and staff. There is nothing like the smile of a graduate receiving his or her degree. It captures the value of our work like nothing else.

And graduands, how fortunate are you to call yourselves teachers, health care professionals, journalists, and researchers. And, of course, to call yourselves alumni of the Aga Khan University!

To be a teacher is to be able to give young minds the foundation they need to be responsible, creative and industrious citizens. To be a nurse or a doctor is to have the responsibility of creating healthy and prosperous societies. To be a journalist is to play a critical role in developing a well-informed and peaceful world that promotes understanding across borders. To be a researcher is to be a knowledge creator whose work informs solutions to problems no matter how complex.

To count yourselves as members of these professions is a privilege. It is a privilege you all have earned. Congratulations!

Today, the graduands are completing an extraordinary journey. And the Aga Khan University is completing an extraordinary year. On March 16, 2023, we marked four decades since our founding and commenced our 40th year milestone events. We had hoped to make this year among the most impactful in AKU’s history and it has proven to be just that!

You will hear more in a moment about the achievements that made our 40th year one in which long-standing ambitions were fulfilled.

Ladies and gentlemen,

That Aga Khan University has been able to achieve so much across its four decades is above all thanks to its founder, and Chancellor, His Highness the Aga Khan. His Highness’s vision continues to guide us and continually inspire us with the strength to make bold decisions that keep AKU at the forefront of innovation, quality and impact.

I would like to thanks all those who made it possible for a milestone year to contain so many milestones. Our Board of Trustees and Council members, whose wise advice we depend upon. Our faculty and staff, who always rise to a challenge. Our loyal alumni, selfless volunteers and committed partners. And of course, our invaluable donors, whose generosity is unmatched. Indeed, it has been an extraordinary year for partnerships at the university, as we strengthened existing relationships and forged new ones with a long list of institutions – from the University of Michigan to the Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology; from county governments in Kenya to provincial governments in Pakistan.

AKU’s graduates, supporters and stakeholders span the globe, and this is a family with dedication like no other. Our 40th year has been one to remember. But amid all the inaugurations and celebrations, we did not cease to ask: what’s next? 

The answers are contained in our five-year strategic plan and the report of an eminent group of academics from inside and outside AKU, known as the Chancellor’s Commission. Together, they envision an AKU of growing reach, quality, and impact.

AKU’s five-year strategy will focus the University on seven themes and these are: quality and breadth of education; knowledge creation; learning healthcare systems; partnerships; sustainability and growth; environmental protection and stewardship; and leveraging data sciences.

Standing firmly on these themes, AKU, over the next half-decade, will expand its academic offerings, launching close to a dozen new degree programmes in fields ranging from data sciences to teacher education. We will build new research capacity in fields such as mental health and climate change. Make AKU a leader in data sciences in East Africa and Pakistan. Rapidly reduce our carbon emissions and share knowledge to help others do so.

We will increase access to world-class education through online courses, and to world-class health by renovating and expanding our existing health facilities and building new ones. And deepen our collaboration with our partners, with our fellow agencies of the Aga Khan Development Network, and – we also look forward, Your Honour – to our continued close relationships with governments. 

In other words, we’re just getting started. 

“Joy has flavor when we are many.” With the graduation of the Class of 2023, AKU will have awarded nearly 20,000 diplomas, degrees, and postgraduate degrees. Our graduates are many indeed.

Graduands, if we expect great things from you, it is because we have seen so many go before you and achieve so much. Your fellow alumni are leading change in remote villages, in global cities, and here at AKU. Many of you have been taught and mentored by them. I don’t need to tell you about their values or their impact. You know from experience.

Follow in their footsteps; cherish the opportunities and responsibilities that make your professions a privilege; and you will continue to make a great many people joyful and proud.

Thank you, and once again, congratulations.