Africans reach out to Obama via text messages

President Obama greets people Saturday during breakfast at Osu Castle in Accra, Ghana.
The text messages address various issues and come from all over the African continent.

From the personal: “Obama, as a young lady I dream of being the president. U r a huge encouragement.” To cries for help: “Dear president, Darfur firing again…waiting for peace through the change u promised.” To calls for intervention: “Encourage African leaders to improve the quality and access to education for citizens.” The messages, from Ghana, Sudan and South Africa respectively, were among more than 5,000 sent to Barack Obama during his first visit as president to sub-Saharan Africa as president. Obama, accompanied by his wife, Michelle, and their two daughters arrived in Ghana on Friday night, sparking excitement in the west African nation. Watch how Ghana is celebrating Obama’s visit ยป

Despite being home to some of the world’s poorest nations, Africa has a vibrant cell phone market, considered by industry analysts as among the fastest-growing worldwide. Administration officials said they set up different numbers across the continent for citizens to communicate with Obama, whose father was from the east African nation of Kenya. “Over the past week, we have been collecting questions, comments and words of welcome for President Obama via SMS, Twitter, Facebook and from newspapers across Africa,” the White House said on its Web site.

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Three journalists from South Africa, Senegal and Kenya will vet the questions and provide a few to Obama, who will address them on African radio stations and via a Web video Monday, the White House said. Peter Kimani, a senior associate editor for a Kenyan daily, The Standard, is one of the three. “The U.S. Embassy picked and vetted the journalists, and we are getting the questions, then it is up to us to determine what questions we will forward to the president,” Kimani said. “It is our judgment call on what to pick.” Most of the text messages were coming from South Africa, according to a log on the White House Web site. Obama’s one-nation visit has generated envy among Ghana’s neighbors, who considered it a message from the White House to governments that have poor records of stability.

Citizens of Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nations, and Kenya were the most vocal in their concerns over the choice of Ghana. “We r disappointed that you have not chosen Nigeria as your first African point of call,” one text said.