Never mind that Barack Obama has never set foot in Ghana before. This country has a message for the American leader when he makes his first trip to sub-Saharan Africa as president this weekend: "Welcome Home."
The posters and banners bearing the warm greeting across Ghana's verdant tropical capital are borne from hope the world's most powerful man will help lift his late father's impoverished continent from the depths of crushing conflict and poverty.
Despite tight security, which saw some 10,000 police deployed across the seaside capital, residents drummed and gyrated in the streets, with many dancing to a song about Obama, composed by a Ghanaian radio presenter known as Black Rasta, according to an account by Agence France-Presse.
Street vendors did brisk trade in Obama memorabilia from keyrings and coffee mugs to handkerchiefs and huge colorful umbrellas with Obama and President John Atta-Mills' portraits emblazoned on them.
Bookshops in Accra, meanwhile, were stocked with piles of Obama's "The Audacity of Hope" book.
And large-than-life size posters of Obama and Atta-Mills with the slogan "partnership for change" and "akwaaba" (native for welcome) appeared everywhere.
"We are anxiously waiting for our father's arrival," said Mensah Samuel. "For us it is a once-in-a-lifetime honor that he is visiting us," he added.
But so far at least, Africa is getting no special treatment: it remains on the back-burner of U.S. foreign policy, aid levels are roughly unchanged from the Bush years, and Obama's message is clear: Africans must take responsibility for curing their own ills.
"Expectations are quite high because Obama has roots here," The Associated Press quoted Wafula Okumu, a Kenyan analyst at South Africa's Institute for Security Studies in Johannesburg as saying. "But it's unrealistic to think he's going to open the flood gates of aid or change anything overnight. In fact, we've yet to see any significant change in policy."
Obama told the AllAfrica.com news Web site ahead of his trip that he chose Ghana to highlight the country's history of good governance. He said he hoped other African nations would emulate the country's example. Ghana was the first in Africa to declare independence from colonial rule in 1957, but it went on to endure a quarter century of coups and dictatorship before holding five successful democratic ballots, the last a tense December nail-biter decided by a rerun in a single district.
Good governance is not an "abstract notion that we're trying to impose on Africa," Obama said. "If government officials are asking for 10, 15, 25 percent off the top, businesses don't want to invest there."
Meanwhile, Obama was set to meet with the pope, whose generally conservative views will not entirely mesh with Obama's as Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review went to press on Friday. They were to discuss world poverty, the Middle East and other topics during their talks.