With a wave and tweet, first lady Melania Trump headed for Africa on Monday on her first big solo international trip, aiming to make child well-being the focus of a five-day, four-country tour that will take her to every corner of the vast and impoverished continent.
The first lady opens her first-ever visit to Africa on Tuesday in Ghana in the West, followed by stops in Malawi in the South, Kenya in the East and Egypt in the Northeast.
She departed Washington on Monday with a rare wave to the press corps and an enthusiastic tweet: “We are taking off for Africa! So looking forward to visiting Ghana Malawi Kenya & Egypt as I take BeBest international. FLOTUSinAfrica2018.”
Mrs. Trump’s first extended turn on the world stage outside the shadow of President Donald Trump could still be complicated by her husband, who has spoken of the continent in impolite and even vulgar terms.
That leaves the first lady with some fence-mending duties.
“She’s got some heavy lifting to do on this trip and it’s a little bit unfair because that’s not what a first lady’s trip should be about,” said Judd Devermont, the Africa program director at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
First ladies usually practice a softer form of diplomacy, showing interest in a host nation’s schools, hospitals and arts programs, and avoiding thornier issues.