Rajiv Shah

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Rajiv Shah
Rajiv Shah official portrait.jpg
Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development
In office
January 7, 2010 – February 19, 2015
Preceded by Alonzo Fulgham (Acting)
Succeeded by Alfonso E. Lenhardt (Acting)
Personal details
Born (1973-03-09) March 9, 1973 (age 43)
Detroit, Michigan, United States
Spouse(s) Shivam Mallick Shah
Alma mater University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
London School of Economics
European Institute of Business Administration
University of Pennsylvania
Website Official biography

Rajiv "Raj" Shah, MD (born March 9, 1973) is a former American government official, physician and health economist who served as the 16th Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) from 2010–2015.

Background, education and early career[edit]

Born to Indian immigrant parents who settled in Ann Arbor, Michigan in the late 1960s, Shah grew up in the Detroit area and attended Wylie Groves High School. He graduated with honors, Phi Beta Kappa, from the University of Michigan with a Bachelor of Science in Economics. At Michigan, he was awarded the Otto Graf Scholarship, given to one student university-wide for leadership excellence and academic distinction. He went on to earn a Master of Science in Health Economics from the University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School of Business and a Doctor of Medicine from the University of Pennsylvania, Personal School of Medicine. While a grad student, he created Project Impact for South Asian Americans, a non-profit organization through which he raised small dollar donations for his new community service organization. Additionally, while studying at the Wharton School of Business, Shah was awarded a $500,000 grant from U.S. Healthcare to development econometric tools to improve hospital efficiency. From these early experiences he learned that ability to raise resources is critical to any organizations success. Shah also spent time at the London School of Economics where he earned a general course certificate in economics. During the 2000 Gore-Lieberman Presidential Campaign, Shah was a health policy advisor and research associate. He was also involved in the historic Florida recount where he was among the first to detail the Florida “butterfly ballot.” He also served as a member of Governor Ed Rendell's (D-PA) transition committee on health.

The Gates Foundation[edit]

Shah joined the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2001, serving in a range of leadership roles including Director of Agricultural Development, Director of Strategic Opportunities, Deputy Director of Policy and Finance and Chief Economist. During his time at Gates, he led the launch the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, an alliance with the Rockefeller Foundation that focuses on addressing the specific environmental and agricultural needs of African farmers.[1]

Shah was also responsible for developing the International Finance Facility for Immunization which raised more than $5 billion for the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI). IFFI has been recognized as an example of the power of innovative financing for global development.[2]

Obama Administration[edit]

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)[edit]

Shah was nominated by President Obama to serve as Chief Scientist and Undersecretary of Agriculture for Research, Education and Economics on April 17, 2009. He was confirmed unanimously by the United States Senate on May 12, 2009. Shah was responsible for management and oversight of the U.S. Government’s Agricultural Research Service, Economic Research Service, Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service, National Agricultural Statistics Service. Shah also led the creation and launch of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to bring peer-reviewed scientific processes to agricultural research.[3]

United States Agency for International Development (USAID)[edit]

January 7, 2010: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during the swearing-in ceremony of Shah as new USAID Coordinator, in Washington, DC.

Shah was nominated to serve as the 16th Administrator of USAID on November 10, 2009 and confirmed by the United States Senate unanimously on Christmas Eve, December 24, 2009.[4] He was sworn into office by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on January 7, 2010.[5][6][7]

Leadership in Crisis Response[edit]

On his fifth day as Administrator, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Port-au-Prince, Haiti, that destroyed the capital and killed more than 200,000 citizens. Shah was tasked by President Obama to lead the United States response to the disaster, launching one of the largest humanitarian efforts in history.[8]

USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah listens to the story of a young Somali woman who walked for 33 days with her children to reach Dadaab camp in Kenya.

Throughout his tenure, Shah would lead the U.S. Government response to major crises and natural disasters including the famine in the Horn of Africa where more than 13 million people were in need of assistance.[9] He and his team are credited for putting into place an innovative real-time data assessment effort and establishing new public-private partnerships that saved lives.[10]

In 2014, Shah led the U.S. response to the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa again focusing on a strategy that was driven by evidence, innovation and data. The response is credited with slowing the rate of new infections faster than had been projected which prevented significant transmission across Africa and to other parts of the world.[11][12][13][14]

Reforming USAID[edit]

In addition to overseeing America’s response to international crises and humanitarian assistance, Shah worked to reform how USAID conducted business. He pioneered a new model of development that included more innovation and engagement with the private sector, all focused on ending extreme poverty around the world.[15] As co-chair of the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), a comprehensive evaluation led by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to redefine diplomacy and development, Shah worked to incorporate development as a part of an integrated, values-driven national security strategy.[16][17] He earned bipartisan support for his efforts which included increasing his Agency’s budget growth during a time of sequestration.[18]

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah responding to questions on the flooding in Pakistan at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on August 4, 2010.

