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The US first lady paid a low-key visit to Nelson Mandela while in Joburg, where she will speak to young South Africans about leadership, education and health.
US FIRST Lady Michelle Obama, who is on a two-day visit to Joburg, will tour Soweto on Wednesday during her six-day official visit to Southern Africa. While here, she will speak to young people – particularly girls – about leadership, education, health and wellness.


Michelle Obama meets MaNtuliMichelle Obama meets President Jacob Zuma's wife MaNtuli (Photo: GCIS website)Obama arrived in the country on Monday, 20 June, accompanied by her mother, Marian Robinson, and her daughters, Malia and Sasha Obama. It has been billed as her first major solo overseas trip as first lady.

On Tuesday, Obama met President Jacob Zuma’s wife, Nompumelelo Ntuli-Zuma, in Pretoria. On the same day in Johannesburg, she visited Nelson Mandela and his wife, Graca Machel, at their home. Mandela, who turns 93 in July, has made few public appearances in the past few months.

With Machel and her daughters, Obama also toured the Mandela archives at the Mandela Foundation, which contain personal photographs and journals, as well as other memorabilia of his 27 years as a political prisoner. She ended her day with a tour of the Apartheid Museum.

She will conclude her Joburg trip on Wednesday, when she will deliver the keynote address to a US-sponsored Young African Women Leaders Forum at Regina Mundi Church in Soweto.

Obama will also visit the Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum. She will end her South African visit on Thursday, 23 June in Cape Town, where she will tour Robben Island and meet Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu.

In a video message on the White House website, Obama said she was undertaking this trip because Africa was a fundamental part of the interconnected world and when it came to meeting challenges of climate change, poverty or disease, the world was looking to African nations as vital partners.

“When you connect with other young people, when you share your thoughts and ideas, when you take the time to listen to their, you begin to realise just how much you have in common. You see … so often we share the same values, the same goals and more importantly the same dreams. So I look forward to having you with us on this journey and I look forward to the connections that you will build, the lessons you will learn and the impact you will make with young people all around the world,” she said.

Elizabeth Trudeau, the spokeswoman in the US Embassy in Pretoria, said Obama’s visit was partly policy and personal.

According to the website, the trip is a continuation of Obama’s work with young people and is part of her passion for mentoring students and encouraging them to gain international experience, excel academically, serve and lead. Obama has taken the same message to Brazil, Chile, El Salvador, India, Mexico and the United Kingdom.

The visit is also meant to advance Obama’s international youth engagement agenda and amplify her husband’s support for democracy, development and economic opportunity across Africa. “The Obama administration has focused on expanding ties across the region’s people, based upon mutual respect, mutual responsibility and shared interests,” reads the website.

In addition, the US embassy said more than 30 000 African students were enrolled in American schools, colleges and universities, while more than 10 000 American students studied in schools across Africa.

“The United States government also sponsors a range of exchange programs supporting African leadership, economic growth and cultural ties between our two people,” the website reads.

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