News / Africa

Michelle Obama's Africa Trip to Focus on Youth Leadership

In a conference call with reporters Wednesday, White House officials said the First Lady's trip will take her to South Africa and Botswana

US first lady Michelle Obama (file photo)
US first lady Michelle Obama (file photo)


  • Butty reports on First Lady Obama's upcoming Africa trip

James Butty

The White House says first lady Michelle Obama’s forthcoming trip to South Africa and Botswana is a continuation of her work to engage young people.

In a conference call with reporters Wednesday ahead of next week’s trip, Tina Tchen, Mrs. Obama’s chief of staff, said the first lady’s trip will emphasize youth leadership, education and health.

“Our trip from June 21st to June 27th is going to focus on youth leadership, education, health and wellness. It’s really a continuation of the work that Mrs. Obama has been doing on her previous trips abroad with the president where she has, throughout the trip, met with students, met with youth to encourage them to excel academically and serve and lead,” Tchen says.

Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes says the first lady’s visit is also directly connected to President Obama’s policy to advance democracy in Africa.

“The president spoke at length about his approach to Africa when he was in Accra, Ghana, in 2009. I think he laid out a vision in which he saw Africa, not as separate from the world, but fundamentally connected to the wider world,” he says.

Rhodes says the United States has a common interest with Africa in fostering economic growth and development, healthy populations, democratic governance and a government that delivers for the people.

He says the United States believes it will be more secure when Africa is secure.

Expectations were high in Africa when President Obama took office in 2009 because Africans believed the new president, whose father came from Kenya, would visit a number of African countries during his time in office.

But, Rhodes says, while the president has not visited more African countries, the administration has found other ways to continue to speak to Africans.

“We strongly supported democratic governance in Africa through a variety of means ranging from speaking in instances such as the recent unrest in Cote d’Ivoire when democratic legitimacy was under threat, to building the capabilities and capacities of African institutions, so that democracy is strengthened,” he says.

Rhodes says the Obama administration pursued a range of development priorities such as food security and The Global Health Initiative.

While in South Africa, Obama will meet with President Jacob Zuma and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, as well as visit the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg.

The White House says, while President and Mrs. Obama have a personal admiration for former President Mandela, no meeting has currently been scheduled with the South African elder statesman. They say any such meeting would depend on Mr. Mandela’s ability to receive visitors.

On Wednesday, Obama is scheduled to deliver the keynote address at a U.S. sponsored young African women’s leadership forum.

Rhodes says the first lady’s speech would follow the theme of President Obama’s message to the young African leaders’ forum last year in Washington, in which he spoke of the extraordinary potential of young people and challenged them to reach for their highest aspirations.

“What we’ve seen in country after country is an undeniable trend that, in places where women are in power, the societies are more prosperous and democratic. And so, we believe that it’s a very important message to send that the empowerment of women and girls in Africa and around the world will help foster greater peace and prosperity,” Rhodes says.

Rhodes also says the Obama administration has not backed away from its commitment to fighting HIV/AIDs in Africa.

“We have actually increased resources for HIV/AIDS.  Not only did we maintain the resources that made such a huge contribution under PEPFAR under President Bush, but we’ve actually gone over and above that in terms of the resources in combating HIV/AIDS on the continent,” Rhodes says.

From South Africa, Obama will visit Botswana, which Rhodes describes as another African country that is making great strides in building the long-term foundations of a stable democracy and pursuing an economic model that can deliver for its citizens.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syriai
November 26, 2015 5:21 AM
Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs