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Obama kicks off visit to Africa


09:09, June 27, 2013

WASHINGTON, June 26 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Barack Obama embarked on a weeklong visit to Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania on Wednesday morning, a trip seen as part of efforts to reenergize engagement with a rising continent.

Obama's wife, Michelle, and two daughters, Malia and Sasha, are accompanying the president on his second trip to sub-Sahara Africa during his presidency.

Atop Obama's agenda will be economic development, trade and investment; democracy and democratic institution building; and engagement with Africa's youth.

His administration set four strategic objectives in its new strategy toward sub-Saharan Africa unveiled in June 2012 -- strengthening democratic institutions; spurring economic growth, trade and investment; advancing peace and security; and promoting opportunity and development.

Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania, in the western, southern and eastern Africa respectively, are described as "strong democracies" by White House officials.

The officials acknowledged that Africa had been "underrepresented" in Obama's agenda, with the president travelling to Asia, Latin America and Europe multiple times since taking office in January 2009.

Obama stayed for about 20 hours in Ghana in the summer of 2009 in his first official trip to sub-Saharan Africa.

White House officials see Africa as "a critically important region" where Washington has "huge interests," as the continent boasts some of the fastest growing economies and a massively growing youth population.

In addition, the Obama administration is working with African countries on security and counter-terrorism issues. Secretary of State John Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in April that Washington had to be "more engaged" with Africa.

In the run-up to the presidential trip, the administration had filled two important Africa policy jobs by naming Linda Thomas-Greenfield as assistant secretary of state for African affairs and former Senator Russ Feingold as special envoy to the conflict-torn Great Lakes region and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

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