President Banda in Washington
June 12, 2012
President Banda at the Frontiers in Development Conference in Washington, DC
Yesterday USAID Mission Director Douglass Arbuckle reported on the first morning of the "Frontiers in Development" conference at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. President Banda was on a panel of five current or former heads of state (Sirleaf-Johnson, Robinson, Clark, and the current president of Kosovo). President Banda expressed herself very well on the panel, citing the difficult situation she inherited and the concrete steps she has taken since assuming office to address the country's problems. She received applause at several points during her remarks.
Following that session, President Banda met with Raj Shah accompanied by U.S. Ambassador Jeanine Jackson and USAID Mission Director Douglass Arbuckle. The meeting, scheduled for 15 minutes, stretched to nearly an hour. President Banda started the meeting by noting that she is a product of USAID (her words) and credits USAID for getting her to where she is today. She had some very strong emotional words for the way in which former Mission Director Carol Peasley inspired her to do more for the women of Malawi. She outlined her development priorities as maternal health and poverty/hunger alleviation. For the former, she noted in particular that Malawi needs help with human resources development, particularly training of health workers (especially midwives) and chiefs/local authorities. For the chiefs, she wants to focus on their potential role as development facilitators, noting in particular the role they could play in getting women to go to health facilities to give birth.
With regards to poverty and hunger, she talked in particular about her plans to encourage women and youth to engage in farming for cash crops (pigeon peas, soy, ground nuts, rice) and said that she will be announcing a major initiative in which the government will provide communal tracts of land, simultaneously encouraging the re-growth of the cooperative movement in Malawi. She said that she's finalizing this with Erica Maganga from the Ministry of Agriculture.
She talked extensively about the importance of community participation in the development process. Mission Director Arbuckle described USAID’s recent consultation process and the broad outlines of the resulting Malawi Country Development Cooperation Strategy. President Banda was enthusiastic about both and saw the relationship between the USAID mission strategy and her priorities.
Administrator Shah expressed the desire for the USAID mission in Malawi to work closely with the President to facilitate these initiatives, using the activities we are already undertaking in these key areas to support her initiatives. She is going to mark 100 days in office on July 15th. In the meantime and for the foreseeable future USAID and the entire U.S. mission in Malawi will redouble its efforts to align its work with the new government’s goals.