Joyce Banda, former president of Malawi
Jan. 29, 2018
It is an honor for me to be here today to deliver the first Landon Lecture of 2018 and the first Landon Lecture ever delivered by an African. I would like to thank President Richard Myers, Dr. Jackie Hartman and Dr. Barry Flinchbaugh for inviting me. This is a great place. Manhappiness indeed, the Little Apple.
I have titled my lecture "America's Role in Promoting Gender Equality and Development Worldwide: Lessons from Africa."My goal is to ensure that when all of you listening today leave this auditorium, you will see that it is our collective task to promote gender equality and development around the world.
I have been fortunate that all of the things I have championed in my life have come directly from my personal experiences. Things happened to me, and I took action in every role and capacity that I had. Today, I have the distinct honor to share some of these experiences with you, an audience of scholars and future world leaders of America. I will also highlight the role America has played in my development as a woman leader and the development of my country and my continent. Each of us has our own story that shapes us, and it is our individual responsibility to contribute to the common good and positively impact lives worldwide.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, you might ask, who is she?
2. Kambe Maternal Health
3. Genderi-Based Violence
My extraordinary journey has been greatly supported by the USA.
America's role in Africa
Distinguished ladies and gentleman, America has always played an important role in Africa. Former Assistant Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said recently on MSNBC that the majority of Africans love America and look up to you for leadership on global issues, such as human rights, governance, climate change, et cetera. This is why I must cite what we as Africans most remember about your past governments, both Republican and Democrats, and what they have done in and for Africa.
President Bush in Africa:One of the most celebrated American presidents in Africa is President George W. Bush. His President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, acronymed PEPFAR, has provided ARV treatment to over 7.7 million HIV-infected people in resource-limited settings and supported HIV testing and counseling for more than 56.7 million people. Furthermore, he finalized and signed the African Growth and Opportunity Act, or AGOA, in May 2000 to increase opportunities for trade between the United States and Africa. He started the United States Africa Command to strengthen American security cooperation, helped develop African military and democratic capacities, and promoted peace and security globally. President Bush visited Africa 10 times during his tenure, more than any other American president in history. I spent many years hoping for the chance to meet him, and I was fortunate enough to personally thank him for his contributions to my continent at an event jointly honoring us in New York in September 2014.
President Obama in Africa:President Obama built on some of the work done by President Bush, including extending the AGOA legislation, showing that both Democrats and Republicans governments value building trade with Africa and facilitating good relationships. President Obama built on this by focusing on African leaders and always made sure we were consulted on his initiatives. During my presidency, I was invited to the White House, alongside three other African presidents, to discuss our presidential achievements and propose ways to accelerate implementation of U.S.-supported projects in our countries, such as the Millennium Challenge Account, AGOA, PEPFAR and others. Furthermore, President Obama hosted the U.S. Africa Summit in August 2014, bringing together over 50 African dignitaries to discuss trade and cooperation. He also started the Young African Leaders Initiative, finding the top talent from the continent and giving them training and internships here in the United States to support their development as leaders.
Former presidents:I would also like to mention that many of your former presidents have had major impacts on Africa long after leaving office. For example, President Jimmy Carter continued to observe elections, train local leaders, mediate global conflicts and promote human rights. Isn't it wonderful that at the age of 94 and even after beating cancer, he continues to build houses for disadvantaged communities? President Bill Clinton, through his foundation, has done commendable work throughout the developing world to improve lives. In my country, he has done a lot of work in the health sector, such as providing equipment to hospitals for AIDS patients, promoting maternal health and even building a full hospital in Neno district in Malawi.
Private citizens: Americans private citizens who were not presidents also have made significant impact in Africa. People like Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Ambassador Andrew Young in the 1960s were civil rights activists here in the United States, but lobbied for African freedom by denouncing colonialism and encouraging our independence. Dr. Martin Luther King was even present with Kwame Nkrumah in 1957 at Ghana's Independence Ceremony, the first of its kind in Africa. It was a personal milestone and highlight of my career to be awarded the "Dr. Martin Luther King Drum Major for Freedom Award" for quality leadership and as a fighter for freedom.
