This year’s Africa 2018 Forum in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, which will take place this week on December 8 and 9, will place special focus on issues of concern to African youth and women. The first day’s events will feature a Young Entrepreneurs’ Day and a discussion on Women Empowering Africa.
The heads of six multilateral development banks will be participating. A number of heads of state are also expected to attend the annual event which takes even more prominence this year with Egypt taking over the chairmanship of the African Union in 2019.
Some of Africa’s most promising companies, as well as emerging business leaders, will take part in the Young Entrepreneurs Day. Over 200 start-ups will be 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 Abdel Fattah Al Sisi to support youth and entrepreneurs so that they become important economic actors.
“Egypt has a thriving start-up sector, and we are working full force to nurture a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation,” says Dr. Sahar Nasr, Minister of Investment and International Cooperation. The Ministry has launched number of start-up initiatives, such as Egypt Ventures, Falak Startups, and Fekretak Sherketak, which provide a comprehensive package of support encompassing funding, mentoring, business development services, and accelerator programs. 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.
“We are globally competitive on all fronts: regulations, access to finance and, of course, a large talent pool of dynamic and vibrant youth,” she added.
Women at the heart
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 will be 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.