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“If you talk to people on the ground in Africa, certainly in Kenya, they will say that part of the issue here is the institutions aren’t working for ordinary people,” he said.

Those comments came hours before Mr. Obama makes his first visit as president to a sub-Saharan African country. He will spend nearly a day in Ghana, where he will deliver a speech to the country’s parliament. The president was also scheduled to meet later Friday with Pope Benedict XVI in Rome.