Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on 
Foreign Affairs

Issue 4 - Evidence - June 20, 2006


OTTAWA, Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs met this day at 5 p.m. to examine the development and security challenges facing Africa; the response of the international community to enhance that continent's development and political stability; and Canadian foreign policy as it relates to Africa.

Senator Consiglio Di Nino (Acting Chairman) in the chair.

[English]

The Acting Chairman: Colleagues, I am not sure that I am happy to inform you, but I think it is important that I inform you that I am chairing the meeting today because our chair is otherwise occupied. I am pleased to pitch in.

Let me first of all introduce Khalil Shariff who I want to particularly praise and thank for waiting an hour and ten minutes. Regretfully, we do not control our own time and the Senate just adjourned; therefore, a particular thanks and gratitude to you for waiting. Mr. Shariff is CEO of the Aga Khan Foundation of Canada.

[Translation]

Welcome to the Senate of Canada. The Aga Khan Foundation Canada is a non-profit international organization that supports various international development programs in four broad areas: health, education, rural development and community organization capacity building.

[English]

Its programs tap the initiative, entrepreneurship and resources of poor people in order to develop their capacity to improve the quality of life of their families and communities. Sectors receiving support include micro-finance, the improvement of livelihoods and micro-enterprise development, as well as rural development, health and education.

The Aga Khan Foundation Canada operates in Egypt, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique and Uganda, among others.

[Translation]

We are delighted that you could join us today. Without further ado, I would like to turn the floor over to Mr. Shariff.

[English]

Mr. Shariff, you may speak in either official language.

Khalil Shariff, Chief Executive Officer, Aga Khan Foundation Canada: Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to be here today and to offer some thoughts on what is clearly an important and timely study on Africa. My remarks this evening will follow the structure of the written testimony that we have provided, which is under tab 1 of the binders, but of course will not fully cover its contents because I will be rather brief and then we can elaborate in the question period if there are questions.

The binder looks daunting, but it is meant to be a resource binder for you and for the committee. Many of the programs I will mention today in passing are referred to in the written testimony. Further details can be found in the binder at the committee's leisure.

Aga Khan Foundation Canada is a Canadian international development agency that works with Canada and Canadians to mobilize financial, intellectual and technical resources to create high-impact programs in the developing world. We do this in collaboration with our sister agencies within the Aga Khan Development Network, which is a family of private international development agencies founded by His Highness the Aga Khan to advance human development and improve the quality of lives in some of the poorest parts of Asia and Africa.

The individual agencies of the AKDN, as we refer to the network, address all the key drivers of development, including education, health, housing and building services, micro-finance and private sector development and culture, with a particular emphasis on the development of civil society across all these areas. In one form or another, the AKDN has been active in Africa for over a century and today has activities in many countries in Eastern Africa, Western Africa, and Egypt.

The Government of Canada, principally through CIDA, as well as tens of thousands of Canadians from across the diversity of this country, has been an important partner of our work in Africa and elsewhere. My remarks this evening are drawn from our many years of experience working together.

Before I discuss the four specific areas where we think Canada can usefully direct its support to Africa, I would like to make three general points by way of guiding principles.

Although we will speak of Africa in general this evening, it is important to note that Africa exhibits a great deal of diversity and that specific priorities and programs must be sensitive to local contexts. Even poverty itself is highly uneven across the continent and even across different countries, and it is important for us to be able to prioritize particularly poor pockets of the continent and begin work in those areas.

We believe that regional approaches across all the issues we discuss today have been seriously under-leveraged. The extent of external constructive thinking and support to regionalization has been minimal, despite the potential of achieving economies of scale and scope in addressing essential structural needs, such as regional industries, tourism, responses to HIV/AIDS, and quality higher education, just to mention a few.

Finally, in our experience, sustainable improvements in quality of life are not the result of any one or two key interventions. Instead, they result from long-term, multi-input area development approaches that integrate initiatives across health, education, income generation and cultural renewal, while building strong institutions that engage local people in setting priorities and taking ownership.

