Maryland's nomadic lieutenant governor went back out on the road again last week.

Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele continued to rack up the mileage as the state's well-traveled second-in-command, this time with a mission to Ghana and South Africa. He called the 10-day trip -- like recent journeys to Barbados, the Caribbean and Paris -- a trade mission.

Steele said Tuesday that "Africa is the place to be if you're doing business."

"The lion is waking up, and you want to be standing next to the lion, not in front of it," he said. "You really want to be well positioned. That's the point."

Apparently, it's pretty expensive to make certain that Maryland is well positioned for the business windfall headed this way from Africa. The lieutenant governor's mission will cost taxpayers $148,000.

Steele said his office was careful to keep costs to a minimum, though the trip does include some non-business excursions, such as a visit to the gravesite of W.E.B. Du Bois and a tour of the Elmina slave castle in Ghana.

"We're mindful of the economic climate we're in," Steele said. "But we're also mindful of the economic opportunity."

Steele is traveling with representatives from two dozen Maryland companies, including officials from Silver Spring-based Discovery Communications and a representative from Northrop Grumman. He is also accompanied by former Prince George's county executive Wayne K. Curry, who told The Post he is paying his own way and attending "as a private businessman who is looking to provide opportunities for clients."

He said several of the companies represented on the trip have deals they plan to close with African businesses or government officials.

To help these companies, Steele will have an entourage from the State House that includes two state troopers; Paul D. Ellington, who is Steele's chief of staff; Paul E. Schurick, who is Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s communications director; and seven other Ehrlich administration officials.

Steele's earlier trips abroad included a flight to Vienna in September for the conference "Racism, Xenophobia and Discrimination," sponsored by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Last June, he spent four days in France attending the Paris Air Show, a trip intended to build Maryland's ties to the aerospace industry. A month later he made a week-long trade mission to the Caribbean, where he and state economic development officials tried to improve ties between Maryland and the island of Barbados.

The missions, if nothing else, are making strong use of Steele's academic training: He has a degree in international relations from Johns Hopkins University.

Promotion for Brown

Maryland House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) announced leadership changes in the House of Delegates last week, including a promotion for Prince George's Democratic Del. Anthony G. Brown.

Brown will become majority whip, a post vacated by George W. Owings III (D-Calvert), who left the House to become Ehrlich's secretary of veterans affairs.

Brown, a Harvard-trained lawyer, is viewed by many -- including Busch -- to be a rising star. "He knows how to bring people together, facilitate lively and productive discussions and work for the best interest of the state of Maryland. You couldn't have a better combination of skills for this critical position," Busch said.

Beefing Up Security

Visitors to the State House in Annapolis will now be able to take a cue from Ehrlich and dispense with reading the newspaper.

Vending boxes for The Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun and other newspapers were removed from the State House basement at Ehrlich's request.

It wasn't that he read something he disliked -- Ehrlich often boasts that he doesn't read the newspapers on a regular basis. The boxes were pulled for security reasons, "along with trash cans, mailboxes and all sorts of containers," the governor said.