Internally, Shah launched USAID Forward, a set of reforms that touched nearly every part of the Agency, including contractor and procurement policies.[19][20][21][22][23] He returned budget and policy oversight back to USAID from the State Department, recruited top talent from other fields, increased the number of foreign service officers, established the Administrator’s Leadership Council, similar to Alan Mulally's Business Process Review at Ford Motor Company, which included all senior officials across USAID and established USAID Staff Care Center that provided 24/7 global support for Agency staff around the world.

Food Security Reform/Feed the Future[edit]

Shah led efforts to reform food security in an effort to fight against hunger around the world.[24] His efforts had a broad, bipartisan coalition in support of global development in the United States Congress, resulting in a fivefold increase in America’s overall investment in fighting hunger through investments in agriculture. Shah used the Camp David G8 Summit in 2012 to attract private investment commitments to the effort.[25] The U.S. Government’s Feed the Future initiative has been documented to have moved nearly 40 million people out of hunger and poverty and led to dramatic reductions in child stunting around the world.[26][27][28][29][30][31]

Maternal and Child Health[edit]

Shah has been committed to improving child health since medical school and used his time as Administrator to build on past accomplishments. As Administrator, he restructured $2.9 billion of global health investments to focus on cost-effective ways to save lives of children under the age of five in priority countries.[32] He created a partnership co-led by Ethiopia, India and UNICEF, “A Promise Renewed,” to have more than one hundred partner countries restructure health priorities and invest in measurement to deliver better outcomes.[33] As a result of these and other efforts, the global level of child deaths is coming down faster than previously expected.[34][35][36]

U.S. Global Development Lab[edit]

Shah continued building on his new model of development in 2014 when he announced the establishment of the United States Global Development Lab.[37][38] The Lab brings together public and private sector partners to support innovative development solutions in areas that include water, health, food security, nutrition, energy, education and climate change. The U.S. Global Development Lab, a key recommendation of the first QDDR, increased the number of scientists and technology experts within USAID, including 65 fellows from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). He increased the investment in science, technology and innovation, taking Agency spend from roughly $130 million when he became Administrator to over $600 million, to focus not only on research, but also on innovation and applied solutions in science and technology.[39]

President Obama talks with advisors aboard Air Force One during a flight from Johannesburg to Cape Town, South Africa, June 30, 2013. Included are: Mike Froman, U.S. Trade Representative; Grant Harris, Senior Director for African Affairs; USAID Administrator Raj Shah; Gayle Smith, Senior Director for Development and Democracy; and Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

At the launch of the Lab in New York, Shah stated: “To solve our most intractable development challenges, USAID has established a new way of working, bringing on board the best and brightest staff and new partners, all working in concert to help end extreme poverty. The Lab will engage a global community of inventors, academics, researchers, entrepreneurs, investors, and corporate leaders in science and technology to invent, test, and scale the most promising and cost effective solutions to end extreme poverty.”[40]

The launch event also featured a keynote address by former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who was a strong supporter of the use of science, innovation, and partnerships to further U.S development goals.[41]

Power Africa[edit]

In 2013, President Obama launched Power Africa, bringing together technical and legal experts, the private sector, and governments from around the world to work in partnership to increase the number of people with access to power.[42][43] As Administrator, Shah led the Administration’s efforts to secure billions of dollars of private investments for African power development to bring more than 26,000 MW of power online.[44]

National Prayer Breakfast[edit]

In 2014, Administrator Shah was invited to keynote the 62nd Annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC.[45][46] The yearly event, which is held on the first Thursday of February, is hosted by Members of Congress and organized on their behalf by The Fellowship Foundation.[47] Every President of the United States since 1953 has spoken at the event that is attended by more than 3,500 dignitaries and is carried live on C-SPAN. The breakfast is designed to be a forum for the political, social, and business elite to assemble and build relationships. Since the inception of the National Prayer Breakfast, several U.S. states and cities and other countries have established their own annual prayer breakfast events.[48]