With these three overarching principles, I will suggest four areas where we believe Canada could take a leading role in supporting the development of pluralist, peaceful and prosperous democracies in Africa. These areas will help to build communities that are confident in their own identities, in control of their development destinies, and engaged with the world. These four areas are, nurturing civil society, building human resources capacity, creating new models of economic development, and supporting cultural development and revitalization. I will speak briefly about each one in turn.

Strengthening democracy is a critical priority throughout Africa. While investments in government are important, governments alone do not make democracy work. Private initiative is essential, including importantly the institutions of civil society, consisting of everything from mass media and research and policy institutions, to commercial, labour, and professional organizations, to education, culture, and religious associations.

The importance of civil society in countries like Canada is self-evident, although often taken for granted. In weak or failing democracies, a dense network of civil society institutions can act as a bulwark against fragile governments, provide a safety net, and deliver critical social services when governments malfunction, thereby underwriting social and economic stability. In this way, improving governance in Africa is about far more than improving government. It is rather about supporting the entire institutional landscape of democratic life.

Canada, with the second largest non-profit and voluntary sector in the world, which is second only to Norway, has lots to offer Africa in this area. For instance, helping Africa to engage in far more structured and rational thinking about the respective roles of private and public sectors in social service delivery, as one example, would be essential. In addition, ensuring that current donor trends toward exclusive support to government through sector-wide or program- based approaches are complemented by support to high-quality civil society could be a distinctive Canadian contribution. In any case, leveraging the experience and expertise of Canadian civil society institutions in this effort would be particularly impactful, especially through twinning and other partnerships with African civil society.

We see considerable insufficiencies in the human resources necessary to address the entire spectrum of development priorities in the continent. On the one hand, we have the debilitating effects of disease, notably HIV/AIDS, with which the committee will already be familiar. On the other hand, we have educational systems, which across the continent continue to be fundamentally incongruent with the needs of Africa's economies and democracies. We see substantial imbalances in educational planning, with an emphasis on primary education at the expense of early childhood education, secondary, and tertiary education. Education for young men and young women must be seen as a system of mutually reinforcing parts. One particularly troubling consequence of this poor planning, for instance, is that professions critical to development — nursing, teaching, journalism, all come to mind — are being severely underserved by higher education on the continent. In response, the AKDN is currently working across the entire educational spectrum, from improving the quality of secular education offered at madrasa preschools, to establishing advanced nursing and teacher training institutions through the Aga Khan University, with a particular focus on the professional advancement of women.

With respect to education, the current focus on access must be balanced with an attention to quality, both to sustain gains in access we have made, as well as to ensure graduates are of the calibre necessary to address Africa's challenges.

We must leverage the efforts of civil society — to echo my first theme — in the delivery of social services such as education, and simultaneously harmonize civil society efforts toward the long-term development goals of the continent. Our current effort with CIDA, for instance, in the Kenya School Improvement Program, is an example of strong civil society and government partnership with promising results. Again, Canada has much to offer if it ensures a system-wide approach, supports quality improvements in the role of civil society and encourages the development of critical professions.

The third area of focus we suggest is encouraging new models of economic development, especially Canada's role in supporting innovative approaches and public-private partnerships. Too often the poor have been left behind or even exploited by economic progress in Africa. Instead, it is important to ensure tangible linkages between growth and poverty reduction so that the poor participate in and benefit from wealth creation, spurring self-reliance rather than dependency. This can involve integrated rural development programs that create sustainable gains in livelihoods — especially among women — in poor, marginalized rural communities, as we have done in partnership with CIDA in Northern Mozambique and coastal Kenya. It could involve the provision of micro-finance products to create positive cycles of self-sufficiency and wealth creation, as we have learned from the work of the Aga Khan Agency for Microfinance and others. It could even involve large-scale industrial investments that are sensitive to the needs of the poor, such as the work of Frigoken, which provides business development services to 30,000 small-scale farmers and has become a successful enterprise as the largest exporter of processed green beans in Kenya. The point is to find ways of reducing vulnerability and dependency among the poor while creating sustainable economic gains.

The fourth and final area of focus is supporting cultural development and revitalization. Restoration of key cultural assets — whether they be public spaces, such as our major park development in Cairo; monuments, such as the restoration of parts of Zanzibar's old Stone Town; crafts; music — all can improve incomes through tourism and the revitalization of traditional art forms, especially when they are complemented with a portfolio of social and economic programming.

