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.
USAID has had a more than 50-year history in working in international agricultural research including, helping to establish the consultative group on international agricultural research. Now is such an opportune time to take hold of the opportunities of this new initiative to reshape that system and to reshape our international system to make sure we make all of the technologies available here in the United States and elsewhere around the world accessible and affordable and safe for small farming communities in a way that is respectful and understanding of their specific needs. USDA has had a tremendous history in agricultural research, creating the land grant system in this country in the 1860s and participating with USAID in a long-standing partnership. I want to especially thank Josette Lewis and Rob Bertram from our team at USAID and Roger Beachy and Ann Tutwiler from the team at USDA that have really brought excellence and partnership together to make sure that we can be as supportive as possible of this overall mission.
His Excellency, President Wade,
His Excellency, ECOWAS Commissioner Salifou,
Distinguished members from ECOWAS and the NEPAD community
Ministers from around West Africa,
Partners from Canada, Spain, United Nations and so many wonderful technical leadership organizations;
We know that food aid can save lives but if we are not careful, we also know it can have unintended consequences such as distorting local markets and discouraging local production. In the United States and at USAID we, like you, are taking careful steps to make sure this does not happen. We are expanding the application of independent market analysis as we did in Haiti and as we are doing in eight other countries through what we call our Bellman process to make sure we have methodologies that will protect local producers and local markets in events when outside food assistance and aid is necessary. Although in-kind food assistance will remain the major source of US food aid, we will expand our cash vouchers and grant assistance, especially for local and regional procurement under the emergency food security programme that we launched earlier this year. In 2009 this programme represented about US$95 million of activity for the United States and we expect that to be 300 million in 2011 per this administration's request to Congress.
DR. RAJIV SHAH: Thank you, thanks Sam. I appreciate the chance to be here and it's wonderful to be in a room with so many supporters and partners and likeminded development practitioners, so thank you for that opportunity.
Sam, I want to thank you especially for InterAction's support of our overall agenda and just every step of the way, really pulling together the community to help us learn and really make decisions in a way that does include the input across this broad group of partners.
Honorable Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Her Excellency Sheikh Hasina,
Minister of Agriculture, Begum Matia Chowdhury,
Minister of Food and Disaster Management, Dr. Muhammad Abdur Razzaque
Members of Cabinet and Advisors to the Prime Minister,
Guest speakers, delegates and members of the media, civil society, and private sector organizations;
Assalam-u-Alaikum, and Good Morning.
DR. RAJIV SHAH: Thank you, Marshall.
And good morning. How is everyone? It's wonderful to see such a great group come out so early today. So thank you very much.
And a special thanks of course to Catherine and Dan, who have really made this issue a top priority for everyone in this development business in this town. And we continue to look at and count on the leadership of the Chicago Council and of the team sitting here in the years to come. So thank you very much.
We now have a unique opportunity to make dramatic progress toward our ultimate goal of improving the lives and livelihoods of billions of people. That opportunity is built on a newfound knowledge of what leads to successful development, new levels of political support at the highest levels of this government, and a unity of purpose amongst many powerful partners both across and outside of government. Our understanding of effective development is always evolving, but has improved significantly in the last several decades. Think of our focus on women and girls. We know now that when you educate girls, or make loans to women – you improve life for their families by virtually every measure. We accept this as common knowledge now, and forget that this was once a revolutionary idea.
We know that smartly-aligned incentives, from conditional cash transfers to vouchers for reproductive health services, can increase the use of preventive health care. And we’re beginning to understand the power of information itself. Just look at what text messaging can do for farmers looking to access real-time market pricing. Complementing this knowledge is a recognition at the highest levels of just how important development is.
MRS. OBAMA: Thank you everyone. Thanks so much. (Applause.) You all take a load off your feet because you work hard enough. (Laughter.) It is truly a pleasure to be here. This is a big agency. This is good. (Laughter.) I think this is one of my largest agency visits. This is really wonderful.
I want to start by thanking Raj for that wonderful introduction, but more so for everything that he’s doing here.
Professor Tesar, thank you for that introduction and the invitation to return to U-M.
Being back on campus brings back memories of my own graduation day. Ann Arbor in bloom, everyone in gowns, the marching, the music … and the speech by some guy I’d never heard of.
You know, on the way here this afternoon, I took a detour to the Michigan Union to have a look at the bronze plaque beside the steps.
Thank you so much for being here. This panel really does present an exciting opportunity to have a discussion with some key entrepreneurial leaders in the social sector, the business sector, here at home in the United States, and all around the world. One of the top concerns that entrepreneurs have articulated everywhere, and perhaps more so in the last few years because of what's been happening in our financial markets, is access to capital.
Last updated: January 28, 2014