Youth in the Arab region and Africa share history and present circumstances, making cooperation among them essential for the development of their countries. Young people in both regions have proven they are capable of developing a promising vision of integration.
In this context, the Arab and African Youth Platform is founded for youth in the two regions to share and exchange experiences. Participants will have the chance to discuss various topics that are of concern to both Arab and African youth with the aim of fostering cooperation.
The forum’s agenda focuses on Arab and African matters, themes and questions of concern in light of Egypt’s presidency of the African Union in 2019.
Activities include open discussions, workshops, seminars and roundtable discussions gathering senior officials, decision-makers and a large number of young people from all over Africa.
In addition to the sessions and workshops, various cultural and entertainment activities will be held on the sidelines. Guests and participants will also have the chance to discover Egypt through Aswan as the organisers have planned many sightseeing visits and tours in celebration of Aswan being chosen the Capital for African Youth in 2019.
The forum’s colourful slogan reflects the spirit and authenticity of Arab and African countries. It is set to start on 16 March at 5pm with a celebration of Egypt taking over the chairmanship of the African Union.
The forum will kick-off with the opening ceremony followed by an open discussion entitled “The Future of Scientific Research and Healthcare” after which a roundtable titled “Nile Valley: The Pathway for Arab and African Integration” will be held in the afternoon.
The second day includes a session under the theme “The Impact of Financial Technology and Innovation on Africa and the Arab Region”. It will then be followed by two workshops: “Social Entrepreneurship from an African Perspective” and “Implementing Youth’s Agenda of Safety and Security in the Coastal Zone”. The forum will conclude with a closing ceremony in the evening.
While the World Youth Forum sees the participation of young people from all over the world and tackles the issues of the world on a broad scale, this platform has been narrowed down to tackle topics of concern to the African continent and the Arab region.
Accordingly, topics to be broached involve the future of scientific research and healthcare, and the impact of advanced technology and innovation in Africa and the Arab region.
The aim is to see young people and senior officials and experts finding optimal benefits, given that the Nile Valley is the pathway for Arab and African integration.
There is also a workshop called “Developing Coastal Regions”. Furthermore, two entrepreneur workshops entitled “How to be a Successful Entrepreneur” and “Social Entrepreneurship from an African Perspective” are scheduled to be held to guide young people by using a blueprint for business and research: how to start, work and succeed.
The point of the forum is not just young people meeting and mingling, but sharing their experiences, cultures, hopes and aspirations for the future of their countries and themselves.
This is what young people are expected to share in the three-day platform in Aswan from 16 to18 March under the patronage of President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi.
“Egyptian youth should be proud that their leader President Al-Sisi shows great interest and pays attention to their current issues and ambitions and is also keen on maintaining communication and dialogue with them on all levels through regular forums,” Ashraf Sobhi, Egypt’s minister of youth and sports, told Al-Ahram Weekly.
“Believing in the fact that the future belongs to youths and that they should be the leaders of their generation in planning and shaping the future of their nations, the president has been working for the past years on reaching out to them, primarily in Egypt, by listening and discussing, and getting veteran pioneers in every field involved, by advising and teaching them how to make their ambitions real,” Sobhi added.
The minister revealed that what was new in this conference was “getting youth involved in the future of scientific research, healthcare and advanced technology and innovation in Africa and the Arab region.
It is time our continent and region catch up with the world’s most developed countries and this will only be achieved by our young people.
“It is very important to have such a dialogue between past, present and future generations as it helps in sharing experiences and learning about new scientific technology which is spreading rapidly. And who can cope with these speedy innovations other than young people? This is why the president has decided to invest in his youth and has been giving his vote of confidence in their capabilities and potential, deciding to put in their hands a better future,” Sobhi said.
Ashraf Mahmoud, president of the Arab and African Sports Culture Associations, says that holding the forum in Aswan under the auspices of Egypt’s head of state confirms the deep-rooted relationship and ties between Egypt and its fellow countries in the African continent and the Arab region.
“It also endorses the fact that Egypt will remain the nation that serves as a communications link between African and the Arab nations. Accordingly, with those two dimensions in mind, African and Arab youth will be meeting in Aswan, the city that represents the portal for those two gateways,” Mahmoud said.
“This conference reveals the sincere and serious initiative by President Al-Sisi to bring young people from around the globe together through world forums which started in 2017. It also shows how the Egyptian regime is keen on the continuity of these forums, by taking them to continental and regional levels.It also reflects the president’s desire and eagerness to maintain a dialogue which he started with Egyptian youth, then added the world’s youth to the dialogue, and now Africans, in his capacity as chair of the African Union, and Arabs, in the capacity of Egypt’s leadership of the region. Egypt understands the challenges facing the continent and region and accordingly recognises the fact that only young people can make the changes for the future. So came the idea of bringing them together,” Mahmoud added.
Menna Ghazi, a young accountant at the Central Auditing Organisation, is looking forward to the forum as a participant representing Egypt. Ghazi went a week before the event to prepare receiving guests in Aswan and making sure they are comfortable.
“I have participated in almost all the youth forums, whether as an organiser or a participant and I have learned a lot in these events: time management, communication with people from all over the world, how to promote Egypt as a historic and civilised nation. As an organiser and together with my colleagues, we’ve been introduced to many nationalities and associated with them. We still maintain contacts with all of them. The forums also gave us the chance to bring young people together by introducing various nationalities to each other and where they can exchange their life experiences, cultures and traditions.
“Being a participant has also developed my skills, reflected in our personalities as Egyptians, into becoming open-minded individuals towards accepting the differences of others and learning from them,” Ghazi said. “It taught us how to listen, learn and exchange views, visions and opinions without any prejudice or fanaticism. Actually, these forums have taught us as young people the art of dialogue and persuasion. These platforms have given us the opportunity to work on strengthening ties between us Egyptians and our counterparts in Africa and all over the world. They have revived existing relations among young people through events like this forum and the Africa Cup of Nations in June. We all need each other because there are mutual benefits among us as leaders of the future in Africa. That is why we should cooperate more in economic investment that would benefit us all, and our role is to acknowledge our African counterparts in the role of Egypt in Africa.”
Alaa Zein, Egyptian national coordinator of the African Artists Peace Initiative, told the Weekly that African and Arab youth share the same challenges and have a lot in common. “One is being misperceived and looked at by the world as being Third World countries that need more development, when indeed they are innovative and creative. They just need that chance to prove it and this forum is the best platform for their initiative, she said.
“The forum is also a great opportunity for African youth to change the world’s misconceptions about Africa as a continent full of hunger and disease. They only remember Africa when it comes to football’s Africa Cup of Nations. This is why Africa should use these occasions more to change such misconceptions,” she added.
Zein, from Aswan, believes selecting the location of any event is most important when it comes to organisation.
“I am a Nubian and Aswan’s culture is the closest to Africa especially to those of Sudan and Ethiopia. We share a lot in common when it comes to clothing, music and traditions. This forum will be the first to change the stereotypical image of Egyptians in Africa and vice versa. Africans will also get the chance to change their typical perception of Egypt as only an African country by geography. They are that, but also Africans by heart.”
*A version of this article appears in print in the 14 March, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: Investing in young people