Our approach has been to identify pockets of deep poverty and to use the restoration of cultural assets as a catalyst for poverty alleviation and social cohesion during times of rapid social and economic change. After all, the creation of vibrant, peaceful, and prosperous democracies cannot be premised on a rejection of the past, which leads to a profound sense of alienation and loss. Rather, the process requires Africa's diverse peoples to feel a sense of connection between material progress and modern institutions, on the one hand, and traditional, cultural, and civic identities, on the other. Unfortunately, there are few resources to upgrade cultural assets and to make them economically productive.

Canada's own tradition in fostering pluralism is an extraordinary example and source of inspiration for the entire world. Investing in cultural renewal and making Canada's own experience available to the world would be a significant contribution. We have been working to establish, in partnership with the Canadian government, the Global Centre for Pluralism here in Ottawa with this very aim of bringing Canada's experience to the world.

Mr. Chairman, these four areas — nurturing civil society, building human resource capacity, encouraging new models of economic development, and supporting cultural development and revitalization — would create a strong platform for Canada's ongoing and commendable commitment to Africa's development.

The Acting Chairman: Thank you, Mr. Shariff. The first question is from Senator Dawson.

[Translation]

Senator Dawson: I am very impressed by the fact that at the outset, you identified four sectors of activity. The greatest challenge for the committee in the coming months will be to identify those areas in which the Canadian government must take some form of active involvement abroad. You have close ties with CIDA and you will no doubt stress the importance of our carefully selecting our priorities. As an organization, you have targeted certain countries around the world as beehives of activity for your foundation.

I am not asking that you identify these priorities for us. However, can you suggest to us the best way to go about making our choices? I am willing to accept your recommendation as to the types of activities we should pursue, but how do you recommend we go about selecting our target countries? Should we focus on countries with the most pressing needs or on those that have enjoyed some measure of success as a result of help received in the past? Should we choose countries that accept our recommendations without question or those willing to develop a partnership with Canada?

I am asking for your help in how to go about choosing those areas in which we should get involved. I like your suggestions, but can you recommend a process for selecting our target regions or countries?

[English]

Mr. Shariff: Mr. Chairman, I thank the honourable senator for his challenging question. I can see why the committee will face some difficulty with it. I can tell you a bit about the way we think about this issue. It has been our tradition and our practice to identify critical pockets where we believe that deep poverty is persistent and where we believe that sensitive and thoughtful engagement can result in long-term sustainable change. However, I have to say that our priorities are also driven by the fact that we are making a commitment to be in these areas for the long term. It is important for us to realize that the development process is complex, and unless we are prepared to take a long-term approach in the areas where we are working, then it is perhaps better for us not to engage.

From our perspective, donor agencies in general, and CIDA in particular, need to think through what it would take for us to choose a number of areas, based on their need, as well as a capacity to get traction and advance in those areas, and then to say we commit to these areas for the long term, and we will stay engaged. Development is a complex business. We will see success and we will see failure. Ultimately, success will be measured and gained through seeing it through over the long term. One of the principal ways that we should think about prioritizing is: Do we have the appetite and capacity to remain engaged in the long term?

The issue of priorities and focus is driven by a desire for us to get a bang from our buck, to ensure that our relatively small aid program is highly leveraged, that we punch above our weight. I think it is an admirable intention. Focus priorities, while they clearly are important principles, are not the only considerations. The committee, CIDA and donor agencies in general ought to think carefully about other ways in which we can get leverage from our investments. I have mentioned some of these already, but we need to keep in mind certain other principles, such as long-term engagement and taking a multi-input approach. There are no magic bullets. The ability to work across a spectrum of activity in a region over time is very important.

CIDA, of course, does not have the capacity, nor does any donor agency, to implement all the projects that it takes on. Strong partners are needed, trusted partners, partners who have a deep knowledge of the areas in which they are working. Picking partners carefully is another important area of leverage for CIDA.

