Dr. Rajiv Shah led the efforts of nearly 10,000 staff in more than 70 countries around the world to advance USAID’s mission of ending extreme poverty and promoting resilient, democratic societies.
Under Dr. Shah’s leadership, USAID applied innovative technologies and engaged the private sector to solve the world’s most intractable development challenges. This new model of development brings together an increasingly diverse community—from large companies to local civil society groups to communities of faith—to deliver meaningful results.
Dr. Shah led President Obama’s landmark Feed the Future and Power Africa initiatives and has refocused America’s global health partnerships to end preventable child death. Feed the Future, alone, has improved nutrition for 12 million children and empowered more than 7 million farmers with climate-smart tools they need to grow their way out of extreme poverty. In April 2014, USAID launched the U.S. Global Development Lab to harness the expertise of the world’s brightest scientists, students, and entrepreneurs. At the same time, the newly formed Private Capital Group for Development forges a more strategic relationship between private capital and development.
Dr. Shah also managed the U.S. Government’s humanitarian response to catastrophic crises around the world, from the devastating 2010 Haiti earthquake to Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.
Through an extensive set of reforms called “USAID Forward,” Dr. Shah worked with the United States Congress to transform USAID into the world’s premier development Agency that prioritizes public-private partnerships, innovation, and meaningful results. He currently serves on the boards of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and the Millennium Challenge Corporation, as well as participates on the National Security Council.
Previously, Dr. Shah served as Undersecretary and Chief Scientist in the U.S. Department of Agriculture, where he created the National Institute for Food and Agriculture. Prior to joining the Obama Administration, he spent eight years at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where he led efforts in global health, agriculture, and financial services, including the creation of the International Finance Facility for Immunization.
He is a graduate of the University of Michigan, the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, and the Wharton School of Business. He regularly appears in the media and has delivered keynote addresses before the U.S. Military Academy, the National Prayer Breakfast, and diverse audiences across Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. Dr. Shah was awarded the Distinguished Service Award by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. He has served as a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, been named to Fortune’s 40 Under 40, and has received multiple honorary degrees.
He lives in Washington, D.C. with his wife Shivam Mallick Shah and three children and has given up mountain climbing for family bicycle rides.
Days ago the United Nations agreed on a Post-2015 Development Agenda with 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs). Two weeks earlier, agreement was reached on the Addis Ababa Action Agenda for financing those inspiring and very ambitious goals. In many ways, Vietnam has become a model for the MDGs and it did so in collaboration with important development partners, including the US, and with the support of many international NGOs, including many based in the US. Today we should celebrate how that came to be, so that we can do even better on our new shared agenda.
Our Power Africa initiative has been leveraging private capital to invest in electrification all across the continent. And our preliminary goal was 10,000 megawatts; now we’re looking at 30,000 megawatts, and we’re well on our way.
We are here at a pivotal moment in history. The world today faces increasingly complex challenges, from the worst refugee crisis since World War II to a changing climate. These challenges span across borders, and impact all sectors… They are too complex for traditional approaches… They are too enormous for any single funding stream to address alone, especially given our limited resources... And, the world’s population is projected to grow to 9 billion by 2050, putting an even greater strain on those resources. So, as we begin down our path to meet the future sustainable development goals, we must seek solutions that help us catalyze further investment, and make the most out of every single resource available to us.
Yesterday, I had the honor of joining Commissioner Mimica and Secretary Lew as they signed our joint commitment to supporting Africa’s power sector, which included an impressive financial commitment of $2.8 billion in grants for sustainable energy activities over the next five years. And, later today, Director-General Petri Gornitzka and I will sign a memorandum of understanding that solidifies Sweden’s commitment to catalyze more than $1 billion in investments to support Power Africa. These commitments will make our partnerships with the European Union and Sweden even stronger. And, they will keep us on a path toward achieving Power Africa’s goals of adding 30,000 megawatts of additional power capacity and bringing electricity to 60 million households and businesses across sub-Saharan Africa.
The United States shares the African Union’s strong commitment to agricultural development and global food security, and we are proud to stand with you as partners in this important work. That is because we know what supporting agriculture and nutrition can do for a country and its people. Growth in the agricultural sector is at least twice as effective at reducing poverty as growth in other sectors. So, when President Obama called on leaders around the world to end global hunger and poverty, he emphasized agriculture as the best path to reach that goal. This is the idea behind the program—Feed the Future. Inspired by the African Union’s work through CAADP, Feed the Future promotes country-owned approaches and supports new opportunities and technologies for small-holder farmers.
Of course, we face a difficult road ahead. The new cases of Ebola discovered in Liberia just last week are a sobering reminder of the need for continued vigilance. Our response infrastructure is working, but we are not done yet. Still, when we look back at the past year, it is clear we have made substantial progress… New cases in the West African region are at about 20 per week, down from over 100 just four months ago. Without a doubt, the reason we have seen such results is because we stood as a united front in combating the disease.
The Philippines has experienced challenging times especially for those affected by natural calamities. Our experience with Super Typhoon Yolanda was a reminder on how disasters can impact our lives and hinder progress. As the Philippines is frequented by typhoons and other natural calamities, it is important that the national and local governments plan and prepare to minimize vulnerabilities and remain resilient.
The U.S. Government has been a long-standing partner of DENR in conserving biodiversity and supporting management of forests in the Philippines. USAID’s largest forestry and watershed program, B+WISER, has been closely working with the DENR Region IV-A since 2013 to improve the management of the 26,125-hectare Upper Marikina Watershed Forest Reserve (UMRBPL) and the 27,613-hectare Kaliwa Watershed Forest Reserve (KWFR) in the provinces of Rizal and Quezon. I am pleased to report that significant progress has been made towards our common goal to better manage forest resources and other environmental services from the watersheds.
It is my great pleasure to welcome all of you today to this workshop. Giving every Cambodian child the opportunity to complete their education and reduce the number who dropout is a priority for the country. Education is a pathway to better opportunities for every person, their community, and their nation. That is why USAID is an important supporter of education programs around the world.
It is my great pleasure to see all of you here today for the “Launch of the Prey Lang Landscape Biodiversity Assessment Report.” Protecting Cambodia’s natural resources is a priority for the U.S. government and we are proud to have supported this important initiative.
USAID works closely with the Cambodian government to preserve and sustainably manage its forests and rich biodiversity. Our Supporting Forests and Biodiversity Project, which funds this Biodiversity Assessment, is one of the main ways that we do this.
Last updated: March 26, 2015