"I can't wait to come back": The significance of Meghan Markle’s recent trip to Nigeria

The reception Meghan Markle has received in Nigeria is cognisant of the elegance, grace and kindness that the Nigerian population see in her and her family.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex landed in Nigeria on the 8th of May for a three-day private visit that turned into a tour befitting of royalty. During the ambitiously detailed trip, the pair addressed issues spanning mental health, gender equality, sports rehabilitation and culture.

They kicked off the trip with a mental health summit at Lightway Academy, a primary and secondary school in Abuja, the capital city of Nigeria. Here, they received a red carpet welcome from cultural dancers before the unveiling of the partnership between their Archewell Foundation and the GEANCO Foundation to provide students with school supplies and menstrual products.

They approached this partnership with a kind of meaningful engagement with the students that demonstrated their deep commitment to the causes they came to support and highlight. During this school visit, they sang and danced with a kindergarten class, inspected robot cars in a STEM class; and spoke at the mental health day summit.

Prince Harry spoke about the students speaking up and expressing their emotions towards help. He made the children promise, after Friday, not to be scared of talking about their mental health, and ended his speech with: “It’s okay, not to be okay.”

It is essential for him to speak about this, especially in Nigeria where mental health is not discussed widely. It’s important for students to learn about this topic from a prominent figure in their formative years. It sets a very good foundation, one that some of us never had.

Veteran Rehabilitation Through Sports

The second portion of their trip was dedicated to highlighting strides in sports rehabilitation. Harry and Meghan were mainly invited by Nigeria's Chief of Defence Staff, General Christopher Musa, to host conversations about Nigeria potentially hosting the Invictus Games following Nigeria's induction into the biennial Paralympic-style games for injured servicemen and women founded by Prince Harry which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year.

They attended a volleyball training session, held by Nigeria’s Defence Staff and ‘Nigeria: Unconquered’ – a charity which collaborates with the Invictus Games. The charity, Nigeria: Unconquered, provides opportunities for members of the armed forces who have sustained serious injuries or illnesses from their service to compete in a variety of sports. Showing his commitment to sports rehabilitation, he played in this volleyball training session with the veterans.

Following this, the prince headed to a military rehabilitation centre in Kaduna where he met with the local governor, Abu Sani, at the Kaduna Learning Center and paid a visit to a local military hospital, Nigerian Army Reference Hospital, where he met wounded soldiers.

Harry toured about six wards at the hospital and met young men recuperating from their injuries. Many had been shot, hurt by Boko Haram, or lost limbs due to blasts. Harry’s compassion for the veteran soldiers shone through as he engaged with them on a down-to-earth level.

On Saturday, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex visited a secondary school in Lagos, Ilupeju Junior Grammar School. They watched a basketball practice that was attended by young players from the school as well as wheelchair basketball athletes and Harry joined for some drills.

Prince Harry also used this occasion to unveil a partnership between their Archewell Foundation and the non-profit Giants of Africa, a non-profit organization founded 20 years ago aiming to educate and empower African youth through basketball and community.

Gender Equality and Culture

The final leg of the trip focused on women's empowerment and Meghan exploring her Nigerian heritage. Meghan co-hosted a women’s leadership event with Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director-General of the World Trade Organisation, in front of an audience of about fifty leading women in Nigerian society.

During the panel discussion hosted by business mogul Mo Abudu, Meghan spoke about connecting more with her Nigerian identity after a genealogy test revealed she was 43% Nigerian. She expressed that she now truly understands to be Nigerian, learning about her identity and what it means to be a Nigerian woman, “brave, resilient, courageous, powerful, beautiful.”

“Every single moment that I hear anyone talk about what it means to be a Nigerian woman, it is the most flattering thing to be in that company," she said.

She also further engaged with the culture by switching up her wardrobe and incorporating clothes by Nigerian brands, Orire and Regalia by FAL. She insisted on adding more colour during this trip as soon as she observed the fashion in the country.

At another event on Sunday, the couple were welcomed by powerful traditional rulers who honoured her with royal titles. The Obi of Onitsha, His Majesty Igwe Nnaemeka Alfred Ugochukwu Achebe christened Meghan “Ada Mazi,” meaning “the daughter of the Igbo ancestral palace.” And, the Oluwo of Iwoland, southwest, Nigeria, Oba Abdulrasheed Adewale Akanbi christened her with the Yoruba name of “Adetokunbo” which means “royalty from across the seas.”

The reception Meghan Markle has received in Nigeria is cognizant of the elegance, grace and kindness that the Nigerian population see in her and her family. The couple seemed to be satisfied and grateful for Nigeria’s warm reception. As they said goodbye to Nigeria, Meghan declared: “I can’t wait to come back!”