U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton plans to travel to Africa next week on a seven-nation tour aimed at highlighting the Obama administration's commitment to the continent.

Clinton is to begin her trip on August 5 in Kenya, the State Department said Monday. She will lead a forum on development as part of the African Growth and Opportunity Act, legislation passed during the Bush administration that was intended to spur trade between the U.S. and African nations.

She also plans to meet in Nairobi with Sheikh Sharif Amed, the president of Somalia's transitional government, State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said. An epidemic of piracy off the Somali coast has created serious dangers to international commercial shipping in the Indian Ocean, and Islamic extremists are seen as a major security threat to East Africa and Somalia's feeble interim government.

After Kenya, Clinton will travel to South Africa, Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Liberia and Cape Verde.

"In each nation, she will emphasise Africa as a place of opportunity, built on an ethic of responsibility," Kelly said. "She will underline America's commitment to partner with governments, the private sector, non-governmental organizations and private citizens to build societies where each individual can realize their potential."

Coming after Obama's visit to Ghana, Clinton's trip will mark the earliest in any administration that the president and secretary of state have both traveled to Africa.

"Africa no longer sits on the margins of U.S. diplomacy and international trade," Kelly said. "The continent is a source of creativity, dynamic development, and the secretary will call for even stronger links with global markets and knowledge networks."

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