The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) has said the ongoing West Africa Business Forum is to support women and youth entrepreneurs to grow and sustain their businesses.
Mrs Ngone Diop, Sub-Regional Director, West Africa Office, UNECA said this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) at the forum in Lagos on Wednesday.
The forum titled “Empowering Women and Youths to Spur Africa’s Transformation Agenda” is the first in its series.
Diop said the forum emphasised that the growth and sustenance of the businesses were done through engagement with women and youth in different sectors of the economy.
“The young entrepreneurs, like in IT, are doing very well but there are certain challenges, which I call potential opportunities, which are there but they need someone to really support them, giving them the information and the market, be it regional or continental for them to grow.
“They should be able to create wealth to contribute to the change process using the African Continental Free Trade Area as an anchor to doing business to grow, to transform, to develop the region and the continent.”
The sub-regional director said that the forum was a high-level one that had the support of major players and several partners and involved several comprehensive activities.
“I like to mention that this is not a forum per se; this is not a mainstream normal forum because, before time, there were a lot of comprehensive activities.
“I referred to the pre-forum consultation for each sector identifying those key players and having interaction with them, I have mentioned the survey we have put in place and people have completed the survey, all of which gives us findings, plus the discussions and engagements we are having.
“It gives us what it takes to seek for purpose and inform the next step; how we can build the business linkages, what kind of platform we have. This is a high-level regional forum, paving the way for the transformation in West Africa.”
She expressed the gratitude of the commission to take the responsibility forward with a view to achieving results to the benefit of West Africa.
Diop also stressed the importance of the involvement of all in the business ecosystem of the region to share a common vision.
“It starts with the usefulness of our population; it provides such important potentials needed to be harnessed together.
“Together is important because meaningful change or results cannot be made alone.
“Everybody has to be on board and have a vision for people to follow and to say this is something we believe in, we would like to work towards and are committed to.”
She reiterated the “high commitment” of the ECA to building business linkages and bringing transformation and change in West Africa.
“We have the resources we need. When there are dynamic young people and women in the business ecosystem, the right mix of policies and a unique framework namely the AfCFTA; what is needed is more work and more hard work,” she said.