(CNN) – A street vendor in Ghana's capital sells small American flags with an image of President Barack Obama on them, in front of a billboard that proclaims "Akwaaba" - or "Welcome" – next to a smiling image of the U.S. leader.
When Obama arrives in Accra on Friday night, he will be the third sitting American president to visit the West African nation of Ghana. But unlike Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, Obama is only visiting Ghana and no other country in the continent.
He said he picked Ghana as the first African country he would visit as U.S. president partly because of the "democratic commitments" demonstrated by President John Atta Mills, who took office in January after a close election.
"By traveling to Ghana, we hope to highlight the effective governance that they have in place," Obama said Tuesday in an interview with AllAfrica.com.
During his 24-hour visit to Ghana, Obama will meet with the president and address parliament before he and First Lady Michelle Obama tour the Cape Coast Castle, which was used in the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
Security has been tight all week in Accra, and Ghana plans to deploy some 10,000 security forces during Obama's visit, according to Ghana News Agency (GNA).
The White House has set up SMS codes to allow people across Africa to send "words of welcome" via text message to Obama during his visit. Obama has already received thousands of messages, and plans to answer several of the questions sent to him, the British Broadcasting Corporation reported on Thursday.
Bill Clinton was the first U.S. president to visit Ghana in 1998 in the middle of his second term, as part of a six-nation Africa tour. Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush, stopped there during a four-nation Africa tour during his last year of office that largely focused on U.S. aid programs.
Ghana's government even named a road after Bush to recognize his government's contribution towards the country's development.
As the United States' first African-American president, Obama's trip has broader significance as well. Obama's father is from Kenya and he expressed concern about the political situation in that east African nation.
"The political parties (in Kenya) do not seem to be moving into a permanent reconciliation that would allow the country to move forward," Obama told AllAfrica.com. "And Kenya is not alone in some of the problems that we've seen of late, post-election or pre-election."
Many in Kenya were critical of Obama's decision to pick Ghana the first African nation he visited instead of his father's birthplace. During his campaign for president, Obama was hailed by many as a "son of Kenya." Shortly after the White House announced the Ghana trip in May, newspaper headlines in Nairobi asked, "Why Obama Snubbed Kenya." A political cartoon in one Kenyan paper showed Air Force One dropping a note to Kenya's leaders saying, "Get your act together," as it flew over the country.
Obama said he wanted his visit to Africa to mean more than just something to cross off his list as U.S. president.
"I actually thought that it made sense for us to connect a trip to Ghana to a previous trip with the G8 ... to show that Africa is directly connected to our entire foreign policy approach," Obama told AllAfrica.com.
"That it's not some isolated thing where once every term you go visit Africa for a while to check that box, but rather it's an ongoing part of a broader discussion about how we move many of these international challenges forward."
As Ghana gears up for the visit, a group of local singers and rap artists wrote a welcome song for Obama and produced a music video on YouTube.
"President Obama, Welcome to Ghana," they sing, with images of American and Ghanaian flags interspersed between the musicians. "We welcome you to the Land of Gold."
Of course their excited. They are expecting an apology too.
Good news, world; America is no longer subject to the whims of a cabal of conservative madmen. You can come out of your bunkers now; the Chimp is back in Crawford to stay.
rewarding good behavior, sounds good
I think most people in the world recognize smart and fair.
What an improvement over the Cowboy and Shooter !!!!
I'm proud of our new President. Just wish the Grand Obstructionist Party would quit trying to destroy this country so they regain the GOVERNMENT OF SECRECY and no-bid contracts for their cohorts.
I agree with the President in visiting the democracies. By doing so he sends a message to other nations that if you want a relationship with the U.S., you must have a democratically elected government.
Bad mistake Ghana, don't let Obama know you have any gold, he will immediately try to redistribute it!
Maybe they can talk him in to staying? I'm sure this will be the sentiment for many non-dope smokers.
...if they only knew...!!!
Why are they so excited? What has he promised them?
That is the way the president should be. President should build bridges, not burn them. For those of you who want to say something "smart" about Obama's visit to Ghana - your way, the Republican way didn't work, so let's try to do it Obama way.
Who really cares what a Bush thinks better off under a rock.
Who's kidding whom. The Obama people knew his "public welcome" in Moscow would be less than lukewarm, as it was - and the G-8 wasn't their best vehicle for "showcasing" him and "the girls," either.
So African Ghana will be their big photo-op finale!
Obama is now trying to portray himself as a descendent of slaves? What a LIE! His mother is white, and his father is Kenyan, not African-American.
Keep on pumping up that victim mentality – it's better and easier than promoting responsibility and self-reliance, like Bill Cosby advocates. Nobody ever won an election by saying GO GET A JOB!
Hugo – europeans already stole all the gold and kept it for themselves. Stealing is what they do best!
amanda July 9th, 2009 11:36 am ET
That is the way the president should be. President should build bridges, not burn them. For those of you who want to say something "smart" about Obama's visit to Ghana — your way, the Republican way didn't work, so let's try to do it Obama way.
Bush has done more for Africa than anyother American President. Its Just CNN which was soo buzy cozing Obama forgot to report them. But you as a responsible citizen should do your homework
And just why would Obama's face be put on the American Flag? Talk about scary. The other two flags I remember with leaders faces on them were Hitler and Hussein.
He's all yours.
I guess their screeming in the streets "THE MESSIAH IS COMING THE MESSIAH IS COMING" tell Ghana they can keep him.!!!1
Whine, complain, whine, complain – I have no actual legitimate criticism of the our President (considering he has done an excellent job of repairing the US image abroad) or anything intelligent to say so I will whine, complain, whine, complain...
Yep, coming off a Global Warming conference and he setting a fine example by jetting around the world in his carbon belching 747. If the world leaders are really serious about global warming, ban airplanes which causes more pollution than cars and factories.
Hugo- Obama don't need to begg for no Gold. He can buy more gold than you can shoes.
"He said he picked Ghana as the first African country he would visit as U.S. president"
CNN – if I am not mistaken, isn't Egypt in Africa? Didn't Obama do a major speech there?
What did we do to Ghana requiring an apology?
The Bush gang forgot to inform him that Ghana has wmd's and that he should take the american weapons of mass deception with him.
People tried the socialist way and F.A. Hayek wrote a book about how it would not work – Hayek's his predictions came true.
@ GI Joe
Why don't you provide any proof that people recognize smart and fair instead of being brainwashed by the overload of internet opinions.