Good evening, and welcome to Rwanda.

Tomorrow, I will welcome you to CHOGM. But tonight, I want to welcome you to our country.

It gives me very great pleasure to see you all here.

And the reason is, that after planning this dinner for more than four years, I was starting to wonder if you would ever come!

We have lived through a lot since 2020, in each of our countries, our regions, and the Commonwealth as a whole.

The Covid pandemic was a terrible moment in history, which showed us, yet again, the value of cooperation and community.

We can’t prosper, without working together.

I therefore thank each of you for making the trip here. It is a huge honour to us. Thank you for staying the course with us, despite all the ups and downs during the pandemic.

Above all, I thank you for the trust you have placed in Rwanda, to serve as host of the Commonwealth family of nations, and as incoming Chair-in-Office.

There are two things I may not have occasion to emphasise tomorrow, so let me do so now.

First, I want to thank the Secretary-General and her team at the Commonwealth Secretariat for working hand-in-glove with our taskforce, to plan this meeting.

Second, I want to thank all the special guests who have travelled here to enrich our deliberations.

Your presence and participation demonstrate that the Commonwealth has a meaningful role to play, in shaping the global agenda.

I would like to recognise two of our special guests, in particular.

One is Gianni Infantino, the president of FIFA. He often says football is the only sport. Do you believe him? He wants you to believe him.

Well, we can agree that football has a unique ability to bring people together. No doubt.

So does cricket, let me add that right away, since this is a Commonwealth meeting…

Through football, we can communicate and understand each other, wherever we are from. The World Cup itself has a global reach of billions.

The one thing we heard from Gianni earlier today, is the importance of protecting national teams and capacity, so players can flourish also at home.

This is something that resonates well, and I am sure, with many of the smaller Commonwealth countries.

So thank you, Gianni, for being here and reminding us of the power of sport to unite and inspire us.

Now, the next special guest is even more special. His Highness, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad, Emir of Qatar, is a friend and a partner to so many of us. His country has deep historical ties to the Commonwealth.

Qatar, under his leadership, is at the forefront of finding solutions to some of the most urgent challenges of the day, from energy security, to humanitarian response in the Middle East, and the global fight against corruption.

I could not have thought of a better person to invite, as a very special guest of the Commonwealth, tonight. Your Highness, I appreciate that you accepted the invitation to join us and you did just that, so, much appreciated.

Allow me to conclude with a toast:

To Her Majesty the Queen, the Head of the Commonwealth, on her Platinum Jubilee, and to the people of the Commonwealth.

Cheers. I thank you. Thank you very much.