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Sunday, May 29, 2022

Africa texts Obama before visit

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Mr Obama's planned trip has ruffled a few feathers in NigeriaUS President Barack Obama has received thousands of text messages about Africa after he asked people to send questions before his trip to Ghana on Friday.

Mr Obama will answer a number of texts – which will be selected by journalists from Senegal, Kenya and South Africa.

The White House says there have been messages of support and criticism.

Before his first visit to sub-Saharan Africa as president, he warned the continent there would be no investment without good governance.

The president’s media adviser, Macon Phillips, told the BBC’s Network Africa programme he wanted the messages to be part of a “continental conversation”.

Mr Phillips said people could text whatever they wanted – questions, criticism or just general comment.

“What we can do is look at all these responses and find trends and popular issues and it gives us a better understanding of what people are thinking about,” he said.

“There’s much greater value than just question and answer – it’s yet another way for us to see what’s happening on the ground.”

The White House has set up local SMS short codes for people to send their messages:

• Ghana – 1731

• Nigeria – 32969

• South Africa – 31958

• Kenya – 5683

Elsewhere, the numbers are: 61418601934 and 45609910343.

It has also set up Twitter feeds and blogs on a special page.

Mr Obama’s decision to visit Ghana has annoyed some in Nigeria – by far the most populous country in Africa.

The BBC’s Caroline Duffield, in Abuja, says opposition groups see it as America’s judgement on the health of the country’s democracy.

Jibril Aminu, who chairs Nigeria’s foreign relations committee, said that if Mr Obama had concerns about the country he should have voiced them in Nigeria.

“There’s no reason to send goodwill with a catapault,” he said.

“If he’s seeking to send a message, I’m afraid that with all respect, he’s not been successful.”

But Nigerian Nobel Prize winner Wole Soyinka praised Mr Obama’s “wise decision” to avoid Nigeria, saying it should be a pariah state because it had abused the principles of democracy.

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