Michelle Obama Heads to Africa to Address Youth

Posted June 20th, 2011 at 11:55 am (UTC-5)
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(Updates with new info in grafs 3, 7, 8. writethru ))

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama is on her way to Africa for a nearly week-long trip focused on youth empowerment.

Mrs. Obama is accompanied by daughters Malia and Sasha. They are set to arrive in Pretoria, South Africa late Monday.

Before departing, the first lady said she will encourage young people in Africa to become leaders in solving the continent's problems, such as poverty, disease, extremism and climate change. She also said she will highlight the importance of education and health and wellness.

Mrs. Obama is scheduled to meet with President Jacob Zuma and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

The first lady will visit groups fighting HIV and AIDS, as well as the Mandela Foundation and the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg. Mrs. Obama will speak to young women at a U.S.-sponsored forum focusing on social and economic initiatives in sub-Saharan Africa.

She will close her trip with a two-day visit to Botswana.

International analysts say the visit comes as the United States seeks to strengthen and improve ties with Africa, especially with South Africa.

South Africa, the continent's wealthiest nation, has been at odds with the United States over NATO's intervention in the Libyan conflict.