PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) -- One element of President Barack Obama's Africa policy is to encourage a free press, although he offered repeated reminders for U.S. reporters traveling with him on the continent to be on their best behavior.
"Americans, behave yourselves," he needled as a contingent of U.S. and South African media was pulled from a quick photo-op Saturday with President Jacob Zuma.
Obama spoke just before their news conference and may have been trying to suggest his press corps keep its questions tight.
Both U.S. and South African reporters asked multi-part questions. Obama didn't try to cut anyone off, but instead said the U.S. press corps must be happy the news conference was taking place in a wood-paneled chamber inside Pretoria's grand Union Buildings.
"This is much more elegant than the White House press room," Obama said, referring to the more cramped media quarters in the West Wing. "It's a big improvement."
He kept up the theme of a long-winded U.S. press at the start of his meeting with African Union Commission Chairwoman Dlamini-Zuma.
"I might take some questions, except earlier in the press conference you guys asked 4-in-1 questions," a grinning Obama teased.
At his earlier stop in Senegal, Obama apologized to host President Macky Sall on behalf the American media.
"Sometimes my press -- I notice yours just ask one question," Obama said. "We try to fit in three or four or five questions in there."
Minutes before that comment, Obama had praised democratic progress in Senegal, specifically mentioning "a strong press" as part of that movement. However, the first Senegalese reporter to be called on lobbed a softball, simply asking Sall to describe the visit and any new prospects it posed for Africa.
Zuma's dinner in honor of Obama's visit to Pretoria began with a moment of silence for ailing former President Nelson Mandela. Then came a longer, unintended and much more awkward silence.
Zuma came to the podium to deliver a toast but said his notes were not there. He asked the audience, "Just bear with me for a minute."
But the minute grew into 2 1/2, initially only broken by the sound of waiters popping champagne corks in preparation. Zuma cleared his throat and chuckled nervously in the quiet. "What is here are the remarks of President Barack Obama," Zuma said with an extended laugh from the audience
The seven-piece South African Navy Band decided to fill it by striking up "The Girl from Ipanema," and finally an aide delivered Zuma's remarks.
Obama took his turn at the podium and said his staff felt pretty good by the mix-up.
"This is not the first time that a president has come to the podium without notes that were supposed to be there," Obama said. "And they are gratefully relieved that does not only happen to them."
Questioned about foreign policy, Obama said more than the security issues that "take up a lot of my time," he gets great satisfaction from listening to regular people talk about building their businesses.
A priority is the war that's drawing to a close in Afghanistan, with U.S. combat troops scheduled to return home by the end of next year.
Another is keeping the U.S. public safe. "I can't deviate from that too much," Obama said before also mentioning the need to focus on turmoil across the Middle East.
But "as much as the security issues in my foreign policy take up a lot of my time, I get a lot more pleasure from listening to a small farmer say that she went from one hectare to 16 hectares and has doubled her income," Obama said. "That's a lot more satisfying and that's the future."
The president apparently was still feeling good after the stop in Senegal. On Friday, he toured an exhibit showcasing the Senegalese agricultural sector with a focus on nutrition and fortified foods and chatted up several of the farmers who were there. The programs get help from Feed the Future, a public-private partnership begun by Obama that he touted in Senegal, including to reporters aboard Air Force One.
Obama's trip has been quite a family affair.
He's traveling with his wife, Michelle, their daughters Malia and Sasha, his mother-in-law, Marian Robinson, and a niece, Leslie Robinson. Other relatives are with him in spirit.
He spoke Saturday about his late mother, anthropologist Stanley Ann Dunham, and what he said she always used to tell him.
"You can measure how well a country does by how well it treats its women," he said, quoting her.