USAID: As African countries began to gain independence from their colonial rulers, the United States Government saw the opportunity to contribute to developing countries, and thus the United States Agency for International Development was established in 1960. In the fiscal year 2015, the United States government provided more than $8 billion in assistance to 47 countries through its 33 regional and bilateral missions. USAID provides partnerships on the continent and works to prevent conflict that creates political instability and not only adversely affects Africa, but also U.S. national security. Presently, USAID focuses on boosting agricultural productivity, improving health systems, supporting democracy and human rights, increasing resilience to climate shocks and leading quick responses to humanitarian crises. The main victims of these crises are women and girls.
USAID in Malawi: In my country, Malawi, among other projects, USAID has done a lot of work to mainstream equality. For example, USAID launched a project called the Girls Attainment in Basic Literacy and Education, or GABLE, project in 1992. Many women in leadership positions today in Malawi benefited from this imitative. It was during this same period that USAID first recognized that we can only achieve gender equality if we change mindsets at the community level. This started their social mobilization work, and as such, the Creative Centre for Community Mobilization, or CRECOMM, was born. USAID continues its impact today through the Feed the Future project and Maternal Health and Safe Motherhood Initiative.
USAID and Joyce Banda:Distinguished ladies and gentleman, let me share with you what happens when America decides to invest in one African woman. USAID played a pivotal role on my journey to leadership. When I sit down to write my memoir, the chapter on leadership will start with the U.S. government. In 1987, I attended a meeting in Malawi organized by the United Nations' Development Program to discuss the role of the private sector in Malawi. I was one of two women invited. Not intimidated, I gave my views about the failures of the Malawian government to recognize and utilize the private sector as Malawi's engine for growth. This was during the time when Malawi was a dictatorship and freedom of speech was limited. A gentleman by the name of Don Henry, working for a USAID project called the READ Project, was present. He approached me and commended me for my courage to speak out. He promised to provide any support whenever I needed him in the future.
In 1989, I was sponsored by USAID to come to the U.S. for a six-week study tour. During that visit, I interacted with many American women's organizations. At the end of my six weeks, I was clear in my mind that I would go back home and form an association of business women to fight for equal business opportunities for women in Malawi. When I got home, I looked for Don Henry to see how he might support me. He advised me to meet the USAID country director at the time, named Carol Peasley. Among other projects, she briefed me about a new initiative called the Shared Project, which strengthened civil society by supporting NGOs and community-based organizations with institutional development and program funding. USAID also sent me to Bangladesh to spend time learning at Grameen Bank with Mohamed Yunus, and to India to meet Ella Bhati of the Self Employment Women's Association of India to study micro-lending. During the lifespan of the Shared Projects, over 200 organizations received support, and this U.S. government project perpetuated growth and strengthening of Malawian civil society. The organization I founded, the National Association of Business Women, was one of the organizations that received an institutional development grant from USAID.
By 1997, it became the strongest rural network of 50,000 women. This work led me to receive the Africa Prize for Leadership for the Sustainable End of Hunger that I shared with President Chissanu of Mozambique from the Hunger Project. I went on to form three other organizations in Malawi, including the Joyce Banda Foundation, which has grown to have offices in the United States, Malawi and South Africa, and has reached over 1.3 million people. This work led people in my community to encourage me to compete in and win a parliamentary election in 2004, and to go on to serve as my country's minister of gender, minister of foreign affairs, vice president and president.
Africa, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, has a lot of Joyce Banda's. If 1,000 Joyce Bandas were supported, how much impact would there be across the continent?
Current landscape in Africa and the U.S.
