Published 26 September 2018

I was humbled by the dedication of the rangers who protect the unique population of desert rhino from poachers

The Duke of Cambridge

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen – good evening. Thank you very much for the warm welcome this evening. 

I’m delighted to be visiting Namibia for the first time. I'm only sorry that my wife Catherine is not able to join me – she is immensely jealous. Particularly as I'm looking forward to a few good uninterrupted nights' sleep this week away from my wonderful children!

I know that Her Majesty The Queen was very pleased to visit in 1991 when she met President Nujoma and welcomed Namibia into the Commonwealth. I was honoured to meet President Geingob when he visited London in April for the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting. I'm also glad to have met some inspiring Queen's Young Leaders and Commonwealth Scholars here this evening.

Namibia remains a strong supporter of the principles set out in the Commonwealth Charter, and you have shown particular leadership on issues such as gender equality and climate change. I'm particularly pleased to learn that Namibia is joining the Commonwealth Clean Oceans Alliance as part of a Government programme to reduce plastics, including in national parks.

My visit to Namibia this week is focused on conservation. This is an issue very close to my heart, and I know is a matter of deep pride to you all as well. Your country is famous for its beautiful environment and wildlife. This is the reason why so many tourists, including tens of thousands of Brits, visit every year. Tourism continues to grow year on year and in 2017 accounted for 100,000 jobs – with the potential to add many more.  

Protecting Namibia's wildlife is crucial to realising this potential. I have been very lucky to see first-hand today in the Kunene region some outstanding conservation work. This is being undertaken with the support of the charity Tusk, of which I am patron, by both Save The Rhino Trust Namibia and IRDNC.

I was staggered by the beauty and sheer remoteness of this incredible landscape. And I was humbled by the dedication of the rangers who protect the unique population of desert rhino from poachers. 

It was particularly inspiring to hear directly from community leaders about the establishment of a People's Park with some of the conservancies in Kunene. Initiatives such as this are crucial as they ensure that communities benefit from protecting their natural heritage and seek to reduce conflict between humans and wildlife.

I am impressed also by how local communities, the Ministry of Environment, and NGOs are pulling together in Kunene to keep rhinos safe. It is a model that I hope others can follow, both here in Namibia and across the continent.  

If I'd had more time, I would also have loved to have visited Etosha National Park. United for Wildlife, of which I am President, is supporting Save the Rhino International to use innovative technology to reduce the threat of poaching in Etosha. It's another reason why I'll just have to come back again. 

Despite all the valiant efforts of so many across Southern Africa, there are places where levels of poaching remain unsustainably high. The latest figures show that a rhino is killed every seven hours. The Illegal Wildlife Trade is an international problem that requires determined political leadership.

The species, geographies and drivers of the illegal trade are many and varied, and our approach to tackling it must be tailored. Whatever approach we take, it must be based on evidence of what works on the ground with local communities.

This is why I wanted to come to Namibia – to listen and learn. It is also why Namibia's voice and constructive engagement on these difficult subjects at the upcoming conference on the Illegal Wildlife Trade in London in October is so important. I am delighted that President Geingob will be attending and I look forward to welcoming him to London again in a few weeks' time. 

Thank you again for your warm welcome. It has been fascinating to meet people from so many different walks of Namibian life doing such important work. Enjoy the rest of your evening.