(From Left) Infrastructure Africa panel moderator Sean Cleary, Cyprian Marowa of the Development Bank of Southern Africa, Dr Martyn Davies of Deloitte, Elisee Sezan of General Electric, Dmitry Shornikov of Rosatom and Simbarashe Mhuriro of Oxygen Africa in Zimbabwe. PHOTO: Karen Sandison/African News Agency (ANA)

JOHANNESBURG - Africa's burgeoning youth population had the potential to be a demographic dividend, but unless properly harnessed could become a demographic nightmare.

This was one of the sentiments expressed on the opening day of the Infrastructure Africa conference taking place at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg on Tuesday.

During the opening plenary session entitled Africa's path to growth - How Infrastructure Development will drive growth in Africa, moderator Sean Cleary warned of the dangers associated if the continent does not get key elements such as infrastructure development right.

Cleary, a former diplomat and Strategic Adviser to the World Economic Forum, outlined three key areas - infrastructure, human capital development and policies - which Africa needed to get right to ensure a prosperous future.

"If we can get infrastructure right, if we can get the human capital development right, and we can get the policies right, Africa's time will come."

He said: "Four out of the ten fastest growing economies are still from sub-Sharan Africa despite the economic recession and the only thing holding Africa back are those three areas.

Sean Cleary. PHOTO: infrastructure-africa.com

"We are focusing on one in particular, the ability to provide the necessary infrastructure that will power manufacturing, industrialisation, communication and services in ways that will enable us to deliver on the rest."

Cleary also stressed the need to get right "policies that will enable those with capital at their disposal to put it at risk in search of reward".

- African News Agency (ANA)