U.S. President Barack Obama begins a day of events in South Africa Saturday, continuing a three-nation African tour. Obama spoke on Air Force One before his arrival about lessons young Africans can learn from former South African president Nelson Mandela.
Obama was last in South Africa in 2006 as a U.S. senator. Now, he has returned, as the first African-American president of the United States, seeking to re-engage with the continent during his second term.
On Saturday in Pretoria, South African President Jacob Zuma formally welcomes Obama and first lady Michelle Obama. After bilateral talks, the two presidents hold a news conference. President Zuma hosts a state dinner later.
Obama holds a town hall-style meeting in Soweto, the Johannesburg township that played such a pivotal role during protests against apartheid, the former racial segregation system in force during white minority rule.
As part of Obama's Young African Leaders Initiative, he will answer questions from South Africans and young people participating from Uganda, Nigeria and Kenya in a televised event.
Listen to Robinson's audio with President Obama:
President Obama wants to expand the initiative into an exchange program to bring young Africans to the United States in the coming years, working with American educational institutions, including historically black universities.
He spoke about this in a radio interview as he flew into South Africa aboard Air Force One.
"That we hope can identify as many as 500 outstanding young leaders all across Africa to participate in visiting the United States, getting training programs, getting the kinds of skills they are going to need that they can then take back to their countries," said President Obama.
Obama was also asked about the message he will deliver here, especially when South Africans are focused on the health of former president and anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela.
He said his message would be "consistent" with one of the central lessons of Mandela's life, saying that Africa's rise will continue if African countries are unified and not divided by tribe or race or religion.
In his media interview, Obama linked the legacy of Mandela, whom he met briefly in Washington in 2005, with what he believes is the great potential and promise of new generations of Africans.
"He showed that when you lead with integrity, when you are more concerned about what is right than simply being in power, you can perform miracles. You can bring about incredible change," said Obama.
Obama played down expectations of a visit with the 94-year-old Mandela, saying "I don't need a photo op" and adding that he does not want to be obtrusive at a time when Mandela's family is concerned with his condition.
Rather than visiting Mandela in the hospital, the president and his wife will meet with the family.
The president said the thoughts and prayers of the American people are with Nelson Mandela, his family, and his country - sentiment he said is universally shared.
Obama and his family will spend just over two days in South Africa, before heading Monday to Tanzania on the final stop of his trip.