Obama is due to leave today for Kenya, marking his first Presidential visit to the homeland of his father. From there, Obama will trace the Great Rift Valley northward to Addis Ababa, becoming the first US President to visit Ethiopia.

"Despite its many challenges -- and we have to be clear-eyed about all the challenges that the continent still faces -- Africa is a place of incredible dynamism, some of the fastest-growing markets in the world, extraordinary people, extraordinary resilience," Obama added at a reception late yesterday.

"The continent has the potential to be the next center of global economic growth," he said at the event, which celebrated the African growth Opportunity Act, US trade legislation which aims to help bolster Africa's prosperity.

The US leader hailed a catalogue of accomplishments notched during his presidential tenure that have helped strengthen Washington's ties to the continent.

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