Obama Heads To Kenya In First Visit Since Taking Power

US President Barack Obama has left Washington for Kenya on a trip that will also include a stop in the Ethiopian capital and a visit to the home of the African Union.

The landmark visit to Obama's ancestral homeland of Kenya, where his father was born, is his first as president, and is also the first time a sitting US president will visit Ethiopia and the AU's headquarters in Addis Ababa.

The first African-American president of the US is expected to address regional security issues and trade, and also touch on matters relating to democracy, poverty and human rights in the region.

'Fastest-growing markets'

Joining him on the trip is National Security Advisor Susan Rice, foreign policy aide Ben Rhodes and White House spokesman Josh Earnest.

Before heading off for the trip, Obama's fourth time to Africa since taking office, he spoke about the promise of, and difficulties on, the continent.

"Despite its many challenges - and we have to be clear-eyed about all the challenges that the continent still faces - Africa is a place of incredible dynamism, some of the fastest-growing markets in the world, extraordinary people, extraordinary resilience," Obama said.

Speaking at an event for the African Growth Opportunity Act, US trade legislation which aims to help bolster Africa's prosperity, the president said the continent "has the potential to be the next centre of global economic growth".

Obama has travelled to Africa more than any other sitting US president, and talked about the "deep" ties between Africa and his country before setting off on the trip.

"There have been times where there have been misunderstandings, and there have been times where there have been suspicions," he said.

"But when you look at every survey, it turns out that the people of Africa love the United States and what it stands for."

Obama has not yet been to Kenya during his White House tenure, with a previous trip delayed by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta's indictment for war crimes by the International Criminal Court.

Those charges were suspended last year - in part, prosecutors say, because the Kenyan government thwarted the investigation.