Lagos (Nigeria), September 03, 2021 – The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), through its Subregional Office for West Africa, has announced her invitation to sector champions in various industries to be a part of the Regional Business Forum structured around high-level meetings, consultations with Business Champions, the youth, and women in the West African business ecosystems.
The 3-day Forum will be held in Lagos, Nigeria from September 21st – 23rd, 2021, at The Intercontinental Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos, using a hybrid format i.e. physical and virtual, due to COVID-19. The Regional Business Forum will be held in collaboration with strategic partners from across the region/Continent at, bringing together women and youth from across the 15 West African countries, business leaders, the private sector, and SMEs. The forum is set to encompass various activities such as panel discussions, exhibitions, mentoring sessions, presentations, and many more.
The West Africa Business Forum is the first edition in a series of stakeholders’ engagements by the Economic Commission for Africa with top business leaders, and sector champions in Africa. The theme of the first-ever forum is “Empowering Women and Youths to Spur Africa’s Transformation Agenda”.
With Africa being the youngest continent and a projection of Africans constituting a whopping quarter of the world’s labor force by 2050 due to high fertility and declining child mortality rates, it has become imperative to pivot the continent’s demographic dynamics for sustainable development. The forum is an initiative of the sub-regional Office for West Africa of ECA in partnership with Compass Global Business Services, working with a host of Coalition Partners, such as the International Trade Centre, International Labour Office, ECOWAS, Organization of Trade Unions of West Africa, Lagos Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Neca’s Network of Entrepreneurial Women, Association of Nigerian Women Business Network (ANWBN), WIMBIZ, Junior Chamber International- Nigeria, Cameroon, a host of Youth Organizations, and Women Networks across the Region.
The Director of the Sub-Regional Office for West Africa of ECA, Mrs. Ngone Diop, has expressed the wishes of her Office to engage sector leaders across critical sectors of the economy within the West Africa Region, to translate ideas into actions around specific interventions that are designed to build capacities, and empower the Youths & Women in the region. The process is aimed at developing a regional framework and an ecosystem, which is geared towards harnessing the opportunities of the African Continental Free Trade Areas (AfCFTA) as an anchor, to unlock the potentials of youths, and Women in West Africa (and Africa), as well as a foster business championship to its maximum abilities for women and youths from across the region. This will stimulate regional engagements and strategic private sector partnerships to support experienced and non-experienced women and youth entrepreneurs.
Specific objectives of the forum are:
- To provide a platform that will be used to share business opportunities among women and youths across the region and in Africa at large.
- To showcase success stories, of women and youths’ businesses for cross learning and impact.
- To identify business champions who are committed to support the growth of women and youths and link them for effective mentorship and dedicated support.
- To define an agreed action plan for follow-up and tailored support to women and youths’ businesses, following a pilot approach.
The expected results from this meeting are:
- Business leaders identified as dedicated champions for women and youth entrepreneurs, accepting to support, mentor them to grow their businesses and or engage in the business sector;
- An action plan along with a pilot approach agreed upon and will be refined following the forum to implement such championship initiative;
- Women and the youth’s potential, challenges and fear discussing with themselves taking full responsibility to change the status quo with dedicated support from the Champions, among other support.
In order to achieve the expected results, the Forum will adopt a targeted yet broad approach, looking at strategies for post-Covid 19 pandemic economic recovery, emerging development and investment opportunities in areas around the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), key business sectors such as agri-business infrastructure development, and the social sectors of health and education.
It will also focus on the unique value addition to be garnered from West Africa and Africa’s rich resource endowments. The targeted participants are the women and youths from across West Africa, particularly those who: run businesses (irrespective of the size); have start-ups, and/or have workable business ideas, among others, as well as women and youths with no prior business experience but are committed to engage in entrepreneurship. Representatives from government and private sectors, business leaders, United Nations and other intergovernmental organizations, as well as the private sector, donors, NGOs, business leaders, etc., will also be considered. The languages of the Forum are English and French with interpretation services made available.