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Bravo Obama, viva USAID!

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The Obama administration made a terrific choice yesterday by deciding
to appoint Raj
Shah as the head of USAID
, the government’s primary agency for
international development.

Dr. Shah’s mix of innovative thinking and leadership should
give the agency a significant boost.
He is well-known to many in the global health and vaccines fields where,
as a member of the Bill & Melinda
Gates Foundation
’s Global Health team, he played key roles in the early
days of the GAVI Alliance. Those were heady times, filled with
creative ideas, an urge to move faster than before, and business-like focus,
and Raj Shah was often at the center of these ideas.

His efforts to accelerate vaccines through GAVI yielded the PneumoADIP and RotaADIP projects, which borrowed
principles from private-sector product launches and applied them to
accelerating vaccine access for the world’s poorest countries. He was a key driver of innovative
financing tools for vaccines like the International
Finance Facility for Immunization
, which securitizes pledges of aid to
create front-loaded investments in global development, and the Advance Market Commitment for vaccines, a
results-based mechanism to accelerate new vaccines for poorer countries at
affordable prices.

That a medical doctor with Wharton business school training
would be involved in innovative health financing is probably not surprising,
even if it is not typical. But
then we lost him from global health as the Gates Foundation elevated him to
leading their global efforts on agriculture. So what explains this rise and breadth of responsibilities
that has now led to appointment as USAID Administrator? Quite simply, his creativity, ability
to say way beyond the horizons that most of us can see, and a wisdom that goes
beyond his years have all lead to this point. Dr. Shah is just the medicine
that USAID needs.

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