It’s good to be queen.

(Reuters) — First lady Michelle Obama left for Africa on Sunday, embarking on her second official solo journey abroad with a goal of advancing U.S. policies on education, health, and democracy.

The first lady will arrive on Monday in South Africa, where she will make stops in Johannesburg and Cape Town. Later in the week she will visit Botswana.

Her trip will be rich with imagery.

As the wife of the first black U.S. president, Mrs. Obama’s travel on the continent adds a different symbolic heft than previous first ladies’ trips there have had.

In South Africa she will meet Graca Machel, the wife of former South African President Nelson Mandela. She will also visit the island where Mandela was imprisoned under apartheid.

In Botswana she will meet with President Ian Khama and with women leaders. She will also see a nature reserve.

Her trip comes as the United States starts gearing up for the 2012 presidential election, when her husband, President Barack Obama, hopes to hold on to the White House.

Pictures of Mrs. Obama in Africa could appear in the campaign to appeal to black voters, a critical voting bloc for Obama’s Democrats.