As the committee thinks about the priorities that CIDA ought to have, on the one hand focus is important, focusing in countries where we believe we can make a long-term difference, as well as gaining traction, and keeping in mind certain principles that will ensure that our aid dollars go far.

Senator Andreychuk: Thank you, Mr. Shariff. It is good to see you again. You are one of the people who I run into on the ground in Africa. Not only do you put it down on paper, but you are actually monitoring and doing the work. Canada's arm of the Aga Khan Foundation is well represented and certainly well known in Kenya.

You talk about the need to be in a place over the long term and the need for a consistent program. You have been in Mombasa working on education for an awfully long time. Do you have any reports that would outline your success there? I heard you say that there is too much emphasis put on primary education and not before and after the primary period, and yet much of CIDA's emphasis has been — supported by many people and many other NGOs — on getting girls into school at the primary age, so that we will have the best chance of changing the dynamics in the community. Yet, you are here saying: Do not put the emphasis on primary education. I did not hear you mention the women's part of it in there.

Could you comment on both your success and why you are putting the emphasis at a different point than CIDA and other NGOs, and the UN, for that matter?

Mr. Shariff: Thank you, senator. Let me answer the second part of your question first and then come back to the first part.

Senator, you have raised an important issue and I want to make sure that we are clear on our perspective. Primary education is very important. However, education systems are not simply slices along an age continuum. They are systems. If we are building in African countries for the long-term sustainability of their economies and their democracies, we must think in system-wide terms. Our concern is that there are massive imbalances in educational planning, so today we are investing a great deal of attention and time in primary education. What will happen when these students finish their primary education? How is it that we are underwriting the quality of the system if we are not thinking carefully about what advanced teacher-training institutions look like? How is it that we can combat HIV/ AIDS, or any other health condition in the developing world and in Africa, without having solid, advanced nursing training? There are certain principles and certain prerequisites that are necessary for strong and stable societies, and a comprehensive education system is one of them. Therefore, our concern is not that primary education emphasis is misplaced; it is that it cannot come at the expense of other parts of the education system. When we are working with governments in the developing world, we must work with them to take the system-wide perspective in view. We do not see evidence of that happening today.

Our own work, and I can talk about the work in coastal Kenya, Mombasa, Kwale, Kilifi, in the coastal provinces, we have been working, for example, in early childhood development. If you look at entry into grade one, as a result of investments into early childhood education, especially among girls I will add here, you see extraordinary differences between the success rates from young people who have had early childhood education and those who have not.

We are also working in advanced teacher training. For instance, the Aga Khan University in Kenya will be establishing an institute for educational development, which is a mechanism to make sure that teachers who are already teaching will receive the support they need to ensure that the quality of education they are providing is of the top standard.

One other point on the successes in Mombasa — which I will point to because we also work in primary education — is a program we affectionately call KENSIP, the Kenya School Improvement Program, and this is a program of which Canada should be proud. It is a collaboration between the Aga Khan Foundation and CIDA. It has innovated mechanisms and models for improving quality at the community school level among primary teachers and primary school students — involving the community through innovative governance mechanisms. The Ministry of Education in Kenya is now picking this up and is thinking about how to mainstream the approach across the entire country. This is a great example of how CIDA, civil society here in Canada, civil society in Kenya and the government in Kenya can work together to make significant advances in they way we are working in primary education.

We do have successes. I will also point you to the tab under ``education'' in your binders. There is a brief on our work in early childhood development where we talk about the programs in Kenya and East Africa more generally, and to say that primary education is important but unfortunately we need to think about the whole system, which is the only way for this to be sustainable.

Senator Andreychuk: Canada spent money and time on teacher training programs in Kenya. However, as you rightly point out, you can consistently work on that because that is your capacity, but if the rest of the system is crumbling around you, you keep starting over again. The key is not the UN, not you, not CIDA, but the government and unfortunately, the governments have changed, some have fallen back in their capabilities and some have misused monies. If they are key to making this whole education thrust work, what have we been doing wrong and what have we been doing right in supporting governments?

