Former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the first Black African to serve in the role, died Saturday in Switzerland after battling a brief illness. He was 80.
As the head of the United Nations from January 1997 to December 2006, Annan left an indelible impression receiving the co-award for the Nobel Peace Prize alongside the U.N. in 2001.
Born on April 8, 1938, in Kumasi, Ghana, known then as the Gold Coast, Annan’s family held regal positions in the Kofandros section of the country with both of his grandfathers holding chief titles in the Ashanti and Fante tribe.
In 1958, Annan began studying economics at the Kumasi College of Science and Technology, now the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology of Ghana.
In 1961 he came to the United States to attend Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn. According to his biography, he went on to study international relations at the Graduate Institute Geneva and management at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
In 1962, he began work at the United Nations in Geneva. Throughout his career he held several roles at the U.N. headquarters, including serving as the third-highest ranking official as under-secretary-general for peacekeeping between 1992 and 1996.
In 1996, Annan was appointed secretary-general by the UN’s Security Council, making him the first officeholder to be elected from the U.N.’s staff and the first Black African to do so.
Annan went on to serve two terms, focusing on HIV/AIDS and corruption. He also launched the U.N. Global Compact, an initiative to encourage businesses worldwide to adopt sustainable and socially responsible policies, and to report on their implementation.
In 2007, he founded the Kofi Annan Foundation in Switzerland, which works to promote better global governance and strengthen the capacities of people and countries to achieve a fairer, more peaceful world.
In 2012, Annan with Nader Mousavizadeh wrote a memoir, “Interventions: A Life in War and Peace,” which has been described as a “personal biography of global statecraft.”
He is survived by wife Nane and their children Ama, Kojo and Nina.