The Malawi stateswoman has moved 24 places up the ladder from position 71 in 2012, beating President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia who has been dominating in Africa. Johnson Sirleaf is on position 87 from 82 last year.
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Forbes website noted that President Banda – who became southern Africa’s first woman leader in April 2012 after the death of president Bingu wa Mutharika – spent her initial year in office pushing for rapprochement with the international donor community while grappling with spiraling inflation and an angry populace at home.
With foreign aid accounting for nearly 40% of Malawi’s revenue, Banda urged global financial institutions to restore the dollars and Euros frozen during the autocratic regime of her predecessor. But her decision to devalue Malawi’s currency by 50% – to meet IMF conditions – has resulted in soaring costs for food and fuel and widespread protests.
Her first 12 months were also marked by progress in decriminalizing homosexuality and major public health initiatives such as the $15 billion Global Fund to Fight Aids, TB and Malaria.
Banda was a grassroots gender rights activist before joining politics and jointly scooped the Africa Prize for Leadership for the Sustainable End of Hunger award with Mozambican president Joachim Chissano in 2005.