JOHANNESBURG – Prince Harry said that Africa’s embrace had helped him cope with the death of his mother, Princess Diana, as he and his wife Meghan championed job creation and entrepreneurship on the continent on the final day of their 10-day tour.
In a speech in Johannesburg on Wednesday, he made no reference to a lawsuit the couple filed against a British newspaper that cast a shadow over the end of their trip.
In a statement accompanying that announcement late on Tuesday, Harry accused some British tabloids of “bullying” and compared the treatment he said his wife had endured to that of Diana, one of the most photographed women on the planet.
With Meghan by his side, the prince, sixth in line to the British throne, told an audience of young entrepreneurs that he drew inspiration from Africans’ generosity and resilience.
“You are the changemakers, you are helping to grow your country’s prosperity by lifting those around you and offering a better future,” he said, to cheers.
Striking a personal note, he said visiting Africa over the years had helped him come to terms with the death of Diana, who died in a car crash in Paris in 1997 at the age of 36.
“Ever since I came to this continent as a young boy, trying to cope with something I can never possibly describe, Africa has held me in an embrace that I will never forget, and I feel incredibly fortunate for that,” he said.
“I always feel – wherever I am on this continent – that the community around me provides a life that is enriching, and is rooted in the simplest things – connection, connections with others and the natural environment.
“And as I raise my own son, I want to make sure that what I’ve learned here – the value of the natural world, the value of community and friendship – is something that I can pass on to him,” said Harry, a grandson of Queen Elizabeth.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex and their four-month-old son Archie arrived in South Africa on Sept. 23 on their first overseas tour as a family. Harry then visited Botswana, Angola and Malawi on his own, while his family stayed in South Africa.
Archie stole the show when they met anti-apartheid veteran Desmond Tutu last week in Cape Town.
Harry’s speech came a day after the couple said they had begun legal proceedings against the Mail on Sunday newspaper over the publication of a private letter.
“My deepest fear is history repeating itself,” Harry said in a lengthy and emotional statement.
“I’ve seen what happens when someone I love is commoditised to the point that they are no longer treated or seen as a real person. I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces,” he said.
The newspaper said it stood by its story.
On Wednesday, the couple visited a youth employment hub in the Tembisa township outside Johannesburg. They also met young women working at a facility producing compostable, affordable sanitary towels.
Unemployment in South Africa hit an 11-year high earlier this year, and the project tries to equip young people with a range of skills and entrepreneurial opportunities.
The prince announced a British government grant of 8 million pounds ($9.8 million) to help young Africans acquire new skills.
“I have often talked about Africa as my second home, and I’ve often been asked why I love it so much,” he said.
“Despite extreme hardship and ongoing challenges on so many levels, people are generous, they are strong, humble and incredibly optimistic.”
Also on Wednesday, the couple met Graca Machel, the widow of late president Nelson Mandela and a Mozambican politician. After meeting business leaders, they were due to see the current president, Cyril Ramaphosa, before flying back to London.
“No matter how different our lives may seem, Africa you have made us feel part of your community,” Meghan told more than 300 British and South African investors and female entrepreneurs, in a speech that also touched on gender-based violence, which Ramaphosa has pledged to tackle.
“So whether for Harry, Archie and me in South Africa or for my husband as he was travelling through Botswana, Angola and Malawi, please know that you have given us so much inspiration, so much hope and above all you have given us joy.”