In an announcement that will have Portugal’s estate agents limbering up for the race of all time, the Aga Khan has announced that he will be moving his official residence to Portugal within the next five years. The news came on Wednesday, as the leader of the Shia Muslim order was due to meet with Foreign Affairs minister Rui Machete to sign an agreement to establish his global headquarters in Portugal.
As Machete told Público: “It is natural that an institution with an annual budget of between €600-€900 million will bring something to Portugal.”
For now, clues on possible locations for this new investment are being kept under wraps. Público has revealed only that the Imam of the Nizari Ismailis is talking about ploughing money into health and social protection services in Portugal “within the next five years”.
With his Aga Khan Foundation already established here (in Lisbon’s Rua do S. Domingos), this latest agreement follows six intense years of diplomacy, stresses Público, in which Canada was a “tough competitor”.
Machete told the paper: “The Ismaili Imamat community is an example of tolerance and has an important network of contacts.”
Portugal’s decision to open its doors even wider to the Imamat Ismailis was “a commitment to a religious entity characterised by its tolerance”, he said.
“Shia Muslim Imami Ismailis, generally known as Ismailis, and believed to number 15 million , belong to the Shia branch of Islam.
“During its history, this community has included populations of different cultural traditions, and is based principally in southern and central Asia, southern Africa, the Middle East, Europe and North America, in a total of 25 countries,” he added.
As Público explained, the “institutions of the Aga Khan’s network” known as AKFED operate in various countries and range from industrial concerns (in Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, the Ivory Coast, Mali, Pakistan, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Senegal, Uganda, Tanzania and Tajikstan) to financial services, through Habib Bank Ltd – Pakistan’s largest private bank, and other agencies in Bangladesh, Kenya and India.
The network is also involved in touristic promotion, says Público, and has an airline as well as media companies in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.
According to the Aga Khan Foundation website, the organisation “focuses on a small number of specific development problems by forming intellectual and financial partnership with organisations sharing its objectives. With a small staff, a host of cooperating agencies and thousands of volunteers, the Foundation reaches out to vulnerable populations on four continents, irrespective of their race, religion, political persuasion or gender”.