Prince William proposed to Kate Middleton
at a secluded cabin getaway in the sprawling Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Kenya, where rhinos and giraffes peek at vacationers from behind the bushes.
“Kenya has always been very close to Prince William’s heart. He’s been coming here for many years. He loves it,” said Ian Craig, founder of Lewa and owner of the cabin.
William first went to Kenya during his gap year at age 17, and has returned several times. Kenya, he has said, provides a respite from real life.
“It’s escaping to a kind of different world where I am just who I normally am anyway, and I can let that side, that sort of slightly immature, silly person come out a bit more than I normally do,” he said.
While visiting Lewa and other animal conservation areas, their charities are a major focal point.
“This is a royal family that wants to engage with Africa, understands its challenges but recognizes that it’s a beautiful place and wants to show the world,” said Ayo Johnson, director of Viewpoint Africa, which sells content about Africa to media outlets internationally.
Johnson said the two come from a different time, and any animosity over British colonial rule is misdirected.
“Princes William and Harry’s generation is willing to turn a new chapter, open a new page, rewrite history as best as they possibly can by saying the old is the old, the wrongs of the past are in the past,” he said. “They are embracing Africa for what it is … they are a reflection of that forward thinking.”
Others, like Janet Nyawera, would like to see Harry and William visit what she describes as the “real” parts of the communities they go to.
“Why do they always go to the luxurious camps and the children’s homes? Even in good faith, that comes off as stereotypical especially in the context of history. I want them to go to cities as well, engage with the youth in those communities,” said Nyawera, who lives in the northwestern Kenyan town of Nakuru.
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip
In 1952, when William and Harry’s grandparents visited Kenya, the nation was considered a social playground for European elites. At the time, Kenya was still under British rule and had not gained independence.
In February of that year, then- Princess Elizabeth had left her ailing father, King George VI, in London and flown to Kenya.
The princess and her husband were visiting the Treetop, a popular spot back then for looking at animals from a high vantage point. It was there in the slopes of Mount Kenya that her husband, Prince Philip, told her about her father’s death. At that moment, Princess Elizabeth became Queen Elizabeth.
Years later, the royals still embrace Africa in their own way.
Since colonial history cannot be changed or erased, Nyamu-Steinbeck said, African nations should look at the big picture and utilize the relationship to boost tourism, which is a big part of their economies.
“The biggest reward this attention could accord Africa is for those beyond her borders to understand that the continent is so much more than orphans, famine, disaster, poverty and corruption — that it offers a well-trained service industry, a sizable educated elite, and technological innovations galore,” she said.