In an exclusive interview with The Ismaili TV, Sultan Allana, Director of the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED), shares the depth of AKFED's strategic vision and its practical implications for the lives of people in the developing world.

AKFED aims to promote entrepreneurship and build economically sound enterprises in the developing world. It's a philosophy that has been carefully nurtured since the 1930s and continues to evolve with the changing dynamics of economies and societies.

The interview covers the historical context of AKFED's banking and insurance companies, tracing their origins back to cooperative societies and insurance companies established by Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah. These institutions were set up to financially empower communities with limited access to financial services during the colonial and post-colonial era.

Drawing on over three decades of experience in banking and finance, Sultan shares insights on how AKFED's strategic vision is intertwined with commercial banking to foster economic empowerment and financial inclusion.

“The banking penetration in the emerging markets has been quite low traditionally, historically, and therefore financial inclusion is a life-changing goal,” he explains, “because with financial inclusion you’re able to offer products and services which ultimately lead towards creation of employment and development.”

Over the decades, he has seen plenty of change in the financial services sector, not least with the evolution and introduction of technology which has reshaped banking practices, and has positive potential for sustainable development and economic growth.

“We have moved from the classical forms of banking and insurance as they existed when I started my career as a banker to where they are today, heavily driven by technology, communication channels widely used, and artificial intelligence which are deployed now across the board.”

Today, digitalisation in banking has enabled banks like HBL for example to reach out to millions, even in the most remote areas. 

The interview offers a comprehensive understanding of how economic development can be a force for positive change in the world. AKFED's diverse portfolio includes financial services, industrial promotion, tourism, and media services, each of which help to improve living conditions and opportunities for people in less developed parts of the world.

Its mission, therefore, aligns with the broader objectives of AKDN holistic approach to development, alongside health, education, culture, and more.

“It’s about giving hope to people,” says Sultan. “It’s about changing lives.”


To watch the interview in full, and learn more about AKFED, visit The Ismaili TV On Demand.