"President Barack Obama's Administration and a number of Members of Congress have welcomed the accession to power of Malawian President Joyce Banda. Banda took office after her predecessor, Bingu wa Mutharika, died of a reported heart attack on April 5, 2012, while serving a contentious second term; Banda was vice president at the time of his death and therefore succeeded him. Banda's assumption of power has led to rapid improvements in relations with the United States and other foreign aid donors, upon which Malawian public spending has relied heavily since the mid-1990s. Such ties had been severely damaged during Mutharika's second term over concerns related to economic management, undemocratic governance trends, and his increasingly acrimonious stance toward donors. Shortly after taking office, Banda pledged to reverse many of Mutharika's most contentious economic and governance policy decisions. As a result, several key donors that withdrew or restricted aid during Mutharika's tenure have reinstated it, a welcome prospect for Malawi's flagging economy. Such donors include the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), which had suspended its compact with Malawi, in part due to congressional concern about Mutharika's policies. Banda, Africa's second female president, has also won plaudits as an international advocate for women's rights; her tenure is seen as a sign of increasing gender equality in a region where male leaders have predominated."
CRS Report for Congress, R42856