Approximately 270 delegates, representing the Jamats of some 25 countries, are participating in the three-day conference being held at the Ismaili Centre Dubai.

Focusing on the theme of Strategic Business Alliances, the conference seeks to encourage Ismaili entrepreneurs to come together to form partnerships and alliances, thereby collaborating on economic opportunities and addressing common challenges. The IEF further promotes social responsibility as going hand-in-hand with economic progress, a philosophy espoused by AKDN agencies such as the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development and the Aga Khan Agency for Microfinance.

Welcoming the conference participants, President Naushad Rashid of the Ismaili Council for the United Arab Emirates noted that “exactly one month ago, Mawlana Hazar Imam opened this Centre on the occasion of his Golden Jubilee visit to the UAE.”

“Much to our delight,” he continued, “Hazar Imam's brother, Prince Amyn has come here to inaugurate the first conference to be held at the Ismaili Centre Dubai – this too, on a day coinciding with its one month anniversary.”

In his inaugural address, Prince Amyn discussed a wide range of issues pertaining to partnerships and alliances, drawing on four decades of experience in social, economic, cultural and civil society development with eminent institutions within and outside the Aga Khan Development Network. He explained the multifarious aims of partnerships, which include leveraging opportunities globally, accessing new and broader markets, increasing market share, assisting in the redeployment of resources from the developed to the developing world, assisting individual enterprises to ascend the value chain, the sharing of best practices, increasing efficiencies and diminishing costs, and assisting gallant entrepreneurs to mature and expand.

Who was there

Among the participants at the Ismaili Economic Forum in Dubai:

  • Chairpersons of national Economic Planning Boards from around the world;
  • Heads of Jamati business alliances;
  • Ismaili entrepreneurs;
  • Aga Khan Development Network Resident Representatives from countries in Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia;
  • Senior representatives of the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development;
  • Senior representatives of the Aga Khan Agency for Microfinance;
  • The Chairman and members of the Ismaili Leaders' International Forum.

While partnerships hold attractive prospects, Prince Amyn noted that it is important for entrepreneurs to come together around shared values, a mutual understanding of expectations, and clearly-defined responsibilities for each participating member in the partnership or alliance. He suggested that these be put in writing, and encouraged agreement on an “exit strategy” at the outset, should any of the partners later wish to discontinue the arrangement.

Prince Amyn also touched on other topics of importance in a globalising world, including working with government and civil society, technology adoption, the importance of training and mentoring, as well as ethics and corporate social responsibility.

The day's proceedings also included two keynote lectures. Subramaniam Ramadorai of Tata Consulting Services, India spoke on “Globalisation of business from a developing country perspective,” and Zia Chishti of The Resource Group based in Pakistan discussed “Why networks and strategic business alliances are important.” These lectures set the stage for two plenary sessions on the alchemy of alliances, wherein case studies of successful alliances within and outside the Jamat were presented.

“The Imam has been saying since the sixties that people should get together and form alliances,” noted one delegate. “This is the first time we see alliances going global.”

Delegates attending the Forum will hear from established business leaders from within and outside the Jamat. They will participate in group sessions and workshops that explore country-specific opportunities and issues such as sourcing, critical mass, professional management, trust, and networks of alliances. Approximately 50 guest speakers are participating in the conference.