Ghana President John Evans Atta Mills visited the White House on Thursday, three years after President Obama visited the West African nation.

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"Ghana continues to be a good-news story," Obama says

The leaders, who are up for re-election this year, highlight the need to work together

Obama visited Ghana in 2009, his first presidential visit to Sub-Saharan Africa

CNN  — 

President Barack Obama hailed Ghana as a “model for democracy” during a meeting with the nation’s leader that addressed issues ranging from democracy to economic ties.

“There’s sometimes a tendency to focus on the challenges that exist in Africa,” Obama said. ” But I think it’s important for us to also focus on the good news that’s coming out of Africa, and I think Ghana continues to be a good-news story.

Obama visited Ghana in July 2009, where he met President John Evans Atta Mills and addressed the nation’s parliament.

On Thursday, Mills visited the White House, a trip Obama described as a chance to reciprocate the hospitality he got in the West African nation.

Both leaders are vying for a second term later this year, and highlighted the need for their nations to continue working together regardless of the outcome.

“The United States has been a model, and I’m happy that we are cooperating with one another on all kinds of fronts and they are yielding results,” Mills said.

He applauded the collaboration, saying the countries share the same values and believe in democracy.

The leaders said their meeting addressed various issues, including economic growth, increasing commercial and investment ties, and other bilateral and regional concerns.

“Ghana has become a wonderful success story economically on the continent,” Obama said. ” In part because of the initiatives of President Mills, you’ve seen high growth rates over the last several years. Food productivity and food security is up. There’s been strong foreign investment.”

Obama’s 2009 trip was his first presidential visit to Sub-Saharan Africa.

At the time, he bypassed his father’s native Kenya and visited Ghana, which is hailed as a beacon of peace and democracy in a volatile region.

In Obama’s address to the nation’s parliament, he applauded government leaders for a peaceful transfer of power during prior elections, a rarity in African polls. He also highlighted the growth rate of the nation’s economy and urged the leaders to continue their focus on good governance.

Last year, Obama hosted various African heads of state, including the presidents of Benin, Guinea and Niger.