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Obama in Tanzania boosting trade on last leg of Africa tour

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Hundreds of thousands of Tanzanians took to the streets in a huge welcome for US President Barack Obama on Monday, as he visited the country to boost trade ties praising the "enormous" economic opportunities for Africa.

Obama, on the last step of his three-nation Africa tour after Senegal and South Africa, was greeted at Tanzania's economic capital Dar es Salaam by a marching band and troupes of traditional dancers clapping and singing.

After being welcomed by Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, a guard of honour fired a 21-gun salute, women wearing colourful dresses emblazoned with Obama's portrait danced, and a smiling Obama looked tempted to join in.

Obama arrived in Dar es Salaam just three months after a visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping, amid talk of an economic rivalry in Africa between Washington and Beijing, and he spoke of the strength of partnership with Tanzania.

"Ultimately the goal here is for Africa to build Africa, for Africans," Obama said at a press conference after holding talks with Kikwete.

"And our job is to be a partner in that process, and Tanzania's been one of our best partners," he added, saying that "we are looking at a new model that's based not just on aid and assistance".

Obama is due Tuesday to visit the Ubungo power plant, after unveiling a new $7-billion programme to boost African electric power networks.

"Even as this continent faces great challenges this is also a moment of great promise for Africa," Obama later said in a speech on trade given to leading business figures from around the East Africa region.

"I see Africa as the world's next major economic success story and the United States wants to be a partner in that success," he added, saying "we have got enormous opportunity to unleash the next era of African growth."

Kikwete praised US support saying Tanzania was "very, very thankful", but appealed for more support in the future.

"The US has done a lot, but if I say they have done enough, then the president will not listen to my new request," Kikwete said.

Shortly after arriving in Tanzania, the US leader also committed $10 million to fight wildlife trafficking in Africa, where iconic animals such as rhinoceros and elephant are under severe threat from poachers.

Excited crowds thronged the streets to catch a glimpse of Obama, with the city's roads decked out in alternating Tanzanian and US flags.

"In Africa we have so many countries, so Obama choosing to come to Tanzania, it makes us feel happy," said Francis Gedyman, 26, a driver.

A key road -- separating Tanzania's presidential palace from the glittering blue water of the Indian Ocean -- has been renamed Barack Obama Drive.

But while the mood in Tanzania was celebratory, Obama's tour has been overshadowed by the health of his hero, former South African president Nelson Mandela, who has entered a fourth week in hospital where he remains critically ill.

In South Africa, Obama did not see Mandela, but paid homage to his ailing idol by visiting sites including the Robben Island prison where the anti-apartheid icon spent 18 years -- a visit Obama said left him "deeply humbled".

Obama stood in the tiny cell once occupied by Mandela on the windswept outcrop near Cape Town, and took his daughters to the lime quarry where the man who would become South Africa's first black president did back-breaking hard labour.

"Mandela's spirit could never be imprisoned -- for his legacy is here for all to see," Obama said in a speech at the University of Cape Town afterwards.

"Nelson Mandela showed us that one man's courage can move the world. And he calls on us to make choices that reflect not our fears, but our hopes -- in our own lives, and in the lives of our communities and our countries," he said.

On Monday, South Africa's presidency said the 94-year-old Nobel peace laureate remained "critical but stable". Few details have been released about his condition or treatment.

On Tuesday, before leaving for Washington, Obama will lay a wreath at a memorial to those killed in the US embassy bombing in 1998, alongside his predecessor George W. Bush.

Bush is in the country for a forum of regional First Ladies, hosted by his wife Laura, which will also be attended by Michelle Obama.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130701/obama-tanzania-boosting-trade-last-leg-africa-tour