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July 2, 2013

In Africa, Obama's ventures competed with history

(Continued)

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania —

"Your success is our success. Your failure, whether you like it or not, is our failure," Archbishop Desmond Tutu told Obama during his weekend stop in South Africa.

Perhaps resigned to those high expectations and historic comparisons, Obama at times embraced them during his most significant travel to Africa since taking office.

Despite his policy differences with Bush, Obama repeatedly praised the former president's work combating HIV and AIDS, while also reminding audiences that his administration has increased the number of people benefitting from the PEPFAR program. During a news conference in Tanzania, Obama said Bush deserved "enormous credit" for saving lives in Africa and called PEPFAR one of the former president's "crowning achievements."

And when a scheduling coincidence put both Obama and Bush in Dar es Salaam on Tuesday for separate trips, the two leaders made a rare joint appearance on foreign soil, laying a wreath at a memorial for victims of the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombing in Tanzania.

Similarly, Obama made Mandela's legacy a central part of his visit to South Africa, the country the anti-apartheid hero led out of decades of white racist rule. The president made an emotional visit to Robben Island, the prison where Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years in captivity, and met privately with the ailing 94-year-old's family.

Obama also made fulfilling Mandela's vision of equality and opportunity for Africa a central theme of the trip's keynote speech at the University of Cape Town. And he tried to cast his own development agenda in Africa as part of fulfilling that legacy.

The president's initiatives, though not always splashy or headline-grabbing, have resulted in significant improvements in the lives of many people in sub-Saharan Africa, according to Obama administration figures.

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