Inaugurated by President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, the Arab-African Youth Platform in Aswan was attended by 1,500 young people.
During the opening, Al-Sisi stressed the important role young people can play in overcoming the challenges facing Arab and African countries.
Africa is home to the world’s youngest population and it is growing rapidly, according to the United Nations’ Commission of Africa (UNCA).
A 2017 UNCA study revealed that 15 to 24 year-olds accounted for 19.4 per cent of the total population, and those under 15 a staggering 41 per cent.
“Arab and African youth have an optimal chance to communicate together to build the future of their countries,” said Al-Sisi during the inaugural session “World Youth Forum: New Horizon”.
Al-Sisi addressed the platform attendees saying “youth are our priority”.
“The government provides them with care and support… we all aspire to a better future for the African continent.”
Al-Sisi noted that the platform was a continuation of earlier efforts to foster dialogue. An Arab-African summit was convened by President Anwar Al-Sadat in Egypt in 1977, he said.
“This was followed by a meeting in the Libyan Sirte in 2010, in Kuwait in 2013 and in 2016 it was convened in Malabo.”
The next summit is planned for the Saudi capital Riyadh.
Al-Sisi traced Arab-African links to a shared history of fighting against colonialism, of which the Non-Aligned Movement of the 1960s was a product.
Egypt was looking forward to closer cooperation and coordination to promote joint African action during its chairmanship of the African Union, Al-Sisi told delegates to the platform.
The conference ended with a raft of recommendations to improve young people’s access to knowledge, education and health. Topping the recommendations was opening up the Egyptian Knowledge Bank (EKB) to African and Arab researchers.
The EKB is an online library with two portals providing learning resources and tools for educators, researchers, students and the general public.
The platform also saw the launch of an initiative to treat one million African patients with hepatitis C, capitalising on Egypt’s success in combating the virus.
Egypt is taking huge steps to eradicate the virus, thanks to affordable, domestically produced drugs. In September Egypt launched a campaign to all Egyptians for the virus, hypertension and diabetes. The platform recommended that African and Arab residents of Egypt be included in the campaign.
Other recommendations included establishing a committee of young Arabs and Africans to explore opportunities for integration and setting up a working group to examine ways to tackle extremism and counter-terrorism.
During his speech to participants Al-Sisi reiterated Egypt’s determination to combat all forms of terrorism and extremism. He referred to this week’s attack on two mosques in New Zealand, underlining the international dimensions of the problem. Fifty people died in the attacks, including four Egyptians.
“It is regrettable that the Arab region and African continent are the scene of the lion’s share of conflicts. We live in a region that is being eviscerated by conflicts that threaten to destroy the future and obliterate the past,” he said.
The president also noted the importance of increasing African Union efforts to contain and prevent conflicts and develop mechanisms for reconstruction and development in post-conflict situations.
Al-Sisi attended several sessions and panels during the course of the two-day platform. During the closing session he honoured young people from Egypt, the Arab world and Africa who had distinguished themselves in the military, media, telecommunications, architecture, IT, social media and sports.
The platform’s last day included free tours for Arab and African delegates in Aswan.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 21 March, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: New horizons