Today, First Lady Michelle Obama announced that she will spend part of her summer traveling through several African countries.
Mrs. Obama has plans to travel to South Africa and Botswana from June 21 – 26 to reinforce the efforts of her husband’s administration and its focus on the continent’s youth. She will be stopping in Johannesburg and Cape Town while in South Africa and Botswana’s capitol city, Gaborone.
It’s no secret that Mrs. Obama has been one of the Administration greatest public relations assets both domestically and abroad. The First Lady has been embraced by people of diverse cultures as she has accompanied President Obama on his various travels and foreign policy outreach efforts. An icon for her style and poise, Mrs. Obama has helped to redefine the role of the First Lady by being more accessible and relatable than her predecessors.
With her upcoming trip to Africa, the Obama administration hopes that Mrs. Obama visit will not only highlight its present efforts in the areas of education and health, but also help to foster a stronger bond between the two African nations and the United States.
Beyond being the first Black president of the United States, President Obama shares a direct connection to the continent, as his father was Kenyan. The President’s connection to the continent has often been emphasized in the Administration’s focus on foreign relations. One of the First Family’s international trips in 2009 was a much-publicized trip to Ghana. As the first African-American First Lady, Mrs. Obama’s visit will highlight the important stake the U.S. has in the success of Africa’s many nations, as well as the historic connections between the American people and those who live in Africa’s various countries.
While she has supported an international youth engagement agenda since stepping into her role as First Lady, in recent months Mrs. Obama has focused more intensely on domestic issues such as her ‘Let’s Move’ campaign focused on anti-obesity and her work with her long-time friend and Senior White House Advisor Valerie Jarrett on the White House’s Women and Girls Council.
The Obama Administration is hoping that the First Lady’s upcoming trip will build on last year’s Young African Leaders Forum. The successful event brought together some of the best examples of youth leaders from throughout the continent and connected them with President Obama himself at the White House. The Administration’s focus on youth is a targeted initiative, as many experts throughout the international community have identified Africa’s youth unemployment and unrest as the continent’s next big potential crisis.
Last year Dr. Ibrahim Asssane Mayaki, CEO of the New Partnership for African Development addressed the United Nations and urged the diplomatic body to focus more attention on the continent’s youth, saying bluntly:
“The most challenging issue for African political leaders in the next 50 yrs will be youth unemployment.”
As part of her trip, Mrs. Obama will be delivering the keynote address to a U.S.-sponsored forum highlighting Young African Women Leaders in South Africa. The First Lady will be speaking with young women from across sub-Saharan Africa who are currently leading both social and economic initiatives in their own countries.