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Nation’s humanitarian-in-chief takes business-like approach

Rajiv Shah

Rajiv Shah

Writing for Foreign Policy, Samuel Loewenberg questions Rajiv Shah, head of the U.S. Agency for International Development and a former Gates Foundation program director, about the aid agency’s goal of becoming more “business-like” in its approach.

Loewenberg, a global health fellow in Harvard’s Nieman program but more importantly (to us out here in the Northwest) an Evergreen State College grad, takes no prisoners and asks some fantastic, provocative questions such as:

Some of the $4 to $6 billion (in foreign aid) is also going toward “partnerships” with big U.S. corporations like Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola, Chevron, and Monsanto. Why does subsidizing U.S. companies help people who are poor.”


“From what I’ve seen in my reporting, what poor people in places like Kenya, Ethiopia, and Guatemala really need are water and roads to keep them from these recurrent hunger crises. Yet for the last 30 years USAID has largely ignored those issues.”

The story begins:

The son of Indian immigrants from Ann Arbor, Mich., and a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Medical School and the Wharton School of Business, Rajiv Shah began his career at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, where he ran the organization’s agriculture program and went on to serve as chief scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). In December 2009, at the age of 37, he was sworn in as head of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) — only days before a devastating earthquake hit Haiti.

In an interview for Foreign Policy, Samuel Loewenberg spoke with Shah about how he is reinventing USAID, an often-embattled agency charged with helping the world’s poorest countries develop, while at the same time dealing with crises around the globe.

Read the rest at Foreign Policy magazine


About Author

Tom Paulson

Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom[at] or follow him on Twitter @tompaulson.