"President Barack Obama's Administration and a number of Members of Congress welcomed Malawian President Joyce Banda's accession to power, largely because she reversed a number of contentious decisions taken by her predecessor, Bingu wa Mutharika. Banda succeeded him after he died in early April 2012 while serving a contentious second term. Banda's status as Africa's second female president, an internationally recognized women's rights advocate, and a leader with socioeconomic development expertise has also attracted U.S. and other international support for her. There are some indications that Banda may pursue a foreign policy aligned with selected U.S. regional policy goals, and in March 2013, President Obama invited Banda to the White House to discuss democratic strengthening, trade, and investment. In August 2012, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton traveled to Malawi to discuss economic and governance reforms and to highlight U.S.-funded development projects. In September 2012 Banda addressed a gathering of Members of Congress at a forum on U.S.-Malawian and broader U.S.-African relations. Malawi, a former British colony, is a small, poor southeastern African country that underwent a democratic transition from one-party rule in the early 1990s and has long relied on donor aid. Under Mutharika, however, Malawi's ties with donors had been damaged over concerns related to economic management, undemocratic governance trends, and Mutharika's acrimonious stance toward donors. Upon taking office, Banda--who had served as Mutharika's vice president and therefore succeeded him upon his death--initiated a series of economic and governance reform efforts, seeking to reverse changes made under Mutharika."
CRS Report for Congress, R42856