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U.S. Sec. of State Hillary Clinton, Malawi Pres. Joyce Banda

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton praised Malawi’s leaders Sunday for reforms in the impoverished African nation before arriving in South Africa for talks with government officials and a private visit with Nelson Mandela.

In Lilongwe, Malawi, Clinton pledged continued American support as she met with President Joyce Banda, the first woman to lead her country and only the second female African head of state.

Clinton, the first secretary of state to visit Malawi, was clearly pleased to meet Banda and told her that the United States “strongly supports you and your government and your efforts on behalf of the people of this absolutely wonderful country.”

Banda has been keen to differentiate herself from her predecessor, who had a rocky relationship with international development agencies and whose policies led the U.S. to suspend a $350.7 million assistance package last year. In May, the country devalued its currency by one-third and loosened restrictions on foreign currency exchange.

In June, the International Monetary Fund and Malawi agreed to a $157 million aid package to be distributed over three years and the U.S. restored its aid, which is aimed at improving energy infrastructure. The program is run by the Millenium Challenge Corporation, which offers assistance to developing countries that can prove they have good government practices.

In addition to that package, the U.S. provided Malawi with $230 million in bilateral development aid in 2011. Malawi is an AIDS-ravaged nation with an agriculture-based economy and few natural resources.

Clinton is on an 11-day tour of Africa that has already taken her to Senegal, Uganda, South Sudan, Kenya and South Africa; she will travel to Nigeria, Ghana and Benin before visiting Syria.

Source: WBEZ-FM

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