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Africa 2017 forum promotes young entrepreneurs
December 21, 2017, 5:08 pm

Long-term sustainability of economic growth in Africa depends on encouraging entrepreneurship among youth and creating an enabling environment for businesses to flourish. This was the message from recently concluded Africa 2017 Forum, which was held from 7 – 9 December in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt.

Held under the patronage of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi, the forum provided a platform for promoting trade and investment within Africa.  With the theme of ‘Driving Investment for Inclusive Growth’, the event witnessed a galaxy of attendees and speakers, including the Presidents of Comoros, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, Rwanda and Somalia. Africa 2017 was also attended by the Vice-President of Nigeria and Prime Ministers of Egypt and Mozambique and the Deputy Prime Minister of Ethiopia, as well as business leaders and entrepreneurs from across the continent.

In his opening statement at the Forum, President Sisi detailed that the forum aims to provide a platform for heads of state and government as well as private sector and business leaders in Africa and the world to discuss a wide range of business and development issues on the continent and to engage with some of Africa’s most important economic partners and stakeholders. He added that discussions during the forum “will help us further promote intra-African trade; design solutions to spur investment and to accelerate job creation and more inclusive growth.”

The president pointed out that the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) signed between three African trade blocs COMESA, EAC and SADC at Sharm El- Sheikh in June 2015, was an important step in the direction of creating a continental free trade area that would encompass all African nations. “These endeavors primarily aim at facilitating trade across the continent, supporting African nations in their quest for development and prosperity as well as pushing forward regional integration efforts,” said President Sisi.

Enhancing the role of women in our societies will enable us to better deliver on our development agenda. For that reason, empowering women will be an important aspect of the Africa 2017 Forum’s program. Meanwhile, the ‘Young Entrepreneurs Day’ will ensure youth’s engagement and their central position in the Forum’s programs, added the Egyptian President.

It is noteworthy that despite adverse global economic headwinds, African economies have proved to be resilient and remain among the most attractive destinations for global investment. Business has been growing fast in Africa since the beginning of the new millennium, but it could be a lot more, especially within Africa itself, said Heba Salama, the regional investment director for Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) in the run-up to the Forum.

She pointed out that intra-African trade has consistently represented around 15 percent of its total trade for the past few years. As regional trade agreements multiply, we are in a position to better capitalize on our diversifying African economies. FDI into Africa is certainly moving in the right direction: 21 percent of all announced greenfield FDI projects were in manufacturing and 75 percent in services in the last year. And of these, 51 percent of Africa to Africa investment projects announced was in manufacturing,

For his part, Nigerian economist, entrepreneur and philanthropist Tony Elumelu, speaking at the Youth Entrepreneurs Day held on 7 December, said: “We need to hold our governments accountable for failing to create the right conditions that would create the right environment for businesses to do well, and for economic opportunities to advance, because we are a continent that is hugely endowed naturally and there’s no reason why our young ones should suffer.”

Other speakers at the forum urged African governments to support entrepreneurs in order to create an ecosystem that will inspire more young people to remain and advance the continent in order to curb rising unemployment and stem the migration crisis.

For their part young entrepreneurs said that though they face various challenges as they get their ventures off the ground, they did not think of them as deterrents. They say that the youth is the future of Africa, but the youth want to be the present of Africa help create the Africa they would like to live in, said one young entrepreneur.

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