Mr. Shariff: This is a critical issue. We need to work in collaboration with government, no question about that. We also need to ensure that all the resources being invested in a country are harmonized and are consistent with the overall effort, the overall development priorities of the continent. This goes for civil society as well as for donor agencies. All manner of civil society institutions, church groups, faith groups and international development agencies need to ensure they are not only servicing their own back yards and that they are not being parochial or ad hoc in their efforts. We have to be consistent with our priorities and we need to work with government, but we must simultaneously invest in government and invest in the institutions outside of government which will underwrite stability over the long term.

We will never be able to count on government all the time. Unfortunately, governments fail frequently on the continent, so while we must support government and underwrite government strength over time, we must also recognize the stark reality. That is, we need to create safety nets for the society as a whole to ensure that there are other avenues for provision of important social services. It is in the magic of interaction between strong civil societies and strong governments where citizens benefit.

We cannot only bet on one, unfortunately, and one of our concerns about current donor agency trends is that there is a trend toward exclusive support to government through sector-wide approaches and program-based approaches. The intent is admirable — which I believe is what the senator is actually suggesting — which is that we must shore up government. As I said, government alone does not make strong societies and strong democracies. There is a rich and complex institutional structure to democracies that include civil society. We need to be very cautious in making sure we invest simultaneously in high quality programs in both government and civil society and then expect them to work together.

Senator Andreychuk: The NEPAD concept, the process started by the African leaders has resonated on the continent as well as the UN Millennium Development Goals, which is an international process. To what extent do you pay attention either of those processes in developing your programs?

Mr. Shariff: We pay a great deal of attention to both important initiatives. The idea behind NEPAD is that African governments ought to have accountability for their own results and then hold each other accountable. Of course, that is very important and admirable and we support that a great deal and keep an eye on the process. The Millennium Development Goals, MDGs, of course, are very important. Our only concern with the UN goals is that in some senses they are a floor but they have become a ceiling in much of the discussion around donor priorities.

The MDGs provide a very nice way of galvanizing and focusing effort, but they are not the complete spectrum of needs or priorities in the developing world. As I say, our own perspective is we need to work on multiple fronts simultaneously. We wish it was easier, but it is not. While the MDGs are a good rallying call, they are not a complete picture of the priorities for the continent.

Senator Merchant: When you decide to go into a country, do you prefer to work with a certain type of government? Do the countries that you work in have some semblance of democratic government? Are there certain situations that you would not get involved in because of the type of government? With the poverty in Africa, I do not know how you would decide on which countries to concentrate.

Mr. Shariff: Our practice has been to spend quite a bit of time with government before we make a significant programmatic entry into a country. In every engagement we are working with across the continent, it is either under a formal agreement with the government, or at least in consultation and collaboration with the government.

His Highness the Aga Khan has most recently signed a major protocol of cooperation with the government in Mali, where we are beginning to do some major cultural restoration work. This restoration work will be augmented with a very significant social development component on which we hope to engage CIDA in short order.

The work we have been doing in Egypt, through the Al Azhar Park, and the social development work with the communities around the park has been with the happy collaboration of the government in Egypt. In East Africa, we have a long engagement with the governments in each of the three countries and in Zanzibar. The work we are doing today in northern Mozambique is the result of our proposal with CIDA, which included a letter from the foreign minister of Mozambique encouraging the work and testifying to its consistency with the government's overall approach.

We work in countries where we believe that the collaboration with government will be fruitful, and where there is openness and a willingness on the part of the government to work together. We find that is the area where we can make the most effective change.

Senator Merchant: A few years ago, I travelled around Canada with the Prime Minister's task force on women entrepreneurs. We heard that Canadian women have difficulty accessing loans from banks because there is a perception that the risk of lending to women is higher than lending to men.

What is your experience with women in Africa and in what kind of projects do they participate?

Mr. Shariff: I would say that none of the projects I have mentioned, nor any of the projects I suspect that are profiled in the binders we have given to you, do not place a priority on involving women. It is, of course, what we call in development speak a ``cross-cutting theme,'' which simply means it is everywhere. It is an issue that we take as a priority on almost every programmatic intervention. Our experience has been that when it comes to private sector development women have performed extraordinarily well. When it comes to micro-finance products our experience would be consistent with international experience, which is that repayment rates are very high, the proceeds of their wealth tend to go and be directed toward the family and toward the children, and so working with women is high leverage. It has impacts well beyond just simply the particular woman with whom we are working.

