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    With a median age of 25 years old, Africa is a continent with the youngest population in the world. It is also estimated that the continent’s population will double by the middle of the century. While its young population is one of its greatest assets, the continent is faced with massive youth unemployment, with lack of access to education, jobs and finance plaguing the continent’s youth. Like much of the continent, youth unemployment in South Africa is staggering, with nearly 64.4% of those aged 15 to 24 and 42.9% of those aged 25 to 34, unemployed. In a recent interview discussing what the AfCFTA holds for women and youth in 2022, H.E. Wamkele Mene, Secretary-General of the AfCFTA Secretariat, said the reason there is a great deal of emphasis on young Africans and SMEs led by women, is that they are the drivers of the African economy. SMEs run by women account for close to 60% of Africa’s GDP, creating about 450 million jobs (https://www.un.org/osaa/news/what-afcfta-holdswomen-and-youths-2022).

    South Africa is currently responsible for 26% of intra-African exports and 16% of intra-African imports and it is anticipated that the AfCFTA will see intra-African trade double by 2035, which translates into myriad opportunities for South African businesses, but what does it mean for the country’s women and youth? The ATSA 2022 will bring together industry experts and thought leaders from within South Africa and across the continent to discuss what South Africa’s involvement with the AfCFTA means for the country’s women and youth and how to foster a climate conducive to entrepreneurship in the country. As with our inaugural event last year, the ATSA 2022 conference will bring together government and non-governmental institutions; academics; entrepreneurs; corporates; project developers; financiers; African economists; government officials; policy makers; institutional investors; development banks; commercial banks; fund managers; private equity investors; multilateral financial institutions; technology providers; IT and ecommerce companies.

    South Africa has historically been viewed as an African powerhouse and is poised to become a key player in the larger continental context of the AfCFTA. The ATSA 2022 will serve as a hybrid platform for these diverse stakeholders both from within South Africa and the broader continent, to discuss and craft workable strategies for how to ensure women, youth and entrepreneurs are meaningfully.