Emotions were mixed at a special dinner in Kigali, Rwanda, on the evening of Thursday 6 September, held at the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) in memory of Secretary General Kofi Annan, the inspiration behind Africa’s green revolution.
One the one hand, there was a wave of love and admiration for him as a truly incredible human being, and of pride in the achievements that his legacy continues to drive. On the other, there was a sense of immense sadness at the recent passing of a great man who, until just a few weeks ago, was planning to play a significant role at AGRF 2018.
And the tributes made during the event were as glowing and distinctive as the attendees’ memories of the man himself.
“Kofi Annan was the animating force of modern African agriculture,” said AGRA’s current Board Chair Strive Masiyiwa. “His integrity and vision inspired us to embrace the potential of the African farmer to lift millions out of poverty and propel our economies along a path to prosperity.”
And his close colleague, AGRA President Dr. Agnes Kalibata, was equally thoughtful in her tribute. “All of us in Africa, including generations to come, owe a deep debt to Kofi Annan for the leadership and inspiration he provided to position agriculture as the key to Africa’s future,” she said. “AGRA would not have been were it not for his vision.”
Ever since the tragic news of Mr Annan’s death was announced, tributes to his achievements – including the launch of Africa’s green revolution – have poured in from across the world.
Bill Gates, speaking in his capacity as Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said: “I met Secretary General Kofi Annan several times and admired his work – particularly on behalf of Africa – a great deal. As the first Chair of AGRA, he led the way by helping to drive a new agriculture agenda for the continent.”
Dr. Rajiv Shah, President of The Rockefeller Foundation, remembered Kofi Annan as “a true partner to people in need around the world. His legacy of service and accomplishment will live on and continue to inspire generations.”
And Svein Tore Holsether, President and CEO of Yara International, said: “Kofi Annan challenged us to help start a green revolution for Africa. Now, we have lost a visionary, a true leader. I see it as our duty to continue our work.”
Perhaps, however, the most potent tribute possible to Mr Annan is the fact that, thanks to his work, future generations of African children stand a far better chance not just of escaping poverty and hunger, but of living in a continent whose self-sufficiency in terms of food production places it at least on an equal footing with the rest of the world.
The final words belong to Strive Masiyiwa. “Mr Annan has left a long legacy in the quest for a food self-sufficient continent. We will keep his dream and vision alive.”