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Michelle Obama starts South Africa goodwill tour

Mrs. Obama says her trip highlights the growing importance of Africa on the world stage, but it's also an attempt to smooth the somewhat strained relationship between the US and South Africa.

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The Obamas' importance in Africa

It’s hard to overstate just how important the election of an African American as president of the US has been to many Africans.

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In Kenya, President Obama is seen as a home-town boy who went far, even though it's really only Mr. Obama's father who hailed from Kenya.

In Zambia, local pop singers celebrated Obama’s election with an R&B song that strung together parts of Obama’s campaign speeches.

Even here in South Africa – a country with a bit of a chip on its shoulder about countries that once supported the racist apartheid government, as the US once did – there’s a fondness for the Obama family, tempered somewhat by disappointment at what the president has managed to achieve in two and a half years.

Michelle Obama's itinerary

Today, Mrs. Obama has visited the Nelson Mandela Foundation, meeting with Mr. Mandela’s wife, Graça Machel, and later with Mr. Mandela himself; and will visit the Apartheid Museum, after meeting with South African President Jacob Zuma’s third and most-junior of wives, Nompumelelo Ntuli-Zuma.

On Wednesday, Mrs. Obama will give the keynote address at the Young African Women Leaders Forum in Soweto at the struggle-era monument, the Regina Mundi Catholic Church in Soweto.

On Thursday, she will fly to Cape Town, where she will visit Robben Island, where Mandela was imprisoned, and meet up with young South Africans at a forum held at the University of Cape Town.

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