Support to culture in Africa, Latin America and Asia is not the preserve of governments. Large private funds with their own cultural policy operate worldwide. Their strategies are less coloured by political considerations and stem from socially responsible entrepreneurship or philanthropic ideals. Part two.

Aga Khan

July 2007 -

Aga Khan is the title of the spiritual leader of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslim community, with members spread across some 25 countries. The present Aga Khan lives in Paris and has a French wife. He uses part of his capital - he is owner of, amongst others, the Serena hotel chain - for development work, hence continuing a family tradition. His grandfather, Sultan Mahomed Shah, was once President of the League of Nations, his father served as Pakistani Ambassador to the UN and his uncle, Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, rose to, amongst others, the position of UN High Commissioner for Refugees. According to Shia tradition, the imam is responsible not only for spiritual matters but also for protecting the right of every individual to intellectual development and for helping to realise the ethical vision of Islam on society.

In the past decade the Aga Khan Development Network has grown into one of the largest philanthropic organisations in the world. The hub of the projects is in Africa and Asia. The eight organisations which, together with two universities in Central Asia and Pakistan, form the Aga Khan Network, each cover a specific sector, ranging from healthcare to rural development and microcredit.

The mission of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) is to promote "the physical, social, cultural and economic revitalisation of communities in the Muslim world". The cultural programme includes the Music Initiative in Central Asia, the ArchNet virtual architecture database and the Aga Khan Programme for Islamic Architecture (in association with two US universities). The Historic Cities Programme restores historical buildings and public space in the Muslim world. Since 1997, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture has instituted a prize for architecture, which is awarded every three years, and established two museums for Islamic art, one in Toronto and one in Zanzibar.