Recently, we as Africans, have heard and read about your new policy of America First. Africans respect and accept this new nationalistic policy. In my opinion, I look at this is an opportunity for us as Africans to get our priorities right. As you know, Africa is not poor, it is endowed with huge natural and human resources that in most countries have been unexploited. African leaders realize this and make policies to ensure that these resources benefit the people they lead. So, while in some cases in the past, these resources have been mismanaged, countries like Botswana, Ghana, Tanzania and Rwanda are setting the pace and demonstrating that these natural resources can benefit their people. We have the largest youth population in the world — 200 million people to be precise — and it is high time that we make sure those youth, particularly girls, have the opportunity to shine, with or without the United States of America. Our mineral wealth can fund education, health and food production on the continent, and develop our growing workforce.
The progress we are making is encouraging. Some in the distinguished audience might not know that there are areas where Africa is doing better than the United States. According to the World Economic Forum, Ethiopia is the fastest-growing economy in the world. Djibouti makes the top 10 list, as does Tanzania, which is growing at double the pace of the United States.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, believe it or not, the richest man who ever lived was an African. He was from the country Mansa Musa and had a net worth equivalent to $400 billion, four times the wealth of Bill Gates. This wealth mainly came from minerals. By 2030, spending will be doubled on the continent, especially with the rise of the African middle class. Consumer and business spending will be $6.66 trillion U.S. dollars, and by that time the population will be 1.7 billion people. So, Africa is not poor.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, it is unfortunate that while the U.S. is taking this new nationalistic position and even exiting the Paris agreement and divesting from international markets and development, other countries, such as Canada and China, are seizing the opportunity, rushing in to fill the leadership vacuum, investing in infrastructure, hiring their people to work, and promoting trade and culture.
The good news is that Africa is still a place in the world that respects democracy and looks up to America as leaders. But if America abdicates that position of leadership, your country's geopolitical power will be weakened. It is therefore imperative that American and African leaders forge partnerships that are based on mutual respect and dignity for each other.
Why promote gender equality?
Distinguished ladies and gentleman, the tragedy is that If this nationalistic approach of the developed world continues, I fear that we will divert from the path that we were on toward achieving the sustainable development goals, and in particular, achieving gender equality. All members of the United Nations agreed to and signed this agenda in 2015. It was my hope that in partnership with the developed world, Africa would achieve gender equality by 2030. Why is common sense not so common, that if we ignore women, half of our human resource, our world's development will be stunted.
There is an obvious moral case for investing in women, as we are members of a society predicated upon the values of equality and justice for all. But we live in the real world, and we want to see returns on our investments. According to research done at Columbia University, there is a strong correlation between countries with female leaders and a rise in GDP, 6.9 percent to be precise. The probability of violence ending in a country increases by 25 percent when women are well represented in legislatures, and when women participate in peace processes, the resulting agreement is 35 percent more likely to last. Furthermore, women are more likely to pass legislation that promotes education, health care and social welfare, improving the overall health and productivity of the society.
To build women as leaders, it is critical to start by investing in the girl child. My research has found that leaders are born with 30 percent traits, but 70 percent are left to be developed throughout the person's life. In many parts of Africa, girls aged 0-10 are discriminated against when it comes to accessing education, especially when they are living in poverty. In many cases, they fall victim to harmful cultural practices. Facing these challenges, girls are less likely to develop the 70 percent traits, leaving the 30 percent to waste. Decision-makers must implement policies and build programs that protect and promote the girl child. It is my sincere hope that the U.S. government will continue supporting in the immediate need for educating girls.
Here in the United States, while there have been significant successes in terms of girls' equality and access to education, research shows that over the past 10 years, more and more girls, particularly from minority and immigrant backgrounds, are living in poverty. This leads more girls to experience emotional and physical health problems, have less access to extracurricular activities, and ultimately affects their education outcomes and leadership potential over time.
As American girls grow into women, they face a whole new set of challenges. According to the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap report, the United States ranks 74th in wage equality among 145 countries at a rate of 64 percent, meaning that women in your country only make two-thirds of what men do. The United States, alongside Papua New Guinea, is one of two countries that does not ensure paid maternity leave. Child care costs are extremely high, and women are much more likely to experience related career interruptions. Furthermore, sexual harassment complaints are now daily headlines, terrorizing women both at school and in the workplace.
