“Ever wanted to ask our Son from Nyangoma any questions? In other words, would you like the American president, Barack Obama to answer your questions?,” begins a post at Hot Secrets blog about Obama's use of new media to engage in a conversation with ordinary Africans.
Barack Obama is visiting Ghana on 10-11 July. This will be his first historic visit to Sub-Saharan Africa and will use tools such as Twitter, Facebook and SMS to speak directly to Africans.
Erik Hersman who blogs at White African, discusses media platforms Obama intends to use to reach out to Africans beyond Ghana. Erik worked with the White House in developing their new media strategy for Ghana and Africa. He writes:
Radio is still the number one communications medium across Africa, and Ghana has a particularly vibrant and active one with a lot of local and national community interaction.
As everyone knows, mobile phone penetration has grown at an explosive rate in Africa, this means that SMS is a fairly democratic means for getting feedback from people of every demographic across the nation. (Funnily enough, not available to US-based residents – more below on that)
Lastly, there are no major homegrown web-based social networks in Ghana, and like many other countries across Africa Facebook has a decent amount of penetration. In Ghana, it’s at 100,000+, so it makes the most sense for the new media team to engage and interact without splitting their energy over too many services. Having Twitter on as a backup is natural, as there will be a great deal of chatter there as well.
He posts details from the White House:
SMS. We’re launching an SMS platform to allow citizens to submit questions, comments and words of welcome (in English and in French) . Using a local SMS short code in Ghana (1731) , Nigeria (32969) , South Africa (31958) and Kenya (5683), as well as a long code across the rest of the world*, Africans and citizens worldwide will be encouraged to text their messages to the President. SMS participants will also be able to subscribe to speech highlights in English and French. Long numbers for mobile registration pan-Africa: 61418601934 and 45609910343.
Radio. A live audio stream of the President’s speech will be pushed to national and local radio stations during the speech. After the speech, a taped audio recording of the President’s answers to the SMS messages received will be made available to radio stations and websites. The President hopes to answer a variety of questions and comments by topic and region. The audio recording will also be made available for download on White House website and iTunes.
Video. The speech will be livestreamed at www.whitehouse.gov/live. The embed code for this video is available so you may also host the livestream on any Website.
Online chat. We will host a live web chat around the speech on Facebook (it will be at http://apps.facebook.com/whitehouselive). The White House will also create a Facebook “event” around the speech wherein participants from around the world can engage with one another. A Twitter hashtag (i.e. #obamaghana) will also be created and promoted to consolidate input and reaction around the event.
Internet users can also submit questions to AllAfrica website:
Your chance to query President Obama about Africa:
What do you want to ask President Obama as he prepares to visit sub-Saharan Africa for the first time as leader of the United States – a stop in Ghana on 10-11 July? Write your question here, and we will compile your submissions. Please, if you would, include your age and your occupation.
According to Michael Wilkerson who writes at Foreign Policy blog, Obama's use of new media might boost his global approval ratings:
With no glitches, this demonstration of interest in the views of Africans will probably boost Obama's global approval ratings, which already are almost double those of the United States. At Accra's tourist market, Obama t-shirts and paintings are flying off the shelves and Ghanaians are hoping for a boost in tourism after the visit.
Ghana Pundit reports that thousands of text messages have been sent to Obama:
US President Barack Obama has received thousands of text messages about Africa after he asked people to send questions before his trip to Ghana on Friday.