Dr. Rajiv Shah serves as the 16th Administrator of USAID and leads the efforts of more than 9,600 professionals in 80 missions around the world.
Since being sworn in on Dec. 31, 2009, Shah managed the U.S. Government's response to the devastating 2010 earthquake in Port-au-Prince, Haiti; co-chaired the State Department's first review of American diplomacy and development operations; and now spearheads President Barack Obama's landmark Feed the Future food security initiative. He is also leading “USAID Forward,” an extensive set of reforms to USAID's business model focusing on seven key areas, including procurement, science & technology, and monitoring & evaluation.
Before becoming USAID's Administrator, Shah served as undersecretary for research, education and economics, and as chief scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. At USDA, he launched the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, which significantly elevated the status and funding of agricultural research.
Prior to joining the Obama administration, Shah served for seven years with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, including as director of agricultural development in the Global Development Program, and as director of strategic opportunities.
Originally from Detroit, Shah earned his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania Medical School and his master's in health economics from the Wharton School of Business. He attended the London School of Economics and is a graduate of the University of Michigan.
Shah is married to Shivam Mallick Shah and is the father of three children. He lives in Washington, D.C.
In order to reach the scale and sustainability required to affect real change—to finally solve intractable problems in development—we have to overcome our remaining challenges and encourage a new era of private sector engagement in development. And all of us—businesses and development agencies—will have to take a new approach.
That food security is on the global agenda today seems normal. But it was just two years ago here in Iowa that I first introduced USAID’s Bureau of Food Security and discussed President Obama’s recently announced global food security initiative Feed the Future. It all felt so new at the time, because it was new. It represented a new model of development, which has, in many ways, come to define the way we work around the world today:
A model that advances a far deeper focus on science, technology and innovation to dramatically expand the realm of what is possible in development. A model that aligns resources behind comprehensive country plans developed and supported by policymakers, technical experts and stakeholders in developing countries. A model that engages far more broadly with private sector partners—putting behind us an old reluctance to work together, and engaging companies not as wellsprings of corporate charity, but as real partners with an interest in serving the needs of the most vulnerable. And a model that delivers more for developing countries, but demands far more as well.
That’s the guiding framework for Feed the Future, an initiative that has brought the U.S. Government together behind country-led plans that have made tough trade-offs and focused on specific regions, policies, crops and livestock with the greatest potential for fighting hunger and transforming economies. Three years later, it is high time we’ve taken stock of our progress and asked what we’ve achieved. We know there are many ways you can measure results in development, especially when you consider the comprehensive reach of Feed the Future. We know the first way is by measuring the number of people you’ve reached.
Programs like today’s Annual Meeting permit us to celebrate our successes. Indeed, the last two decades have been a validation of our work. There has been more progress in global development since the end of the Cold War than in any time in history. In the decade and a half since the mid-90s, real incomes have risen 60 percent across developing countries, infant mortality rates have plunged by a third, and primary school enrollment rates jumped nearly 15 percent.
The truth is—you are part of an incredible generation of young people. On campuses across the country and the world, you’re expressing a surge of interest in tackling global challenges, oversubscribing courses on public health, international education, global politics and development economics. And at USAID, we are working hard to support and engage this enthusiasm.
That is why it is my honor and privilege today to announce the Payne Fellowship Program, an extraordinary program that will honor the memory of Congressman Payne by supporting the next generation of leaders in global development. With two fellowships valued at up to $45,000 annually for two years, the program will provide opportunities throughout the students’ graduate studies, including two summer internships—the first working on international issues for a member of Congress and the second with an USAID mission overseas.; as well as consistent and supportive mentoring throughout the fellowship program and into early employment.
It’s a great pleasure and honor to be here to participate in the launch of a major new area of cooperation among the Federal and regional ministries of health, the Ministry of Education, training institutions and USAID to strengthen human resources for health.
HANOI -- It is a great honor for me to be here on behalf of the U.S. Government and USAID to join you in opening this 8th Annual National Conference of Vietnam Public Health Association today.
Public health represents a major part of the United States Agency for International Development's global programs and we continue to be privileged to work with you here in Vietnam to address significant existing, emerging and re-emerging public health issues.
I plan to discuss today an approach to meeting food and health needs through the water programs developed and implemented by USAID and its partners. This approach is reflective of USAID’s effort, known as USAID Forward, to make the Agency more effective by changing the way we partner with others, embracing a spirit of innovation and strengthening the results of our work.
More specifically, I would like to cover how we utilize a certain set of tools and approaches, catalysts if you will, which we believe will provoke speed and action towards the overarching goal of saving and improving lives. These tools are derived from open source based development, partnerships and finance, science and technology, integrated programming and resilience and scale. They all help catalyze the development and implementation of solutions. Unsdersocring these toos is the enagagment and empowerment of women throughout our water programs.
At USAID, we have an expression: If you want to change the world, invest in a girl. If a girl stays in school, remains healthy, gains real skills, and is safe from sexual and other physical abuse, she will marry later, have fewer but healthier children, earn a higher income that she will invest back into her family, and she will break the cycle of poverty in her family and her community.
She’ll use her education to increase agricultural production, improve health conditions for her family, adapt better to natural disasters and droughts, and serve as a leader to resolve local and national and even international conflicts.
This isn’t theory: It is fact. Let me cite just one statistic: In Africa, most young girls are likely to become farmers—if we could guarantee that these girls and women had access to the same level of education, credit, entrepreneurship and other inputs that men have, it would increase agricultural production by 30 percent and feed 150 million people worldwide each year.
Two weeks ago, during the week of the U.N. General Assembly, President Obama spoke at the Clinton Global Initiative about the need to fight human trafficking, calling it on of the great human rights struggles of our time. “Everyone has a responsibility,” he said. “Everyone can take action.” Today, to help answer the President’s call, it is my honor to announce USAID’s Counter-Trafficking Campus Challenge: A unique competition that is expressly designed for students on campuses across the United States and around the world to generate cutting-edge ideas and new technologies to combat one of humanity’s greatest challenges.
As President Obama said, “We’re turning the table on the traffickers. Just as they are now using technology and the Internet to exploit their victims, we’re going to harness technology to stop them.” The challenge has several phases—and the first one begins today, as we encourage students to come together online at the new www.challengeslavery.org website to discuss the challenge and identify potential barriers to success.
Development attracts many of the best students, brightest minds and strongest spirits. Open-source development can help keep all of us inspired by offering the true reward of being successful—combining productivity with meaning.
When you bring your expertise, your ideas, your ingenuity to the task; when you can see that something you’re learning in a classroom is helping communities to withstand natural disasters, or when you commit yourself to a career in the service of others—those are deeply rewarding results for you—and millions of people everywhere.
Last updated: January 28, 2014