“More than three-quarters of Africa’s population is engaged in agriculture and related activities, and the vast majority of these farmers are women, mostly on small farms of two hectares (a hectare equals 2.47 acres) or less.”

While agriculture contributes one-third of the continent’s GDP and provides most of its food, it receives only minimal government support, Annan noted. African governments in the final decades of the last century pulled back from agriculture at a time when the private sector and market forces were unable or unwilling to fill the void.

“It was to address all these problems – and to understand why the lessons learnt from Asia’s successful agricultural transformation had not touched Africa – that as U.N. Secretary-General, I commissioned a study from the Inter Academy Council,” he said.