Around 2500 delegates will join 9 African Heads of State at the Africa 2018 – Business for Africa and the World Forum – taking place in the resort town of Sharma El Sheik, Egypt on 8-9 December, as the annual event places emphasis on women and youth. Arguably one of Africa’s biggest gatherings of business and government leaders, the Africa 2018 Forum will see over 250 startups participating during the Young Entrepreneurs Day (YED) which will be preceded by practical workshops. Some of Africa’s most promising companies as well as emerging business leaders will also take part to connect them with investors, and engage them in discussions aimed at equipping them with the skills that could help to grow their businesses. This initiative follows on from the World Youth Forum, which was 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. “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. Industry leaders such as 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. Egypt 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. The country is also positioning itself 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,” Adds Dr Nasr . Heads of some of Africa’s leading development banks are also participating at the two day event. Women Empowering Africa And with a number of studies and reports indicating how gender parity improves the quality of governance and accelerates development, the 8th of December will also be about Women Empowering Africa (WEA) – with sessions devoted to discussing and devising ways and means of bringing about more participation of women in policy and decision making strategies – in both government and business spheres. “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.