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Africa Day 5

Day 5

Nation Media Day and visiting the Agha Khan Foundation Offices

On our last day of touring AKF projects in Nairobi, I woke up, packed my suitcases and then the group got onto the familiar shuttle bus to drive to Nation Media. We were leaving for the coastal town of Mombasa that evening and needed to be prepared. The bus ride to the heavily armed building was short. This was another visit to a site where taking photos wasn’t allowed. It’s too bad that I couldn’t take photos because words can’t do justice to the majesty of this building! It was seventeen floors, each with a metal detector and inspection stations with guards who wouldn’t let you through without confirmation your destination. It makes sense – the Nation Media Group is the largest of its kind, comprised of newspapers, television studios, radio stations and online media. Nation Media operates in three parts of East Africa and provides news, political information and a voice for the people, so residents in these parts are better informed. This operation is designed to counterbalance the information coming out of other media, including government owned sources. Nation Media started as a single newspaper in the late 1950s when it was purchased by AKFDN. It has now grown into an operation providing every kind of news delivery service you can imagine. Think of any major city newspaper office or media broadcast centre and you get the idea.

Our guide, Sammi Mbau, led us around seven large floors of their operation. Large marble spiral stairs led us up each floor and as we made our way up these stairways we took ib pictograms on the walls which portrayed images akin to their mission and vision statements and other fundamental company information. I could have spent hours analyzing each pictogram. Key ideas that I gleamed from the images included striving for change, being efficient and remarkable, and being a great operation because of the staff they employ. As I took in these pictograms and spoke to some of the employees who described how they are cared for by their employer, I was reminded of AbeBooks. The Kenyan office employs over 1000 employees within the different sects of broadcasting, online media, radio, and newspapers. I felt inspired by their slogan which was ”To be the media for Africa, for Africa”. It was yet another way I could see commitment to change in many areas.

After touring Nation Media we made our way to a working lunch at the AKF Headquarters where we learned about more projects in East Africa that the AKF is developing. AKF continues to operate many of the projects that it originally funded in different fields including health care (such as the hospital we visited), education (like the nursing education and preschools), environmental projects (like Frigoken and rural tree farming) and social/ cultural initiatives (like Nation Media).

However, let me clear that there is definitely a distinction between the Agha Khan Development Network (AKDN) and the Agha Khan Foundation (AKF). The AKDN funds and is involved in more of the day to day operations of the businesses and projects, whereas then the AKF connects the services that are offered to the communities they support. The result is an inherently community run organization that enables local populations to gain access to services and resources that can help provide opportunities, change, and empowerment. We talked for a long time with Steve Mason and the CEO of AKF Kenya, Arif Neky. A key thing I took away from this discussion was the importance of providing culturally relevant aid. There is so much work and so many people with huge hearts that work for this organization that are being the change that they want to see each and everyday. I can’t stress the point enough in order to facilitate change, aid must be accompanied by teaching and empowerment.

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