I will comment on our work on higher education. It is important to note that we believe that there are certain professions, which are pillars for social progress. Two of them are teaching and nursing. These are professions which are largely dominated by women. Much of our work in bringing advanced, international standard education — professional education to nursing and teaching in particular — is driven by a desire and an aspiration that the women develop a stature in the countries that will attract the very best talent. We hope the women will receive full credit for the contribution they are making to national development.

We are concerned and have been concerned for some time, not only in Africa but also in other parts of the world, that these professions are marginalized, sometimes because they are heavily dominated by women. These are critical professions and another area of work where gender issues are very important.

The Acting Chairman: Obviously the initiatives that your organization undertakes are done in partnership with a number of other organizations. How often do you work with private organizations?

Mr. Shariff: The private sector, we believe, is an important part of what we call the private initiative — this area outside of government which is an important part of democratic life. I will talk about the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development, which is a private sector, for-profit part of our network that invests in critical infrastructure and industries in the developing world, but with a view to ensuring that we spur among the poor communities in which we work a spirit of self-reliance and reduced vulnerability. It is not always the case that large-scale investments spur self-reliance and reduce vulnerability. In fact it can be the opposite. I will give two examples of where we work in the private sector.

One example is Frigoken, which is an innovative private sector enterprise that works with small-scale farmers and provides them with business development services in order to create what has become a successful business as the largest exporter of processed green beans in Kenya. Their work is entirely for-profit. It is a profit-driven enterprise. The farmers are meant to be economically sustainable and they are doing so by creating self-reliance on the part of a whole set of small suppliers for their product.

Another example is the Serena hotel chain, which is a chain of hotels in the developing world, many of which are in Africa and many in Eastern Africa. This hotel chain builds high quality international standard hotels with environmental and cultural sensitivity as key principles. The chain invests in local human resource capacity in the sector so that the employment benefits of a world-class hotel chain in parts of the world where private enterprise would normally not enter are brought to these countries. We now see highly qualified local human resources in the tourism sector, which as you will know is the largest employer in the world. That is another example of the way in which we will work with private sector but we work with them in a spirit of ensuring the benefits of economic advancement flow also to the poor.

Senator Jaffer: I have a separate question, but Senator Andreychuk mentioned Mombasa and I understand you have a centre of excellence there. What is the concept behind this centre of excellence?

Mr. Shariff: The project is the new Aga Khan Academy, the first one of which is in Mombasa. The Aga Khan Academies are envisioned to be a network of schools in the developing world. At last count there were 20 cities in the developing world, across Africa, Central Asia and South Asia, which have been identified. These schools are meant to be international standard schools that will teach the International Baccalaureate curriculum. They will aspire to create the next generation of leadership in the developing world. They are for students from the developing world. Over time, when the network is built, you will see students being able to spend time in other places in the developing world, to be fluent in English as well as one or two other languages, and to have not only a scientifically world-class education but a focus on the humanities because we are trying to build citizens and leaders. Moreover, these schools will have a mandate to invest in the professional development of teachers. Each school will have a PDC, a professional development centre that will invest in the quality of teaching and learning not only in the school itself but in the neighbouring community schools as well. The aspiration is that these schools will be an example and a model for international cooperation when it comes to secondary and primary education in the developing worlds, and will create for exceptional students in the developing world a whole new generation of leaders that the continent and the developing world sorely need.

Senator Jaffer: Going from that extreme, Mr. Shariff, the challenge is madrasas. Do you work with madrasas and how are you building partnerships with madrasas? As we know madrasas are religious schools, and you may have a better definition. I would imagine there are a number in Africa.

Mr. Shariff: The work we are doing in early childhood development on the Swahili coast, the coast of East Africa, and in Zanzibar, has been focused on working with the long tradition of community schooling, which are really madrasa schools that historically have focused exclusively on religious instruction. It is not only the content of the instruction that is traditional, but also the methods are by rote. For many years, we have been working in coastal Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zanzibar, with these traditional schools to bring best practice secular educational techniques and content to augment the traditional religious instruction with world-class secular learning.

