Meet Malawi's First Female President

On Saturday, Joyce Banda became Malawi's first female president, and the African continent's second.

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Joyce Banda (ABC News)

Joyce Banda is a longtime women's-rights activist, educator and philanthropist. In addition to all that, the 62-year-old is also now Malawi's first female president, and the African continent's second. Banda, who was previously the country's vice president, took on her new leadership role on Saturday, two days after the death of President Bingu wa Mutharika.

Ebony.com reports on her history-making journey to lead the country, and the challenges she's expected to face:

Taking over after the sudden death of President Bingu wa Mutharika will not prove an easy task for Banda who made many enemies in the late president’s Democratic Progressive Party as his Vice President.  Shortly following the 2009 re-election, Mutharika and Banda clashed over Mutharika’s policies and style of governance.  Within a year Banda was kicked out of the majority party, but she skillfully evaded political isolation and defiantly retained the title of Malawian Vice President creating her own political party, the People’s Party.

Mutharika’s disdain for Banda, who openly criticized his presidency likening him to an autocrat, was widely known.  His preference for his brother to succeed him over Banda was a personal but non-constitutional choice, as Banda remained the nation’s Vice President.  In the wake of President Mutharika’s passing, many whispered of a power vacuum struggle between the two while others speculated that the former head of state’s body was transported to South Africa in an attempt to buy time was chosen.  Nevertheless the power struggle many envisioned did not come to fruition and the rule of Malawian law had prevailed for it to make history.  For those who blame Mutharika for the country’s current economic crisis, President Banda represents great hope for change.

A former World Bank economist, the late President Mutharika was once the darling of the international community yet he began to question Malawi’s heavy dependency on foreign aid clashing with donors and lenders during his second term of office.  The worse Malawi’s economic situation became the more Mutharika resisted the recommendations of international financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF).  As the Malawian economy entered into a tailspin, Mutharika ignored the IMF’s advice to devalue its currency despite severe shortages of vital commodities such as sugar and fuel ...

Read more at Ebony.com.

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