Youth, women take centre stage at Africa 2018 forum

Rwandan delegates at the summit include Trade and Industry Minister, Soraya Hakuziyaremye (centre). Courtesy

This year’s Africa 2018 Forum in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt which took place over the weekend placed special focus on issues of concern to African youth and women.

The events will featured a Young Entrepreneurs’ Day and a discussion on Women Empowering Africa.

The two-day event was organised by the Egyptian government through the Ministry of Investment and International Cooperation and COMESA Regional Investment Agency (RIA), with the participation of more than 3,000 African entrepreneurs.

The heads of six multilateral development banks were present as well we heads of state giving the summit prominence this year.

Over 200 start-ups were represented with the objective of connecting them with investors and also equipping them with the skills to grow their businesses. All of them have strong operational track record and prospects for growth and scaling up of their businesses.

This initiative follows on from the World Youth Forum held in Egypt last month. A number of measures were announced by Egypt’s President Abdelfattah Al Sisi to support youth and entrepreneurs so that they become important economic actors.

The country has adopted an open-door policy whereby entrepreneurs engage in dialogue with policy makers to overcome regulatory constraints and enable them to unlock their potential for innovation and growth.

It is also positioning itself not only as an enabler in Egypt but as a regional entrepreneurship hub for Africa.

Women’s empowerment is also at the heart of this year’s programme. Several studies have shown how gender parity improves the quality of governance and accelerates development.

A number of sessions were devoted to devising ways and means of bringing about greater participation of women in setting policy and strategy both in government and in business boardrooms.

“We should not forget that we in Africa are taking a lead in many respects, with a higher representation of women in cabinets and parliaments than in most countries around the world – including our own Director General at COMESA,” says Heba Salama, CEO of COMESA’s Regional Investment Agency, co-organisers of the Forum.

COMESA is Africa’s largest trading block and has played an instrumental role in driving the African Continental Free Trade Agreement that was signed earlier this year.

The Forum is one of Africa biggest gatherings of business and government leaders. Captains of industry, including Abdulsamad Rabiu, Chairman of BUA group in Nigeria, Issad Rebrab, Algeria’s biggest industrialist and Ylias Akbaraly, Francophone Africa’s most successful businessman will share a roundtable with the Heads of State attending the Forum. Their focus will be on driving greater intra-African investment.