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Ghana Hopes for Results From US Presidential Visit


As President Bush visits Ghana during his six-day tour of five African nations, some Ghanaians say they hope his visit will mean increased aid and more trade with the United States. Naomi Schwarz has more from VOA's regional bureau in Dakar with additional reporting by Ruby Amable.

Posters of the U.S. president blanket downtown Accra, Ghana's capital, alongside those of Ghanaian president John Kufuor. Radio talk shows feature discussions of Washington's multi-billion dollar campaigns to fight malaria and AIDS in Africa.

This is only the second time a U.S. president has visited Ghana, and many residents say they are excited about the occasion. University student Yenuetien Kombian says she is proud Ghana has been included on the itinerary of Mr. Bush's African tour.

"For Ghanaians, I think that our economy, it is getting better, so we can now host someone like the president of America," Kombian said. "His visit will also show that our security system is in better shape now, so it is a good time for a Ghanaian like me. "

Analysts say Ghana has had a close relationship with the Bush administration. President Kufuor has met with his American counterpart several times in the past three years.

The two presidents are expected to discuss development issues, the fight against malaria and HIV, regional security and humanitarian issues before Mr. Bush leaves on Wednesday.

Ghanaian student Kombian says she believes Mr. Bush's visit will mean more help for Ghana from the United States.

"In Tanzania he has promised them bed mosquito nets, which means in Ghana he will do the same," Kombian said. "Mostly when you are far off from a situation, you tend to sympathize when them, but when you are closer, as he is coming, you see the real things about malaria, so he will tend to empathize with us, so when he comes more aid, more assistance."

Tanzania, where Mr. Bush stopped earlier on his Africa tour, received a nearly $700 million-grant from the United States in September to fight malaria.

But Ghanaian systems engineer Kwesi Odeng remains skeptical Bush's visit will help most Ghanaians.

"Taking a family for instance, I do not know how his visit is going to have impact on that particular family's life," Odeng said. "It could be one of these normal visits, with a lot of businessmen who are coming to look around and see where they can invest their money and reap bountifully, but not for our purpose."

He cautions Ghanaians against raising their hopes too high.

"Maybe we are just thinking them coming to help us, but they have their own agenda," Odeng said.

President Bush said in a speech before he left for the continent that helping Africa develop is also a way of fighting terrorism, saying, in his words, "people who live in societies based on freedom and justice are more likely to reject the false promise of the extremist ideology."

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