WASHINGTON — After weeks of batting down rumors of his impending resignation, Rajiv Shah announced Wednesday he will step down as head of the U.S. Agency for International Development in February.
Shah, a former Gates Foundation official in Seattle, has served as the administrator of the nation’s leading agency for foreign aid and humanitarian relief for five years. His statement did not mention future plans.
“He has said that he is not yet ready to share plans and is focused on a smooth transition in leadership come mid-February,” Shah’s spokesman Matt Herrick said.
The highly-regarded Shah, 41, joined the Gates Foundation while still in his 20s. A trained physician and health economist, he previously served a brief stint as an undersecretary for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. One of Shah’s notable achievements was to bring a Gates Foundation-style approach to global development, including partnerships with corporations and private sectors and a focus on scientific and technological solutions.
Among the achievements Shah cited during his tenure at USAID was to expand access to power for sub-Saharan Africa, using data-based methods to reduce maternal and infant deaths and shifting the fight against global hunger from emergency food aid to emphasis on sustainable agriculture to enable people to feed themselves.
In a recent interview with The Seattle Times, Shah deflected questions about his rumored interest in running for Congress or other public office.
When he was preparing to leave the Gates Foundation in 2009 for Washington, D.C., Shah told a reporter he and his wife were committed to returning to Seattle. Asked if that pledge still stood, Shah laughed and talked instead about how he and his wife, Shivam Mallick Shah, loved living near Pike Place Market.