To be quite honest, these statistics shock me. How can a country like the United States, one of the oldest democracies in the world, not offer maternity leave, while the United Kingdom women can go as long as nine months? How can the United States have such wage inequalities, when countries like Iceland have passed laws to enforce equal pay? How come only 19 percent of America legislators are women after over two centuries of democracy? And the biggest question, as a former president myself, how in over 200 years, has the United States failed to elect a female president? I don't get it. Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, you have some lessons to learn from Africa, where we have had four female heads of state. We must learn from each other's best practices and help solve each other's problems.
The world has seen more than 50 women heads of state. However, even though we are making progress in putting women in leadership roles, particularly as heads of state, we have trouble keeping them there. Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, let me tell you what you already know: Women's leadership globally is under attack. In fact, some of the experiences and acts of abuse they face are horrific. Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard of Australia faced consistent verbal abuse in Parliament and was driven out of office by her male counterparts. After she left, she was pursued on baseless corruption charges, only to be cleared later. In Thailand, former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra decided to subsidize rice for the poor. The army took over the government and blamed her for the major loss of revenues to the government through the rice subsidy scheme. She was arrested and taken to trial. Last August, her former trade minister and deputy minister who implemented the program were sentenced to 40 and 37 years respectively. She never imagined there would be a real sentence, but after the results of her deputies, she fled the country to protect herself. She has been served a five-year sentence, but remains a fugitive. She was also found guilty in another impeachment case and banned from standing for office for five years.
Our challenges in Africa are many. Women lack economic resources to stand for elected office and compete with men. We lack appropriate and culturally relevant training, and training of trainers. We face misogynistic, negative media coverage, which is often meant to tarnish our reputations and intimidate us. We face physical assault. I have had two assassination attempts myself, highly publicized in my country. My security guard was even stabbed to death trying to protect me, right in front of my eyes in Goliath in Thyolo. Similar assaults, death threats and even being stripped naked, photographed and humiliated are plaguing my sisters around the continent.
In my case, I was elected as vice president in 2009, and in 2012 the president died, constitutionally giving me the position of head of state. I assumed office after 72 hours of resistance and military intervention, thanks to Malawian Gen. Odillo, who had an opportunity to network with global military leaders at a conference organized by the Brenthurst Foundation in South Africa one month earlier. These people and the American Embassy in Malawi stood by him and encouraged him to do the right thing, ensuring that the constitution was respected and I could become the first woman president of my country.
My motto has always been that leadership is a love affair: You fall in love with the people you serve and the people must fall in love with you. When that is the case, you will never allow anybody to exploit the people you serve. In 2012 when I became president, the country had only grown by 1.8 percent. Relationships with donors had broken down because of corruption. Companies were laying off staff and operating at just 35 percent productivity. Two million people were food insecure. There was no fuel in the country. Malawi was nearly bankrupt.
The European Union Ambassador in Malawi alerted me that the financial management system, or i7MS, had been abused since it was installed in 2005, and my predecessors had been alerted but not taken any action. I immediately assembled a team to investigate transparently. I asked the British government to fund a forensic audit, and they identified the Baker Tilly Audit firm, whose audit report is a public document. Some say I may be the first African president to conduct a forensic audit of my own government during my tenure. We made 72 arrests as a result of $250 million being stolen.
My colleagues across the continent warned me that this would backfire. It is not easy to fight corruption, and if I hadn't conducted that forensic audit, I would have had no proof of my innocence.
Now, I am still paying the price. I came to the United States to do two fellowships, one with the Woodrow Wilson Center, the other with the Center for Global Development, and upon completion was returning to Malawi last July. When I informed the current president's office that I would return, the following week in July 2017, a press release was issued announcing a warrant for my arrest. I am pleased to announce that two weeks ago, the Anti-Corruption Bureau in Malawi finally issued a statement of my vindication from any wrongdoing. In fact, I have started taking these cases to court for defamation, and I am pleased to report I just won the first case.
