The US’s first ever special envoy for LGBT rights has said there are “seeds of hope” in Southern African countries for sexual and gender minorities.

The Thomson Reuters Foundation reports that Randy Berry spoke after a 10-day visit to Malawi, Namibia, Botswana and South Africa.

He said: “I believe in all of these countries, there are seeds of hope.”

“With government representatives, I found them to be sensitive to the issues, wanting to engage very clearly… After these consultations, I am quite hopeful,” he added.

He said, despite that homosexuality or gay sex is outlawed in many of Africa’s 54 states, there was hope in the south of the continent.

Berry said US policy dictates that violence and discrimination is tackled through dialogue and support of rights groups.

“Change is not going to occur because the U.S. wants it to,” he said.

“Change comes through those people working indigenously within those societies to produce a more equitable framework.”

The Global Equality Fund was created by the State Department in 2011 to help fund groups supporting civil rights.

Of the trip, he said: “The fact that we can actually have a rational, coherent, quiet conversation is really important,” he said.

“The problem we face in a global sense is one of ignorance and non exposure.”

Homosexuality”is not a learned behaviour. It is not somehow produced by external forces. This is how people are born,” Berry continued.

“We are simply talking about your brothers and sisters, your aunts and uncles, your coworkers, your teachers, your doctors, and do we have the capacity as human beings to embrace them and let them live freely?”

Berry was appointed as the first ever LGBTI rights envoy back in February 2015.

He rejected claims from the Vatican that western aid is only available to countries that allow same-sex marriage.

The first Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI people was speaking during a visit to the Vatican.

PinkNews caught up with Berry in July, to discuss his new role, and the path countries like the US and the UK are going down to promote LGBT rights at home and abroad.