Raj Shah briefs Dr. Jill Biden, Dr. Bill Frist and others enroute to Dagahaley refugee camp, Aug. 8, 2011. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

Bipartisan Outreach[edit]

To institutionalize efforts to transform development, Shah worked closely with Congressional leaders and a broad range of non-government stakeholders on a select set of legislative priorities. In recent years, President Obama has signed many of these into law. The Global Food Security Act is the second largest global development authorizing legislation in recent history.[49] The Electrify Africa Act has institutionalized Power Africa and the Agriculture Act (“Farm Bill”) included the most significant legislative reforms in American food aid in sixty years.[50][51][52][53] Shah’s effort to enlist Congress as a real partner and build a broad bipartisan coalition to support these priorities is credited in large part for their passage.[54]

Post Obama Administration[edit]

Shah resigned from USAID on January 30, 2015.[55] He was appointed Distinguished Fellow in Residence at Georgetown University, Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, developing and teaching a graduate seminar on Rethinking Global Development and National Security policy with an emphasis on fragile states, data and innovation.[56] He also founded and serves as Managing Partner for Latitude Capital, a global emerging markets power and infrastructure private equity firm.[57]

USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah joined President Barack Obama in the Situation Room of the White House concerning the earthquake in Chile, Feb. 27, 2010. Also pictured are, left to right, Tom Donilon, deputy national security advisor,and Rahm Emanuel, White House chief of staff.

United Nations High-Level Panel on the Global Response to Heath Crises[edit]

In 2015, Shah was one of six global leaders appointed by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to review the world’s capacity to prepare for and respond to global pandemic threats. The panel presented their findings and recommendations to the Secretary General, UN General Assembly, and the G8 and G20 groups of leaders.[58]


In 2015, Shah delivered a TED talk Data-Driven Compassion: What Haiti, Somalia & Ebola Teach Us at the inaugural TEDxPennsylvaniaAvenue, which was designed “to give several of the world’s most innovative thinkers and doers the opportunity to share their ground-breaking ideas with bipartisan leaders in our nations’ capital.”[59][60]

Moneyball for Government[edit]

Shah co-authored a bipartisan chapter in the second edition of the book, Moneyball for Government, with Michael Gerson, former Assistant to the President for Policy & Strategic Planning under President George W. Bush.[61] The chapter, titled “Foreign Assistance and the Revolution of Rigor,” calls for data and evidence to drive U.S. foreign aid and provides a roadmap for improving and sustaining foreign assistance programs.[62]

Shah and Gerson also co-authored an op-ed in the Washington Post on Zika.[63]

Awards and recognition[edit]

Shah has been the recipient of numerous awards including the Secretary of State’s Distinguished Service Award (2013); the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award, the highest official honor for non-resident Indian, awarded by the President of India (2011);[64] the U.S. Global Leadership Council Tribute Award (2014); the Gene White Lifetime Achievement Award for Child Nutrition (2014); the Young Global Leader, World Economic Forum (2007); and recipient of the Deans Medal, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University (2014)

Shah has been awarded numerous honorary degrees including American University, Doctor of International Affairs (2012), Tuskegee University, Doctor of Science (2012), and Colby College, Doctor of Laws (2011)

Shah was also recognized as one of Fortune Magazine’s 40 under 40 in 2011 and was India Abroad’s Person of the Year in 2012.[65][66]

Board and affiliations[edit]

Shah currently sits on numerous boards including Trustee of the Rockefeller Foundation,[67] International Rescue Committee, Premise Data, Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Results for America, Trilateral Commission and the Atlantic Council.

Past Board memberships including Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), Seattle Public Library, Seattle Community College District, City Year Seattle and Project Impact for South Asian Americans.

Personal life[edit]

Shah is married to Shivam Mallick Shah. They have three children and currently reside in Washington, D.C.


