JOYCE BANDA SERVED as President of Malawi from 2012-2014 following the unexpected death of previous President Bingu wa Mutharika. She was Malawi’s first female vice-president and eventually became Malawi’s first female president. In 2014, Forbes magazine voted Banda the most powerful woman in Africa and the 40th most powerful woman in the world.
Prior to assuming office, she established the Joyce Banda Foundation, which seeks to empower Malawian women and children through education, health, and economic opportunities. Her foundation has improved the economic standing of over 400,000 women through business training and saving circles and also tends to 35 Orphan Care Centers, which feed approximately 1,500 children a day in Malawi.
A tumultuous re-election campaign in 2014 saw Banda lose to her opponent Peter Mutharika, the brother of former President Bingu wa Mutharika. Many attribute her election loss to the “Cashgate” scandal of 2013, a corruption scandal that implicated high-level governmental officials and triggered the dismissal of Banda’s entire executive cabinet. After attempting to nullify the election results, Banda left Malawi to focus on her foundation work and champion women’s rights abroad.
The Politic contacted President Banda to learn more about her current efforts to promote women’s rights, education, and economic empowerment, as well as to hear her perspective on how Malawi can best pursue development in the coming years.