The first family, along with first grandma Marian Robinson and niece Leslie Robinson, were traveling with Obama. They arrived in Dakar, Senegal, Wednesday night and were greeted at the airport by President Macky Sall.
Obama's visit to Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania comes as China has aggressively pursued trade opportunities in Africa, pumping billions of dollars into various countries and running oil and mining firms, CNN reported. It replaced the United States in 2009 as Africa's largest trading partner.
Former President George W. Bush will be in Africa at the same time Obama makes his second trip.
Bush, who has visited Africa several times since he left office, will be in Zambia next week, working with his global health initiative to renovate a cervical cancer screening and treatment center, CNN said.
Obama will be in Senegal Thursday and Friday. He travels to South Africa Saturday where he will spend the weekend participating in several activities, including meeting with the nation's leaders and visiting Robben Island where honored former South African President Nelson Mandela spent a majority of his 27-year prison term.
Obama's visit to South Africa is overshadowed by the health of the 94-year-old Mandela, who has been in a Pretoria hospital since June 9 for a recurring lung infection and is listed in critical condition. Mandela, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, was elected president of South Africa four years after he was released from prison.
Obama will be in Tanzania Monday and Tuesday before returning to Washington July 3.