King Charles hosted his first state visit since becoming Britain’s monarch on Tuesday, welcoming South African President Cyril Ramaphosa to Buckingham Palace.
Charles, 74, kicked off the traditional ceremony for the first time as head of state, as Britain seeks to strengthen its ties with its largest trading partner in Africa.
Ramaphosa and his wife were formally welcomed by Charles’s eldest son and heir apparent Prince William and his wife Kate to a central London hotel to mark the start of his two-day trip, the first state visit by a world leader to the UK since the former president’s. US President Donald Trump and his wife Melania in 2019.
John is greeted and formally welcomed by the King and his wife Camilla, Queen Consort, before a grand procession along the Mall to Buckingham Palace, where a banquet will later be held in the President’s honor.
Ramaphosa is due to visit Westminster Abbey to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior and view the memorial stone of former South African President Nelson Mandela. He will also address lawmakers in parliament and meet British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
Britain hopes the visit, which was planned before Queen Elizabeth II’s death in September, will boost trade and investment ties between the two countries, and show the importance of ties with the Commonwealth of Nations, the international organization Charles now heads.
“This is a reinforcement of the strong bilateral relationship we have with South Africa and a real opportunity to build on that close working relationship and discuss some of the issues that affect us all,” British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly told Reuters.
The last state visit by a South African leader to Britain was that of President Jacob Zuma in 2010 when Charles and Camilla met him at the start of the trip.