Over 5000 Africans SMS Obama

July 11, 2009 12:00 am

, JOHANNESBURG, Jul 11 – Over 5,000 Africans have sent text messages to US President Barack Obama ahead of his much anticipated speech in Ghana Saturday during his first visit to the continent since taking office.

Macon Phillips, director of new media at the White House, told AFP that the initiative was part of an ongoing effort to make Obama’s speech and activities in Africa as accessible as possible to those living on the continent.

The American government invited people to send questions via text, Facebook and Twitter from July 3.

Three journalists, from Senegal, Kenya and South Africa, will select questions for Obama to answer in a video which will be broadcast Monday on radio stations throughout Africa, as well as the White House website, whitehouse.gov.

"We found on the campaign that text messaging was a very popular and effective way to expand the way we were communicating with people," Phillips said.

The text messages had come from more than 64 countries. "South Africa was particularly enthusiastic, we have seen a real spike in activity in South Africa," he said.

"I think what we found is despite various economic challenges and development challenges, Africans across the continent have used technology to communicate very actively with one another," he said.

"More than many other parts of the world they have taken advantage of the mobile platform."

Phillips also mentioned conversation threads on Facebook, where people from the United States and Africa responded to each other, as a "neat" side effect of the initiative.

"That is a new type of relationship and connection that we are making possible," he said.

He said that the text messages showed that the whole continent was very excited about the trip and his speech in Ghana.

"I think that’s a very natural thing, people say come visit us sometime. We saw a lot of people who were inspired by his personal story, with his connection to Africa through his father. There were also people talking about challenges they are facing in their own communities. We are looking forward to going through these messages," Phillips said.


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