AFRICA had the potential to become the next "global energy hub", but for this to happen nearly 110000 skilled workers were required, experts said in Johannesburg yesterday.

Former African leaders and experts met at Wits University to talk about leadership and skills creation in the energy sector. The meeting came ahead of Africa Day today.

Charles Stith, director of the African Presidential Centre in the US, said measures needed to be taken to draw in and retain skills on the continent if it was to make the most of the opportunity, as countries worldwide experienced declining resources and were turning to resource-rich Africa.

"African leaders need to do something to make it attractive for skilled Africans to stay in the continent or return," he said. Regional co-operation, efficiency and enhanced markets were crucial to meeting Africa's energy potential, he said.

Kenneth Jennings, MD of K2J Environmental in the US, said a concerted effort was needed in education to prepare the groundwork. "This has to happen at universities, schools and within the public."

Tunde Fahm, executive director of Camac International in the Cayman Islands, said it was up to African leaders to create policies conducive to the development of energy.

"As long as we have good leadership at an African Union level, I believe anything is possible. But from the leadership shown here today, we are capable of doing a lot better to become the world energy hub," he said.

Chris Sattler, CEO of Uranium One, said demand for uranium and nuclear energy was rising and the market was expected to grow to £250m.

"Africa is expected to be the place to drive uranium and nuclear demand and growth," he said. Africa could benefit from sustainable, reliable and cheap energy, he said. "(About) 8,3-million schoolchildren could be helped through government revenue."

Mr Jennings said it was undeniable that Africa was energy rich, but it had to develop an energy security plan or the benefits would pass it by.

"Much more on energy security is needed," he said.

Mr Jennings also said public-private partnerships, as well as political stability, were essential.