Rajiv Shah, who headed the US government’s foreign aid operations, has been appointed the head of the Rockefeller Foundation, a multi-billion dollar private global charity with programmes in India.
The New York-based Foundation said Thursday that its trustees had selected Shah, who is a medical doctor and was the administrator of USAID, to be its next president. He will take over the job from Judith Rodin in March.
The 43-year-old will be the youngest person and the first Indian-American to lead the organisation, which has an ambitious $75 million project to bring electric power to Indian villages.
Shah received the Pravasi Bhartiya Samman award for distinguished Indian diaspora in 2011.
“I look forward to charting a course for The Rockefeller Foundation to engage with partners to promote the well-being of humanity, and to take on the challenges of today and tomorrow both in the United States and around the world,” Shah said.
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Shah’s appointment came a day after another Indian American with the same surname and a similar first name, Raj Shah, was appointed by President-elect Donald Trump to be his deputy assistant and research director.
The Rockefeller Foundation, which sits on assets of $3.4 billion according to Bloomberg, says that it focuses on health, ecosystems, “secure livelihoods,” and urban problems.
Announcing the appointment, the Foundation said that Rajiv Shah “is best known for elevating international development in foreign policy, delivering results through public-private partnerships and the respect he earned working with counterpart governments from Afghanistan to Central America and with bipartisan leaders in the US Congress”.
He will be taking over the Foundation at a time when the Indian government is tightening supervision of the work of foreign charities and NGOs. The other major American philanthropy, the Ford Foundation, has had run-ins with the government over its funding of certain groups or individuals with a perceived political bent.
Born in the US and educated in the US and Britain, Shah, as a medical student, had volunteered in a poor community in India. He has a medical degree and a masters in health economics from the Ivy League University of Pennsylvania.
He was the head of USAID from 2010 to 2015 and among the highlights of his work there was mobilising action against the Ebola epidemic in Africa and organising relief for Haiti after its earthquake.
After leaving the government he was appointed Distinguished Fellow in Residence at the Georgetown University, a Jesuit-run institution in Washington.
He also founded a private equity firm, Latitude Capital, which aims to finance power and infrastructure projects in developing countries.
He started in President Barack Obama’s administration in 2009 as chief scientist and Agriculture Undersecretary and the next year was appointed USAID head. He has also worked for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.