Global Insider: Malawi’s Banda Has Tenuous Hold on Leadership

Global Insider: Malawi’s Banda Has Tenuous Hold on Leadership

On March 11, police in Malawi arrested 11 politicians on charges of plotting a coup last year after the death of then-President Bingu wa Mutharika that would have prevented his successor, then-Vice President Joyce Banda, from assuming the presidency. In an email interview, Danielle Resnick, a political scientist at United Nations University specializing in the political economy of development and sub-Saharan Africa, described Malawi’s political landscape and Banda’s presidency to date.

WPR: What have been the major milestones of Joyce Banda's presidency to date?

Danielle Resnick: Banda’s main achievement has been to re-establish good relations with the international donor community. In May 2012, she devalued the Malawian kwacha, fulfilling a long-standing demand of the International Monetary Fund. The refusal of the late president, Bingu wa Mutharika, to do this proved a major source of contention with the donors, resulting in a large-scale freezing of donor aid. The devaluation was intended to improve the country’s export position and stimulate additional revenue, especially through agricultural exports. But, while the move led to the resumption of foreign aid, it also increased the cost of imports, which are primarily purchased by urbanites. Civil servants’ strikes in early 2013 over inflation and fuel import shortages caused by the devaluation highlighted urban disgruntlement. Significantly though, there was no violent crackdown on the protesters by Banda’s government. Instead, a pay hike was awarded to the lowest-paid civil servants.

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