First Lady Michelle Obama arrives in South Africa Monday, the start of her week-long official visit. The trip will be both good-will tour and cultural journey. Mrs. Obama will visit South Africa and Botswana, where she will meet with women's groups and speak to youth organizations.

During the six day trip, the First Lady will talk about the importance of education and youth leadership, as well as meet with other current and former first ladies, such as South African President Jacob Zuma's wife Nompumelelo Ntuli-Zuma and Nelson Mandela's wife Graca Machel.

The trip is a continuation of Mrs. Obama's work to engage young people, especially girls and young women, at home and abroad, the White House said.

She will also visit Robben Island, where former President Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years. Mrs. Obama will also safari in neighboring Botswana. Also on the itinerary are visits with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a tour of last summer's World Cup grounds and community service activities.

But running under the friendly, diplomatic tide of the trip is a taut political current. Unrest on the African continent recently has strained the relationship between the US and South Africa. President Jacob Zuma has called for NATO to ends its campaign in Libya and has maintained a blurry stance on the election situation in the Ivory Coast.

Mrs. Obama's visit could be seen a symbolic hand-shake between the United States and South Africa.

This visit is a political exercise as much as it is a public relations exercise, Chris Landsberg, a politics professor at the University of Johannesburg, told The Wall Street Journal. I wouldn't be surprised if she didn't send some key messages to South Africa's decision-makers from her husband.

The first lady will be accompanied by her daughters, Sasha and Malia, her mother  Marian Robinson, and her niece and nephew, Leslie and Avery Robinson.