“The African continent needs a strategic vision for the next 15 years to define a long-term infrastructure plan that will support social and economic growth and help confront the challenges of a demographic boom,” Pietro Salini, chief executive of Salini Impregilo, told the Italy Africa Business Forum, hosted in Milan by Assolombarda, Italy’s largest business association in the northern Lombardy region. The forum was organized by E4Impact Foundation, which supports the creation of a new managerial class on the continent. It has Salini Impregilo as a founding member.

These entrepreneurs, together with an infrastructure development plan, can play an important role in dealing with the problems caused by the demographic boom, which Salini described as a major challenge for the continent. The world’s population of 7.6 billion is expected to reach 8.6 billion by 2030, 9.8 billion in 2050 and 11.2 billion in 2100, according to the United Nations. Africa is the only continent where the population is expected to double by 2050.

“In recent years, many African countries have grown in an exponential way compared with OECD countries. With the youngest population in the world, an emerging middle class, a new generation of entrepreneurs, a rise in school attendance and significant advances in access to information and technology, there is great potential for structured and continued growth in Africa. But there needs to be a long-term plan that puts at its heart infrastructure development. In addition to encouraging social and economic development wherever public works are done, they allow for the rise of managers, engineers and teachers who will keep working in their respective countries and produce value even after the end of the construction of a single project”, Pietro Salini continued.

“Since it often takes at least 15 years to realise an infrastructure project – from its design to its construction – the continent must act quickly. Otherwise, it risks being overwhelmed by the problems of a young, jobless population”, Salini told the forum.

Since the early 1950s, Salini Impregilo built more than 450 projects in 36 countries. It is still working on large strategic infrastructure projects that are strategic for the continent. In 2017, it had a workforce of about 15,000 people on the continent, most of whom were hired locally. Africa represents 13% of total revenues at the Group.