President Obama arrived in Dakar, Senegal Thursday to kick off his three-country tour through Africa this summer. The visit is also supposed to include South Africa and Tanzania, though news in South Africa is focused on the medical condition of Nelson Mandela.
On Thursday Obama is expected to tour Goree Island, a former slave trading hub off the coast of Dakar, as well as meet Senegalese President Macky Sall. One Senegalese political analyst told German media members that Obama's visit represented a "gold medal" for Senegal as a functioning democracy.
This is the first extended stay in Africa for the 44th U.S. president and first of African descent. Obama visited Ghana briefly in 2009.
On Friday Obama begins a weekend of talks and events in South Africa, which include a news conference with President Jacob Zuma in Pretoria. He's expected to stop by Cape Town to visit Mandela's jail cell on Robben Island and participate in a roundtable with business leaders that will include senior members of the president's economic team.
In Tanzania, there is a scheduled news conference with President Jakaya Kikwete and a visit to the Ubungo power plant.
Obama has been criticized for not making relations with the mother country more of a priority in his time as president. His message in Senegal is to highlight its democratic culture, but the country is still struggling economically with its limited natural resources.