President Obama embarks Thursday night on an historic trip to Africa that will see him travel for the first time as commander in chief to his father's homeland of Kenya.
It's his fourth trip to sub-Saharan Africa — the most of any sitting president — a fact he acknowledged during a speech Wednesday evening.
"I guess, if you're name is Barack Obama, I guess that make sense," Obama joked while discussing the renewal of the African Growth Opportunity Act at the White House.
"I will be going to my father's home country of Kenya, and we will be going to Ethiopia, as well," Obama said about his travel plans.
Obama wrote extensively about Kenya and the role it played in his upbringing in the memoir Dreams From My Father. He has visited several times, most recently as a senator, but never as president.
Still, officials say Obama's current job will keep him from turning the trip into a personal visit.
"[O]bviously when you go to a country where you have familial ties and you're a sitting president, it's a different deal than when you're going as a private citizen or even as a United States senator, so there certain constraints not only of time but of logistics that limit what he might do in a different context," National Security Adviser Susan Rice said on Wednesday about Obama's plans.
"But I'm quite confident that he's looking forward to the trip and the opportunity to spend some time in private with some of his relatives," she said. However, Obama will not visit "the village most closely associated with his family for a combination of time and logistical reasons, among others," Rice said.
At the same time, Kenyan Obamas will likely be invited to some of the official events sounding his visit, such as a state dinner in Nairobi, Rice said.
"I know that he looks forward to having the opportunity to reach out to and have some time with family, as any of us would," she said, explaining how Obama will try to balance official duties with a homecoming of sorts.
The trip follows up on the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit last summer, which was built upon Obama's 2013 Africa trip. That first-ever summit focused on trade and investment. It featured a one-day U.S.-Africa Business Forum, which Obama said that the U.S. will host again next year, and led to $33 billion in trade and investment commitments to Africa, according to the White House.
"My trip … reflects a truth that has guided my approach to Africa: 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. And it has the potential to be the next center of global economic growth," Obama said Wednesday.
His travel coincides with the sixth annual Global Entrepreneurship Summit, which Kenya is hosting.
Obama said exports to Africa have grown under his presidency. "We've launched historic initiatives to promote trade and investment, health, agricultural development and food security, Power Africa to promote and expand electrification," he said.
Obama will also become the first sitting American president to address the African Union during his trip, from which he returns on Tuesday.
Obama is also expected to pay tribute to the victims and survivors of the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Rice said.
As Obama tries to focus on development and economic ties, however, security issues are taking center stage. For instance, his flight schedule was posted on Facebook, and on July 13, the State Department put out a travel alert for Americans visiting the region during the business summit.
"As with all large public events, there is the opportunity for criminal elements to target participants and other visitors," the State Department alert read. "Large-scale public events such as this summit can also be a target for terrorists. U.S. citizens should maintain a high level of security awareness."
Rice said on Wednesday that the Facebook posting has not affected Obama's itinerary.
"It has, in no way, affected our approach to or plans for the trip," she said. "And it's also my understanding that oftentimes, some of this information turns out to be not entirely accurate. But I don't think it in any way is disturbing our plans."