U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday wrapped up the first leg of his Africa tour by pledging more money to boost food security in West Africa.

The U.S. government and private companies will back new agricultural initiatives in the region, Mr. Obama said at an event organised by Feed the Future, a U.S. government global hunger initiative.

USAID’s current annual budget for Senegal is $ 60 million.

Dozens of Senegalese farmers, smallholders and entrepreneurs attended Friday’s event. Many of them have been hit hard by poor crop harvests in the Sahel region, resulting in low earnings and under-nutrition.

“Since most people in Senegal work in agriculture, our food security initiative will keep helping farmers harness new seeds and technologies, increase yields and boost incomes”, Mr. Obama said.

On Thursday, Obama held bilateral talks with Senegal’s president Macky Sall. The pair discussed development and trade initiatives in Senegal, a country that Obama called “one of the most stable democracies in Africa”. “All too often the world overlooks the amazing progress that Africa is making, including progress in strengthening democracy”, he said.

He also visited Senegal’s Supreme Court, where he met with judges from several West African countries and gave his backing to Senegal’s establishment of an international court designed to try former Chadian president Hissene Habre.

While in Senegal, Mr. Obama and First Lady Michelle also visited Goree Island, a former slave-trading post that the US president called a “powerful” reminder of the need to “stand up for human rights”. Mr. Obama was later due to fly to South Africa, where South African legend Nelson Mandela is fighting for his life in a Pretoria hospital.

“Mandela is a personal hero and a hero for the world,” Mr. Obama said on Thursday. “If and when he passes away, his legacy will linger on through the ages.”

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