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Africans invited to text Obama before Ghana speech

Barack Obama’s new media team at the White House is serious about reaching out to Africans in advance of Obama’s July 11 speech in Accra, Ghana. Obama will respond to questions submitted this week by text message (SMS) in a recording made sometime before his speech at the Ghanaian parliament. The tape will be released ...

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Kenyan men look at their cellphones in downtown Nairobi 30 October 2007. At the Connect Africa summit in Kigali, Rwanda, the GSM Association said that the mobile industry plans to invest more than 50 billion dollars in sub-Saharan Africa over the next five years to provide more than 90% of the population with mobile coverage. Since sub-Saharan governments began liberalising their telecommunication sectors at the turn of the millennium, the GSMA estimates that the mobile industry has invested 35 billion dollars, providing more than 500 million people (67% of the population) in sub-Saharan Africa with mobile coverage. AFP PHOTO/Simon Maina (Photo credit should read SIMON MAINA/AFP/Getty Images)

Barack Obama’s new media team at the White House is serious about reaching out to Africans in advance of Obama’s July 11 speech in Accra, Ghana.

Obama will respond to questions submitted this week by text message (SMS) in a recording made sometime before his speech at the Ghanaian parliament. The tape will be released to African radio stations and other media after his speech, and the speech will also be broadcast simultaneously on African radio stations and on the internet.

The White House page with all the details is here, including the numbers Africans can use to submit their questions. Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa have dedicated local shortcodes with longcodes available for other Africans. According to Kenya’s Daily Nation, local SMS rates will be charged, and mobile users can choose to receive excerpts from the speech via SMS in French or English. 

Erik Hersman, a new media guru who blogs at White African, worked with the White House on the platform and has a great post on logistics and some of the reasoning behind the various outreach platforms. Hersman says that U.S. citizens cannot participate in the SMS platform because of cold-war era legislation on public diplomacy, but other efforts including a live chat on Facebook and a dedicated Twitter tag (#obamaghana) will try and encourage global discussion. News site allAfrica is also collecting questions for Obama.

With no glitches, this demonstration of interest in the views of Africans will probably boost Obama’s global approval ratings, which already are almost double those of the United States. At Accra’s tourist market, Obama t-shirts and paintings are flying off the shelves and Ghanaians are hoping for a boost in tourism after the visit.

More on Obama’s decision to visit Ghana can be found in a recent post by FP editor Elizabeth Dickinson. 

SIMON MAINA/AFP/Getty Images

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