LONDON: It was an emotional return for US President Barack Obama to his father’s home country, Kenya. The visit was capped by an impassioned speech where Obama told a crowd of nearly 50,000 cheering people, "I'm the first Kenyan-American to be president of the United States. That goes without saying.”

"When it comes to the people of Kenya, especially the youth, I believe there is no limit to what you can achieve," Obama said. "You can build your future right here, right now."

The visit brought up a number of serious issues: gay rights, women’s oppression, youth prospects -- to name a few. Amongst all that, the US President found time to shake a leg with some of the country’s most famous pop stars.

The visit is important for three reasons. One, Obama is the first American President to visit Kenya. Two, the visit represents how Africa has come to matter to America. And three, because Kenya spent millions of dollars in making itself pretty for the US President.

In reference to one, this visit will probably be Obama’s last to Africa as a world leader. Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta. Kenyatta, for the record, was charged with crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court for 2007 post-election violence. Linked to this is two, as Obama then moves on to Ethiopia, where the ruling party recently won 100 percent of the vote.

As UPI quotes Robert Rotberg of Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government having written, “Conferring the honor of President Obama's office on such thoroughly questionable leaders would do little to strengthen our own role as a promoter of good governance and the rule of law.”

But who cares about good governance and rule of law as long as strategic interests are at play. Obama has already visited Egypt in June 2009, Ghana in July 2009, Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania in June-July 2013 and South Africa again in December 2013. Paving the way for Obama’s latest visit to Africa, US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti and Somalia during a series of stops with several African partner nations. Kerry also attended the inauguration of Nigeria’s new president Muhammadu Buhari.

In short, Africa now matters to America, and this is evinced by the facts that the number of Africa-focused initiatives and programmes have grown exponentially since the White House launched its strategy for sub-Saharan Africa in June 2012. Priority areas include agriculture, energy and trade -- with the clear objective being to diversify and increase US-Africa trade, especially American exports into the continent.

From The Conversation: “US-Africa trade was US$73 billion in 2014, US$38.1 billion being American exports and US$34.6 billion in imports. From January-April 2015, the US exported US$8.8 billion worth of goods to Africa and imported US$8.3 billion.

For the first time, total American exports to Africa in 2014 were greater than the value of its total imports from the continent. Seven years ago there was a US$88bn trade deficit.

The slowdown in US oil imports means China’s trade with the continent has flown past America. China-Africa trade at US$222 billion in 2014 is now three times greater than US-Africa trade.”

And America can’t be too happy with that China fact. Hence, the push to increase and diversify trade. Especially as Africa’s economic significance continues to rise. According to a recent survey by The Economist Group, “on 217 companies from 45 different countries revealed that about 65% of them; intend to expand to Africa in the next one decade. Growth potential in most African economies coupled with the peace dividend from democratization of most governments drive the renewed focus on Africa.”

And economic hopes relate to the third reason why this trip is of significance, namely, the amount Kenya spent on preparing itself for President Obama’s visit. The government launched a $2 million beautification project. As stated in The Global Post, “The local government says it will spend nearly $2 million on beautifying Nairobi, including cleaning up trash and planting flowers along main thoroughfares where Obama's convoy is likely to pass. Authorities recently shuttered the private Barack Obama University on the outskirts of Nairobi, which was said to be operating illegally, removing billboards and signs at the gates.”

Linked to three -- i.e. on what Kenya did to prepare itself for Obama’s visit -- is the security situation in the country. Militant group Al Shabaab -- the same group that is known for the brutal Westgate Mall attack September 2013 -- is stepping up violence. Most recently, the group killed 150 people as gunmen stormed Garissa University College near the border with Somalia.

Yet, what made the headlines is President Obama’s boogie with popstars.