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  2. ^ JOURNAL, Marilyn Chase Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET (2005-04-26). "Malaria Trial Could Set a Model For Financing of Costly Vaccines". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2016-10-17. 
  3. ^ Buchen, Lizzie (2009-09-29). "US agriculture research gets priority plan". Nature News. 461 (7264): 580–580. doi:10.1038/461580a. 
  4. ^ Rozen, Laura. "Breaking: Rajiv Shah for USAID administrator - Laura Rozen - POLITICO.com". www.politico.com. Retrieved 2016-10-17. 
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  8. ^ Rucker, Philip (2010-01-15). "Officials hail USAID chief's crisis management skills". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2016-10-17. 
  9. ^ "FWD: USAID's First-Ever Public Awareness Campaign". whitehouse.gov. 2011-11-08. Retrieved 2016-10-17. 
  10. ^ "Horn of Africa". www.usaid.gov. Retrieved 2016-10-17. 
  11. ^ "Q&A with Rajiv 'Raj' Shah, USAID administrator dealing with Ebola in Liberia". Washington Post. Retrieved 2016-10-17. 
  12. ^ "East Africa | Famine Early Warning Systems Network". www.fews.net. Retrieved 2016-10-17. 
  13. ^ "2013 Sammies Finalist: National Security and International Affairs". Service to America Medals. Retrieved 2016-10-17. 
  14. ^ "Dr. Jill Biden Joins USAID and Ad Council to Debut FWD Campaign for the Crisis in the Horn of Africa". AdCouncil. Retrieved 2016-10-17. 
  15. ^ Landler, Mark (2010-10-22). "Dr. Rajiv Shah Seeks to Cure the Ills of Usaid". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-10-17. 
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  32. ^ "With help of private industry, USAID review finds $2.9 billion for maternal, child health". Washington Post. Retrieved 2016-10-17. 
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  41. ^ "Hillary Clinton to join Shah to announce new USAID development lab | The Hagstrom Report". www.hagstromreport.com. Retrieved 2016-10-17. 
  42. ^ "Power Africa | U.S. Agency for International Development". www.usaid.gov. Retrieved 2016-10-17. 
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  47. ^ "National Prayer Breakfast Unites Political Leaders Who Gather to Focus on Jesus, Guests Say". Christian Post. Retrieved 2016-10-17. 
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  50. ^ Saine, Cindy. "Congress Passes 'Electrify Africa Act' to Help Millions Get Access to Power". VOA. Retrieved 2016-10-17. 
  51. ^ "The Future of Food Assistance | Agriculture and Food Security | U.S. Agency for International Development". www.usaid.gov. Retrieved 2016-10-17. 
  52. ^ "Rajiv Shah: Farm bill to bring more flexibility, greater impact for USAID". Devex. 2014-02-05. Retrieved 2016-10-17. 
  53. ^ Manager, Katie Lee Policy; InterAction (2014-02-06). "The Farm Bill and International Food Aid: What You Need to Know | Huffington Post". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2016-10-17. 
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  55. ^ Nixon, Ron (2014-12-17). "Chief of Agency for International Development to Step Down". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-10-17. 
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  57. ^ "Latitude Capital". www.latitudecapital.com. Retrieved 2016-10-17. 
  58. ^ "Secretary-General Appoints High-Level Panel on Global Response to Health Crises | Meetings Coverage and Press Releases". www.un.org. Retrieved 2016-10-17. 
  59. ^ TEDx Talks (2015-10-26), The New "Disrupters" in Healthcare – Patients and Pharmacists | Rajiv Shah | TEDxFargo, retrieved 2016-10-17 
  60. ^ "tedxpennave". tedxpennave. Retrieved 2016-10-17. 
  61. ^ "Can Moneyball for Government Maximize Impact on the Ground?". ghd.georgetown.edu. Retrieved 2016-10-17. 
  62. ^ "With Help of Private Industry, USAID Review Finds $2.9 Billion for Maternal, Child Health". Moneyball for Government. 2014-06-25. Retrieved 2016-10-17. 
  63. ^ Gerson, Michael; Shah, Raj (2016-07-17). "This is how the U.S. must lead the fight against Zika". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2016-10-17. 
  64. ^ "USAID administrator wins Pravasi Bharatiya Samman - Rediff.com India News". m.rediff.com. Retrieved 2016-10-17. 
  65. ^ "40 Under 40: How they'd fix the economy - Rajiv Shah (7) - CNNMoney". archive.fortune.com. Retrieved 2016-10-17. 
  66. ^ Rajesh Karkera (2013-06-22), Raj Shah, India Abroad Person of the Year 2012, retrieved 2016-10-17 
  67. ^ "Rajiv Shah - The Rockefeller Foundation". The Rockefeller Foundation. Retrieved 2016-10-17. 

External links[edit]

Media related to Rajiv Shah at Wikimedia Commons

Political offices
Preceded by
Alonzo Fulgham
Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development
Succeeded by
Alfonso E. Lenhardt