But against all odds, by the time I left office, the economy had grown by 6.3 percent. When we left we had harvested 3.9 million metric tons of food to feed our people, with a 1-million-ton surplus. Companies were now operating at 85 percent efficiency. There was money to sustain the country for 4.5 months. I left enough fuel for 15 days, with reservoirs under construction. I added 64 megawatts to the grids and electrified 27 rural centers. By the time I left, I passed a bill of asset declaration for public servants, and I declare my assets every July. We were at 145 on the global index for press freedom, and when I left we were at 79. And of course, maternal death had reduced from 765 to 460 per 100,000 live births. I also sold the presidential jet and donated 30 percent of my salary to MACOHA, an organization in Malawi that provides vocational training to people with disabilities. In spite of all the persecution that I and all other female heads of state face, I must feel proud of all my achievements and those of my fellow women leaders.
Distinguished ladies and gentleman, drawing lessons from my long experience, I would like to recommend the following.
1. Africa mostly needs trade, not aid. If we want to make an impact, create sustainable employment opportunities for the 50 percent of unemployed college graduates across Africa so that they will not be compelled to risk their lives to flee in harmful conditions to Europe and other places. We must create jobs.
2. Africa needs targeted aid money. Considering the America First administration, we must make sure those dollars are going to the most impactful programs. Aid must be gender-sensitive to address the long-standing discrimination that has hindered girls and women. Aid must help women to catch up, but support men to promote for gender equality. Men and women are partners in ushering in the change, just as my father pushed me to get an education.
Aid should focus also on governance and institutional capacity building and sharing best practices. Local, national and international decision-makers should focus on promoting women leadership globally by putting these issues on the agenda and drafting legislation to protect them. Taking advice from countries like Iceland, which just made wage inequality illegal, decision-makers need to make sure that all environments, even campuses like Kansas State, are conducive to the growth of women.
3. Africa needs smart partnerships, not helicopter projects led by those who do not understand us. We welcome your inputs and collaboration, but Africa must own the initiatives. I never went to school in Kansas, I never faced the struggles the average Kansan woman has faced, so while I might have important insights for promoting women's leadership globally, I would have a hard time building a solution to tackle all the intrinsic issues you might face if I don't work with you.
Remember that Africa has 54 countries, each with different legal, linguistic and cultural landscapes, and the only ones who will make projects sustainable are those who have grown up, been educated and have their livelihoods there. Fortunately, these partnerships will be mutually beneficial, as the United States and the African Union share many of the same values of democracy, human rights, and liberty and justice for all. And remember, Africa and America will yield more if women are at the center of these initiatives.
Distinguished ladies and gentleman, as I conclude I must draw your attention to the fact that Africa is taking the lead in women's participation in leadership. Rwanda is the No. 1 country ranked in terms of women's representation in Parliament, with 64 percent. Africa has seen four female presidents: Ellen Sirleaf Johnson of Liberia, Joyce Banda of Malawi, Catherine Samba Panza of the Central African Republic, and Ameenah Gurib of Mauritius. I know many countries who have failed to elect a female president
Receiving an award at the Golden Globes, Oprah reminded us that it is a new age for women. We are no longer keeping quiet when injustices happen to us, and we are finally banding together in solidarity to support and promote one another. American women are leading this charge in Hollywood and across the nation, and the choices you make domestically have a multiplier effect on the rest of the world.
I have seen American women rise up and shout loudly about their opinions, making sure that their congressmen and senators hear their voice and represent them appropriately. In Africa, as feminists, we would take a different approach. Notably, UN Women and the African Union with the support of the German government have facilitated the formation of the African Women Leaders Network, a perfect partner for future American support of African Women-led initiatives.
This is your country and your world, so if you see injustice or policies that you don't agree with, find your voice; use your struggles and successes to organize; and take action and to create impact. At the end of the day what matters is the freedoms and change we bring about in our own contexts and worldwide.