kofi annan african green revolution Issouf Sanogo/AFP/Getty Images

Kofi Annan’s Unfinished Green Revolution

Few issues were as important to the late UN secretary-general as ending hunger and spurring economic growth in Africa by empowering the continent's farmers. Despite progress, his goal of lifting millions of Africans out of poverty by improving agricultural output will remain as relevant as ever in the coming years.

GENEVA – Kofi Annan championed many global causes during his distinguished life and career, but as a native of Ghana, he always felt a special responsibility to Africa. And there, no issue was more important to him than tackling hunger and spurring growth through agriculture.

During his tenure as Secretary-General of the United Nations, Annan, who died last month, often wondered why so much of Africa – with its abundance of fertile land and freshwater – had failed to turn farming into an asset. He even commissioned a study for the UN to analyze why “green revolutions” – agricultural reforms in Asia and Latin America that lifted millions out of poverty and accelerated economic transformations – had bypassed Africa.

That study reached a straightforward conclusion: while Africa’s farmers have the potential to meet the continent’s nutritional needs, they cannot do it alone. The study’s findings led Annan to advocate for a “uniquely African green revolution” to increase farm productivity, and his plea later became the basis for the African Green Revolution Forum. This week, the AGRF – one of the world’s most important platforms for African agriculture – will gather for its annual meeting to discuss ways to help the continent feed itself.

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