Peter Mutharika, brother of former Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika and the country’s newly elected head of state. Will Malawi’s new president restore donor confidence in the country? Photo by: Lou Rouse / United Nations

Malawi’s new president will have to take decisive action to restore the international community’s confidence in the African nation, if one of its biggest foreign aid donors is any indication.

A source within the U.K. Department for International Development suggested on Friday, a day before Arthur Peter Mutharika was officially declared the winner of Malawi’s presidential race, that the aid agency would not resume budget support until it's satisfied with government budget oversight and accountability. DfID’s support through government systems “will remain suspended until sufficient action has been taken to address the weaknesses in the financial and management systems,” the source told Devex.

DfID, along with other donors like Norway and the European Union, suspended direct government assistance in November following the revelation of widespread corruption in what is now popularly dubbed as the “Cashgate” scandal, which is seen as a major factor in Mutharika’s defeat of Joyce Banda, who held the presidency for two years after the death of Bingu wa Mutharika, the new president’s brother.

In his inaugural speech on Monday, Mutharika vowed to curb corruption, investigate “Cashgate” and restore the country’s economic growth rate to 7 percent.

Mutharika secured 36 percent of the votes, not the majority. And while he served in various capacities in his brother’s administration — as education, justice and foreign affairs minister — he has a lot to prove running the country's affairs, according to Stephen Dakalira, head of news and current affairs at Capital Radio Malawi.

As the second female African head of state, Banda attracted worldwide attention and much goodwill from foreign donors and investors. She won some praise in her early days as president when she attacked the country's forex problems and fuel shortages, and won back international support following her predecessor's falling out with donors — although that didn’t last for long.

Mutharika, according to Dakalira, is a “respected figure” in the international community, having taught at several universities across Africa and beyond, including Rutgers University and Washington University in the United States. He has also served as an advisor to the American Bar Association's Rule of Law Initiative for Africa, and chaired the Institute for Democracy and Policy Studies, a think tank.

Should the foreign aid community continue to withhold budget support for Malawi? What should be President Arthur Peter Mutharika’s immediate priorities?

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.