What we have seen in these schools and in these projects is that over time, first, the community gets mobilized and is responsible for raising money for the schools, for building the school, for hiring the teachers. We often provide technical assistance and over time, we have seen other communities in the villages, non-Muslim communities, attracted to these schools because of the high calibre of the instruction. Therefore, we have created pluralist microcosms of the diversity of the communities themselves in the secular early childhood development centres, which are augmenting traditional madrasa schools.

The model is important for a couple of reasons. It is important because it is a way in which we are marrying material progress and modern institutions with the cultural traditions of these communities rather than separating it from them and causing alienation.

The second reason it is important is because the way the community is mobilized these are sustainable. Many of these small communities have created what we call ``mini endowments,'' which over time will sustain the salary of a teacher. We provide training for the teachers, but the communities must fund the salaries. To do so they will mobilize the community and they will create mini endowments to sustain these over time. Of course, the women are really the ones who lead the charge. Mothers come together to ensure that their children have high quality learning opportunities. It has been an interesting and successful set of experiments in East Africa, and I would again refer you to the tab under ``education'' in the binder that talks about this in the contours of our early childhood development efforts overall.

Senator Jaffer: I am keen to know what special efforts you make so that girls attend school. I understand that the schools are for all denominations, please comment.

Mr. Shariff: I should say on the last point that all of our activities are non-denominational. Wherever we work our services are open to all and, in fact, over time, as you would imagine, high quality services attract many people. Therefore, we develop microcosms of the full diversity of the communities where we are engaged.

On the specific issue around women in education, it is terribly important to encourage women, young girls especially, to go to school, and there are often specific barriers to that. One clear, tragic barrier is that often young girls stop going to school when they become older because they do not have appropriate, separate bathroom facilities of their own. An early intervention is to work with the community to build separate latrines for girls. It is incredible the effect just that can have on helping women and young girls get to school.

Another set of interventions has been simply that often for the families involved the opportunity cost of not having children to help you with the economic activities of the household is very difficult. Therefore, much of our agricultural productivity work is designed to lessen the burden on women. For instance, the building of a water well, again, has to be done in a thoughtful, sustainable way so that the community is involved and can maintain it over time. Often, a water well can reduce the burden on a woman who has to travel for hours and hours in the beginning of the day and hours and hours again at the end of the day to fetch water. Freeing up those hours for women in a village allows them then to focus their work on other things and then allows the children to go to school. Again, often the beneficiaries are young women.

Finally, one other example is that almost all of our teacher training activities have an important strain. We talk to teachers around unintentional or unconscious or unwitting biases they may have toward boys or men in their classroom. Surfacing these biases often allows them to treat girls or women in their classrooms much more equitably. That on the quality dimension ends up being very important.

Remember that bringing girls to school is the first step; keeping them there is the next challenge. Without quality, without girls and families themselves seeing real improvements in education and learning outcomes, they will drop out. We ensure that by investing in teacher training, girls' needs especially are considered so that they also experience the gains in learning outcomes to be able to sustain their own activities in school.

The Acting Chairman: It is quite topical these days to talk about madrasas. Do you have any role in evaluating the curriculum, which is probably the most diplomatic way that I can put it, of schools you support so that the content is educational rather than problematic?

Mr. Shariff: I would say that madrasas exhibit the full diversity of early childhood centres one would expect in any context. I know that the media images and the media commentary have focused on a certain type or strain of madrasas in a particular part of the world. It is, frankly, a part of the world in which we do not work with the madrasas. Our work with madrasas really has been in East Africa and the Swahili coast, and there in general we have not had issues with the content of the type I think you are diplomatically suggesting.

The Acting Chairman: I will give the last question to Mr. Peter Berg, our researcher, analyst, who has an issue on which he would like an explanation.

Peter Berg, Economics Division, Parliamentary Research Branch: You have as one of your priorities economic development and within that developing the private sector of these countries. You say in your written presentation that successive Canadian governments have had this as a focus as well, and yet the instruments, the specific mechanisms to help in developing the private sector are still evolving. What would you recommend as Canada's policy on private sector development? How can Canada invest in that area and be effective? You focus on Canada dealing with private sector development agencies as opposed to governments directly. Could identify a few key ways for that to happen?

