Participants attend the session "Women Empowering Africa" on the first day of Africa 2018 Forum in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, Dec. 8, 2018. Meetings of Africa 2018 Forum kicked off on Saturday in Egypt's Red Sea resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh with the participation of a number of African leaders from the countries of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA). (Xinhua/Meng Tao)
SHARM EL SHEIKH, Egypt, Dec. 8 (Xinhua) -- Meetings of Africa Forum 2018 kicked off on Saturday in Egypt's Red Sea resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh with the participation of a number of African leaders from the countries of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).
The forum will see discussions on infrastructure, entrepreneurship, investment, and women-related issues across the African continent.
The two-day event is organized 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.
COMESA countries include Burundi, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Eswatini, Kenya, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sudan, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The first day saw several sessions under the theme "Young Entrepreneurs Day," including one on strengthening regional economic systems in Africa by means of consolidating cross-border cooperation and opening up new markets for African economic blocs.
Another session on policies of African countries was held in the light of developments being witnessed in the entrepreneurship domain in Africa.
A number of sessions on empowering the African women were also held, including a roundtable discussion on the importance of gender equality in achieving African progress.
Another session discussed the role of women in outlining policies of the African continent with the participation of Egypt's Immigration Minister Nabila Makram, Environment Minister Yasmeen Fouad, Mali's Foreign Minister Kamissa Camara and COMESA Secretary-General Chileshe Kapwepwe.
As a unique business-to-business and government-to-business platform, bringing together policy makers, financiers, leading industrialists and young entrepreneurs, this year's Africa Forum will focus on developing intra-African investments and the efforts to create the world's largest trading bloc of 1.2 billion people.
The forum features keynote speeches, interactive panel discussions, expert presentations and B2B engagement opportunities.
"I am happy that the organizers and the government of Egypt chose to put youths and women at the center stage ... that is the whole program for today," Vanessa Moungar, director for Gender, Women and Civil Society at the African Development Bank, told Xinhua.
Moungar said the African continent cannot develop without fully empowering its women, adding that this requires giving them equal access to education, health services and economic opportunity so that they can fully participate in private sector growth and make choices for themselves.
For her part, Mona Zulficar, a renowned Egyptian lawyer, said African countries have a common market which brings down the borders for trade, projects, value chain, development and business.
"We definitely need to meet to listen to each other and move together and this conference is the best platform for these goals," Zulficar, one of the speakers of the women empowerment session, told Xinhua.
Speaking about empowering women in China, Zulficar said African countries can learn from the Chinese experience "because China had a bigger challenge, which is the demographic challenge."
"China managed not to leave women behind ... we hope that it will share with us its experience and we will be very grateful," she noted.