Africa News blog
African business, politics and lifestyle
By Isaac Esipisu
The continents’ newest and second Africa’s female president took over the reins of power in Malawi to offer a new and more responsive style of leadership that is expected to spur economic recovery of one of Africa’s poorest nation. Joyce Banda was sworn in as president two days after President Bingu wa Mutharika died of heart attack at 78.
The new president, Joyce Banda started her presidency in an enthusiastic and robust way; mending ties with foreign donors that could see Malawi pull out of an economic crisis. The new president of Zambia , Michael Sata, is making the transition easier, contributing 5 million litres of petrol that should help the economy. Banda, a 61-year-old policeman’s daughter who won recognition for championing the education of underprivileged girls, now enjoys widespread support among a population whose lives grew increasingly difficult under Mutharika
Mutharika, a former World Bank economist, also got off to a good start in 2004. Malawi was at the time the darling of international donors. Programmes to subsidize fertilizer and provide seeds to farmers created an economic revival that made it one of the world’s fastest growing economies. But his fortunes turned dramatically and upon his death many Malawians were openly celebrating his passing.
In 2005 the country declared a national disaster as more than five million people were in need of food aid because of widespread shortages due to bad harvests. However, three years later the country produced a bumper harvest, turning it into the breadbasket of the region, mainly because of the success of Mutharika’s fertiliser and seed subsidy programme.
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has been stealing the show at African Union summits for years now. With theatrical – sometimes bizarre – entrances, rambling, grandiose speeches and his well-known penchant for dressing up, Gaddafi has gobbled up media coverage and bemused his fellow leaders.
But he probably wasn’t expecting what happened yesterday when he introduced two traditional African “kings” to speak to the assembled African leaders. Peals of laughter started to ring around the room. It began when he made the announcement and it continued as they spoke. It seems that some African delegates have begun to consider the continent’s longest serving leader ridiculous. And aren’t afraid to show it.
On May 19, voters in Malawi will go to the polls to elect their next president. The Democratic Progressive Party has been in power for the last four years and is fielding President Bingu wa Mutharika as its candidate once again.
Despite facing a strong alliance of the main opposition leader and a former president, the incumbent is expected to win on the back of an economic boom.