Is there too much government in Africa and is it hampering the development of the private sector? What role can Canada play to encourage countries to put in a more conducive investment climate?

Mr. Shariff: On the issue of private sector development policy, we ought not to burden CIDA or the Canadian government too deeply because this is actually an issue with which the development world in general is still struggling. There are no easy answers to these questions. We could have made the same comment around policy in this area still evolving of almost any donor agency in the world. This is not a uniquely Canadian issue.

Our experience suggests several directions we ought to take when it comes to private sector development. The first one is that we ought to think very carefully about engaging rural populations. This is not only an urban phenomenon. We ought to think about the ways in which we can support rural populations to take advantage of market opportunities that may well be in urban centres. We might do this through business development services, market linkages and education for entrepreneurs. There is a suite of activities that are important for rural populations and we ought to keep that in mind.

A second area would be micro-finance. I use the word ``micro-finance'' not ``micro-credit.'' I use the word ``micro- finance'' because in fact there is a whole suite of different products that budding entrepreneurs would find useful and helpful. Micro-credit, that is to say loans, is one of them. Savings products are another, which are surprisingly unavailable for most of the poor people in the continent. Micro-insurance is another area where we are beginning to do some important work; crop insurance, business insurance of all kinds. We are right now collaborating with the Gates Foundation on a major product development study in Pakistan and Tanzania on micro-insurance.

There is a suite of micro-finance products that are simply essential for Canada to invest in. It would be useful for Canada to think about developing a specific expertise in this area, building human resources, building a track record of success in this area, finding the right partners in this area and investing heavily to advance entrepreneurialism through micro-finance.

A third area would be to think about supporting private sector models that are not only economically sustainable, that is to say profitable, but also focus on working with poor communities and ensuring they can benefit from this model. What it usually will require is a whole set of approaches that include some kind of private sector development component but may also require micro-finance for villagers and community members who are participating in a big industrial enterprise. It may also include education, health and rural support initiatives to allow villagers to have the time and the capacity to advance on private sector enterprise initiatives. There is an issue of innovative models that Canada could be supporting and thinking through in its private sector development policy as well.

Senator Smith: I have known many members of your community over the years, all over the place, and I have always been very impressed. When I look at this map, I have been to Mombasa, and I see all the locations in East Africa, Mali, Syria, India, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Where is the largest Ismaili community? I am trying to get a better feel for the size of the community and how it is distributed throughout the world. I am thinking not so much of North America but of the other parts of the world.

Mr. Shariff: Let me say a few words about the community and its relationship to the Aga Khan Development Network, which I think is the issue underlying your question. The Ismaili community is spread across East Africa, South and Central Asia, including Afghanistan, Tajikistan, et cetera. The community supports the network, although increasingly the community itself is a small beneficiary in terms of service provision of the network. For instance, although East Africa has historically been an area of some concentration for the Ismaili community, today the vast majority, I would suspect 90-plus per cent of the beneficiaries, are non-Ismaili beneficiaries. However, we draw a great deal of volunteer strength and resources from the Ismaili community in those areas. The Ismaili's are not present in northern Mozambique and there are very few in Mali. The relationship between the Ismaili community and the network is one of extraordinary support, even in this country. While increasingly our support comes from outside of the Ismaili community, the Ismaili community is a wonderful supporter of our work. The work is non-denominational, and the areas where we work tend to have both Ismailis and non-Ismailis. Increasingly, we are working in areas where there are no Ismailis present at all.

The Acting Chairman: Senators, before we commenced the proceedings, I was sharing with Mr. Shariff my long-term relationship with the Ismaili community and the very positive aspect of that relationship.

I too would like to express our congratulations for the many good works that the Aga Khan Foundation has been involved in over the years, and certainly to congratulate you, Mr. Shariff, and your organization for all of the good work that you are doing in Africa. Lastly, I want to once again thank you for your patience and for sharing some wisdom with us, which has added great value to our report. Thank you very much. I hope to see you soon.

The committee adjourned.