Obama concludes Senegal visit with food aid pledge

{mosads}The president saw displays featuring biofortified beans, more efficient rice milling techniques, and micropropagation — a technique for growing seedlings in small test tubes to speed up their process.

He also heralded the public-private partnerships behind the initiative, saying that “as a consequence, we’re getting much better bang for our buck.”

According to the White House, some two-thirds of the Senegalese population lives in rural communities and depends on agriculture for their livelihoods. At the event, the president announced a new $47 million initiative aimed at expanding access to seeds and other agricultural activities, while touting an additional $134 million committed by private companies.

Deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters on Friday that the push was “one of our signature development efforts here in Africa and one that is directly relevant not just to lifting people out of poverty, but to promoting economic growth.”

Following the marketplace meeting, Obama boarded Air Force One for a trip to South Africa, where the attention of that nation is focused squarely on the declining health of former president Nelson Mandela.

On Thursday, Rhodes said Obama would do “whatever Mandela family deems appropriate” as the anti-apartheid icon battles for his life.

The president will be “very deferential to developments that take place and the wishes of the family and the South African government,” Rhodes told reporters.

Rhodes added there had not yet been any scheduling changes to Obama’s itinerary, which includes a stop at Robben Island, the prison where the former president and other political prisoners were held. President Obama had initially hoped to meet with Mandela during the eight-day swing through Africa, but those plans were scuttled after Mandela entered the hospital earlier this month with a respiratory infection. On Wednesday, CNN reported that Mandela had been put on life support.

Earlier Thursday, the president called Mandela “my personal hero” and said the former South African president’s legacy “will linger on throughout the ages.”

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