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Melania Trump: US first lady arrives in Ghana for solo Africa trip

By BBC

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First Lady Melania Trump visited a project focusing on child nutrition

(BBC) – US First Lady Melania Trump has visited a hospital in Ghana’s capital, Accra, at the start of her solo trip that will see her visit four African countries.

Earlier at the airport, she was welcomed by dancers and drummers but the public reaction has been low key.

The tour, which also takes in Kenya, Malawi and Egypt, will focus on promoting health and education.

In February, a row broke out after President Donald Trump allegedly used “shithole” to describe African nations.

Mrs Trump’s week-long trip to the continent is seen as helping to heal some of the divisions.

What is Mrs Trump doing?

The visit, alongside Ghana’s First Lady Rebecca Akufo-Addo, to Accra’s Ridge Hospital set the tone for the trip as a whole.

Mrs Trump observed babies being weighed as part of a project aimed at promoting nutrition in children, which is supported by funding from the US government’s foreign aid organisation, USAid

She is also set to promote her Be Best initiative which aims to tackle issues such as cyberbullying and boost healthy living. She tweeted that the campaign was going “international”.

Ahead of her trip Mrs Trump said that she was looking forward to visiting “four beautiful and very different countries in Africa”.

“She is interested in Africa because she has never been before and knows that each country will have its own unique history and culture.” Stephanie Grisham, her communications director, said.

Ahead of her trip, Mrs Trump said that she was looking forward to seeing how the US can continue working together with Malawi to support a USAid programme that is focussed on children’s education.

The first lady also highlighted the work the US was doing in Kenya to support early-childhood education, wildlife conservation, and HIV prevention.

“My final stop, which is Egypt, will focus on the country’s tourism and conservation projects,” she said.

How has she been received?

Mrs Trump got a warm reception at the airport but there has been little reaction by the public so far.

The BBC’s Thomas Naadi, who is in the capital, says it is just like a normal day.

Views about the visit have been mixed. “I think Melania is a great woman. Her story is particularly inspiring,” one resident of Accra told the BBC.

But another said “she doesn’t inspire me” comparing her unfavourably to former First Lady Michelle Obama, who travelled to Ghana with her husband on a trip in 2009.

What does President Trump think of Africa?

Ahead of his wife’s trip to Africa President Trump told reporters: “We both love Africa. Africa is so beautiful. The most beautiful part of the world, in many ways.”

This view is at odds with comments he allegedly made in a private discussion in February.

Mr Trump was accused of racism, after he was reported to have used the word “shithole” to refer to African nations when talking about immigration policy.

The African Union asked him to apologise over the comment.

He later told reporters: “I am not a racist. I’m the least racist person you have ever interviewed.”

In August the president angered the South African government by falsely claiming that there was large-scale killing of white farmers in South Africa.

The South African government reacted swiftly to refute Mr Trump’s assertion that white South Africans were being targeted.

It is not known if Mr Trump ever visited Africa before he became president or whether he had any business links with Africa.

What is the administration’s Africa policy?

President Trump has not paid much attention to the continent, but has welcomed three African leaders, the presidents of Egypt, Nigeria and Kenya, to the White House.

When Rex Tillerson, Mr Trump’s first secretary of state, visited Africa in March he said the themes of his trip were counterterrorism, democracy, governance, trade and investment.

Mr Tillerson warned Africa of China’s economic engagement with the continent which he said encouraged dependency, utilised corrupt deals and endangered its natural resources.

He also announced a $533m (£380m) humanitarian African aid plan.

On the counterterrorism front Mr Trump’s administration has escalated the fight against Islamist militants in the Sahel region and in Somalia.

The US has set up a drone base in Niger which is operated by the CIA.

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