Melania Trump in Africa: what is on first lady’s agenda?

Former model on whistlestop tour of Ghana, Malawi, Kenya and Egypt

Melania Trump Africa
Melania Trump embraces flower girl Lillian Naa Adai Sai, eight, at Accra airport
(Image credit: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty)

Melania Trump has embarked on a five-day trip to Africa, her first solo overseas tour since her husband’s election in 2016.

The first lady left the US on board government jet Executive One on Monday for an overnight flight to Accra, the capital of Ghana.

After touching down at Accra’s Kotoka International Airport this morning, the 48-year-old former model was welcomed with flowers by a young girl. The first lady and her Ghanaian counterpart, Rebecca Akufo-Addo, were then entertained on the tarmac by a troupe of traditional drummers and dancers.

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As well as Ghana, Melania will make stop-offs in Malawi, Kenya and Egypt, where she is expected to visit the Great Pyramids of Giza.

She has “waited more than a year-and-a-half into her tenure to embark on a significant solo journey”, CNN reports.

“All of her trips overseas thus far have been accompanying her husband, to Asia last year and, most recently, to Europe this summer,” the news site continues.

As for the topics on her agenda, it appears that the first lady intends to stick to her course of avoiding hot-button political issues in her public life.

“She is hoping to visit the countries to learn what their challenges are, and also see where the US is having a positive impact or results,” according to a emailed statement to Newsweek from Stephanie Grisham, Melania’s spokesperson.

Grisham added that the visits will promote “education, healthcare, some conservation and tourism”, and will tie into Melania’s flagship project as first lady, the children’s advocacy initiative Be Best. As such, “the well-being of children will be her focus”.

Melania’s trip to Africa follows several reports alleging that President Trump had made derogatory and racist comments about Africans - claims that leave “the first lady with some fence-mending duties”, says the Associated Press.

In January, Trump met with global condemnation after reportedly referring to African nations, as well as Haiti and El Salvador, as “s**thole countries” during a White House meeting.

The controversy came weeks after allegations that Trump had made comments about Nigerian immigrants refusing to “go back to their huts” during a separate meeting - claims that the president denied.

Kate Andersen Brower, author of First Women: The Grace and Power of America's Modern First Ladies, told CNN that Melania’s decision to make Africa her first port of call was “symbolic”.

“[It] sends a strong message that the US is engaged in the region and helps combat the statements reportedly made by her husband about the continent,” Brower said.

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