Address by Mr Firoz Rasul
The Right Honorable Speaker of the Parliament
The Chancellor, His Highness the Aga Khan
Honourable Ministers of the Government of Uganda
Trustees of the University
Members of the Diplomatic Corps
Deans, Faculty and Staff of the University
Parents, Donors, Supporters and Distinguished Guests
And most importantly, Graduands
Humjambo and Karibuni!
Welcome to the 2015 Convocation Ceremony of the Aga Khan University.
Let me begin by congratulating our graduates. You have reached your
goal! I recently heard that some of our alumni used to call the Aga
“the house of rigour.” It is definitely the case that no one earns an AKU degree without a lot of hard work.
Today we are celebrating not only the graduation of the class of
2015, but also AKU’s 15th year in East Africa. Over the past 15 years,
we have a great many people and organisations to thank for our success.
And let me begin by expressing our profound gratitude to the founder and
Chancellor of this University, His Highness the Aga Khan for having the
vision, putting the pressure on us to start in East Africa 15 years
ago. Thank you, Your Highness.
I would also like to express our gratitude to our Chancellor for
consenting to preside over today’s convocation ceremony, which is the
first time for our University in Uganda where we have had these
ceremonies. It is a momentous day for AKU, for the graduates, for the
faculty, and for which we are very grateful. Thank you.
We are grateful to all our financial supporters: individuals and
alumni; foundations like the Bill and Melinda Gates, Rotary
International; as well as the Lundin Foundation and corporations such as
Johnson and Johnson; and governmental and development agencies, such as
the BMZ and KfW from Germany, AFD from France and DFATD from Canada. We
are indebted to numerous people and institutions who have aided us as
partners, advisors and volunteers. These include the University of
Alberta and the University of California, San Francisco.
I would like to express gratitude also to the Government of
Tanzania that earlier this week granted the University recognition and a
charter to operate in Tanzania. And we must single out for special
thanks the Government of Uganda, which from the beginning has recognized
the important contribution that the University makes to the nation’s
I know our graduates will join me in thanking their families for
their support and encouragement, through all the late nights of studying
and long months away from home. And I know that they will wish to
acknowledge the dedication of their professors. We are truly fortunate
to have a faculty whose expertise is matched by its passion for
It seems to me that in addition to congratulating the men and women
who we are celebrating today, we ought to thank them as well. In the
end, a university is measured by its graduates and their contributions
to society. I have no doubt that our pride in you will only grow as we
learn of your achievements in the years to come.
Yet in the world in which you make your way will not be a simple
one. For some time, we have been hearing and saying that our planet is
getting more connected and more complex than ever before – a place knit
together by instant communications and global trade. This is a truism
that is no less true for being so familiar.
Even so, it seems we have yet to adapt to this fundamental fact.
Recent years furnish numerous examples of global interconnection
enabling events to race ahead of our capacity to understand or to
respond to them.
The 2008 financial crisis that struck the world’s most advanced
economies. The public uprisings demanding change in the Arab world. The
spread of Ebola in West Africa.
It is tempting when faced with such a world to think in terms of
containment, or even isolation. But a “borderless” world does not just
enable crises to spread. It also allows for the free circulation of good
ideas, new perspectives and innovations that enhance our lives.
How do you build a strong health care system that not only treats
but also prevents disease? How can we improve the quality of education
so that all children, regardless of where they live or their
socioeconomic background, are prepared for success later in life? How
can governments foster development? We know more about the answers to
such questions than ever before. And thanks to the free flow of
information, those answers are more widely available than they have ever
A “borderless” world also connects people to people. It opens up
the possibility of real dialogue between individuals, communities,
countries and civilizations that have mainly known one another through
As our Chancellor His Highness the Aga Khan has said, if we are to
become full participants in the knowledge society of the 21st century,
we must “embrace the values of collaboration and coordination, openness
and partnership, choice and diversity.” Because, in his words, “The
spirit of the knowledge society is the spirit of pluralism – a readiness
to accept the other…to see difference as an opportunity rather than a
threat.” Thus, a “borderless” world offers both unprecedented challenges
and extraordinary opportunities. The Aga Khan University’s mission is
to educate the leaders East Africa needs for this era. It is fitting
that 2015 marks not only the 15th year in East Africa of the university,
but also the 15th anniversary of the reestablishment of the East
African Community. As a University, we have reflected long and hard on
how we can contribute to East Africa’s development in a period of
regional and global integration. We have concluded that we must expand
well beyond our current outlines in order to develop versatile, agile
and innovative leaders in a wide variety of fields.
How do we plan to do this? Given the urgent need for high-quality
medical care, we are planning to open a University teaching hospital
here in Kampala, staffed by exceptional physicians and nurses such as
yourselves, and equipped with the latest technology.
We are also increasing the number of medical centers AKU has to add
to those already established, as well as adding to continuing and
professional education programs.
In Arusha, the headquarters of the East African Community, we will
offer undergraduates a liberal arts education at our Faculty of Arts and
Sciences, as well as opportunities for graduate professional education
in fields such as Hospitality, Leisure and Tourism, as well as
Architecture and Human Settlements.
In Dar es Salaam, we will build a new campus for our Institute for
Educational Development to further its mission of educating outstanding
teachers and school administrators. Nairobi is the home to our health
sciences programmes and our Graduate School of Media and Communications,
which will train journalists and media leaders. Our Graduate School of
Leadership and Management will develop managers and leaders in the
private, public and social sectors. In addition, we will strengthen our
existing health services in the region not just in Uganda, Tanzania and
Kenya, but also we are looking at adding services in Rwanda and Burundi.
Together, these projects represent an extraordinary investment over
the next 15 years of over $1 billion. This is an extraordinary vote of
confidence in this region’s future. Each of our campuses and programmes
will serve students from across East Africa. They will be crossroads:
places that bring the region’s people together to learn from the best in
the world, and to learn from each other. They will foster mutual
understanding, a spirit of shared purpose and a sense of common
Ours is a time in which opportunities for innovation abound along
the intersections where different disciplines and professions meet.
For example, we want to see educators and health professionals
working together to prevent illness. We want to see business, government
and civil society building frameworks to protect the environment while
promoting economic growth. We would like to see journalists and
technology entrepreneurs connecting rural audiences to essential
information. We want to create an environment in which conversations
between biologists and sociologists, ecologists and philosophers,
economists and anthropologists open up perspectives on our world. Our
aim is to produce graduates who are not only ready for demanding jobs,
but who will have the skills and drive to act as entrepreneurs to create
new jobs themselves.
ands, you can contribute to the realization of this audacious
ambition of your university by sharing your knowledge and ideas that
you’ve learned at AKU. So stay connected with your classmates, your
teachers and your fellow alumni. Be generous with your knowledge and
your time, and imagine how you can collaborate to bring about change.
You are part of a remarkable community, the community of Aga Khan
University. Our journeys are linked - yours, the alumni’s and the
University’s. If we all act on the basis of that understanding, I
believe our shared future will be very bright indeed.
Once again, I commend you for your determination and congratulate
you on your achievements. May the journey you begin today be all that
you have dreamed of.
Thank you. Asante Sana.