Elected Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN) in 1997, Kofi Annan is the first Secretary-General from Africa south of the Sahara. This diplomat from GHANA has worked for the UN since 1962, except for a brief period in the 1970s when he served as Ghana's director of tourism.
Before embarking on his career in diplomacy, Annan attended colleges and graduate schools in Ghana, the United States, and Switzerland. He holds a bachelor's degree in economics and a master's degree in management. He is fluent in English, French, and several African languages.
Over the years, Annan has held several posts within the UN. He began as a budget officer with the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland. Later, he served with the UN Economic Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa, ETHIOPIA. While Under Secretary-General in the mid-1990s, he oversaw UN peacekeeping operations in SOMALIA and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
As Secretary-General, Annan has focused on the international community's commitment to help Africa's developing nations. Annan has also worked at improving relations between the UN and the United States, which were strained in the early 1990s. (See also United Nations in Africa.)