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Obama uses Ghana visit to promote democracy in Africa

The US president arrived in Ghana late on Friday, following the G8 summit in L’Aquila, to encourage good governance policies in corruption-tainted and conflict-racked Africa.


President Barack Obama arrived in Ghana on Friday on his first visit to sub-Saharan Africa since taking office as the first African American president of the United States.

Excitement was palpable in Accra earlier on Friday as Ghanaians readied to give Obama a hero’s welcome.


Ghanaians sporting Barack Obama hats and T-shirts were seen dancing in the streets of the country’s capital amid tight security.

The US president will set off from the G8 summit in Italy for his maiden presidential visit to sub-Saharan Africa with a message of good governance and economic progress.

Obama has said he chose to kick off his tour in Ghana because of its successive peaceful and successful elections.


President John Atta-Mills took office in January 2009 after one of the closest votes the country has seen - winning by less than one percent of the vote.


"By travelling to Ghana, we hope to highlight the effective governance they have in place," Obama said.


During the 24-hour trip, Obama and his wife Michelle, a descendent of African slaves, will also tour Cape Coast Castle, one of Africa’s biggest former slave trading posts. In the colonial era, Ghana was a key trading post and departure point for African slaves who were shipped to the US and to the Caribbean.


Challenges facing Ghana


Ghana is also set to become the newest oil producer in a region that is increasingly important for the United States as it seeks to diversify energy supplies away from the Middle East.


"The priority of the United States in Africa ... is oil," said independent political analyst Babacar Justin Ndiaye in Dakar, capital of nearby Senegal, in an interview with Reuters.


"Ghana is neither Nigeria nor Angola, and Obama is going to Accra to recognise the country's political health and good governance," he said.


Obama is expected to deliver a major speech in the Ghanaian parliament to emphasise the importance of democratic institutions and lay out a more comprehensive vision of his policies on Africa.


In an interview with FRANCE 24, Jim Kolbe, former Republican congressman and senior transatlantic fellow at the German Marshall Fund, which promotes cooperation between the US and Europe, said that the discovery of oil in Ghana is a key test for democracy in the country in the wake of turmoil in oil-rich African countries such as Angola and Nigeria.


“Going to Ghana and talking about governance is a good way to say beware, make sure you manage this opportunity correctly,” he said.


Security and cooperation top agenda

Security is also a big US concern in Africa, particularly in Somalia, where Islamist insurgents that Washington has linked to al Qaeda are battling to take power and where anarchy has allowed coastal piracy to flourish.


Islamist militancy is also a worry in the states that lie to the north of Ghana on the fringes of the Sahara desert.


The Obama administration has also been pushing for food security in the hunger-stricken region and is focusing on increasing agricultural production to help the continent feed itself. Earlier on Friday, The Group of Eight countries, along with 19 partners, unveiled a $15 billion dollar package to boost agricultural investment and food security in poorer nations.


Meanwhile, the US is facing fiercer competition for business opportunities on the continent as China strengthens its links with African states.


China's trade with Africa increased tenfold in a decade to $107 billion last year, though it is still trailing the $140 billion of trade the US has with Africa, according to US figures.

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