Youth, women at the heart of Africa 2018 Forum in Egypt’s Sharm El-Sheikh

Africa Forum, Egypt’s biggest international gathering, is placing this year place special focus on issues of concern to African youth and women empowerment.

Africa 2018 Forum has kicked off in Egypt’s tourist resort of Sharm El-Sheikh on Saturday. The first day’s events will feature a Young Entrepreneurs’ Day and a discussion on Women Empowering Africa.

Over 250 startups are participating in the Young Entrepreneurs Day including pre-event practical workshops; heads of State from across Africa are attending the Forum.

The heads of six multilateral development banks are present in the forum. 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 earlier in November. A number of measures were announced by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to support youth and entrepreneurs so that they become important economic actors in the continent’s development process.

“Egypt has a thriving start-up sector, and we are working full force to nurture a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation,” said Minister of Investment and International Cooperation Egyptian Sahar Nasr.

Egypt seeks to position itself not only as a local enabler but as a regional entrepreneurship hub for Africa.

Women’s empowerment is also in the heart of the forum’s agenda this year. Several studies have shown how gender equality improves the quality of governance and accelerates development.

Sessions will be dedicated for 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,” said Heba Salama, chief executive of COMESA’s Regional Investment Agency, co-organisers of the Forum.