A long road ahead

Malawi’s new president, Joyce Banda, was recently sworn into office following the death last week of President Bingu wa Mutharika. The former vice president is taking office as Malawi’s first female president and only the second female African head of state next to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia.

Joyce Banda
President Banda has her work cut out for her as she takes office in a country that is battling high unemployment and a struggling economy. In recent years, President Mutharika, a former World Bank official, was accused of economic mismanagement, becoming increasingly autocratic and souring his country’s relations with important donors, particularly the United States.

In response to a series of concerning actions taken by Malawi’s government this year and last—including restrictions on the media and the government’s use of force against protestors—the US Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) recently froze the funding of a $350 million compact proposed for power investment. The CEO of the MCC, Daniel Johannes, issued the statement: “an MCC compact is a partnership, and the commitment to democratic rights, accountable government and sound economic management is fundamental to that partnership. In light of our ongoing concerns about democratic governance in Malawi, MCC has formally suspended the compact.” The future of the MCC compact will depend on the Malawian government’s response and actions before the MCC’s next board meeting in June.

Elected in 2009 as vice president, Banda grew to disagree with Mutharika’s policies. She was expelled from the ruling Democratic People’s Party (DPP) in 2011 and formed the People’s Party. Banda, a longtime campaigner for women’s rights and an educator, is expected to complete Mutharika’s term until the elections in 2014.

With fresh leadership in place, the world watches intently to see how Banda will lead Malawi moving forward.

How do you think the new leadership will benefit the country of Malawi and its people? What reforms should Banda institute?