David Cowan, chief economist and director of Africa at Citigroup, a multinational financial services company, said while "gold rushing (seeking for investment opportunity)" is important for investors in Africa, there are "simple rules" that need to be observed in order to succeed in business.
"The first is, don't get caught up in the hype," Mr Cowan said. He said that the big hype at the moment around Africa is meeting the need of the middle class. "But there is no real middle class in Africa. There is growing wealthy elite and there is very rapidly growing poor population which in itself provides huge market opportunity for discerning investors," he added.
Mr Cowan also said that investors should always think about the exchange rate before carrying out a project in Africa. "Once you get the exchange rate forecast right, it will make a big difference in your projects," he said, adding that although the rate of return on investment in Africa is "very high," investment in the continent requires patience and accurate time-frame.
China Onyemelukwe, managing director, Goldman Sachs, said current and potential investors in Africa should not "follow or be put off by hype."
Mr Onyemelukwe said investors should have local knowledge and local partners before embarking on any project. He said some important qualities that investors need to have in order to succeed in business in any part of the world include transparency, corporate governance and professionalism.Meanwhile, some investors doing business in Africa said while they are trying to contribute to the economic growth of the continent, "African governments should provide, as a matter of importance, support and real participation in projects, including the guaranteeing of the completion of those projects."
Phil Baines, chief operating officer, HSBC Bank, said, "The only thing that Africa lacks is basic infrastructure in terms of power generation, transportation, telecommunication, and refining capability for oil." However, Mr Baines said if African governments can tackle the issue of infrastructure, the region would attract more foreign investment.
"Africa is a huge emerging market and Africa generally possesses natural resources and people who are entrepreneurial by nature," he said, adding that with efforts from various governments "the retail development banks and Africa development banks will play crucial roles in financing developmental projects."
Arnold Ekpe, group chief executive officer of Ecobank Transnational Incorporated, said the aftermath of the global financial crisis saw foreign investment in Africa dip by about 14 percent on the average.
However, Mr Ekpe said, "Policy makers in West Africa in particular have worked consciously to improve the investment and the banking environment in those markets as we see interest rate, for example, in single digit and inflation in single digit; a development that has not happened for a very long time."
He said with the "intense competition" across the world in terms of attracting available trade and investment capital, there is need for "a more coordinated and organised approach by African leaders to trade and investment issues in order to attract foreign investors into the region."
He said the demand for cars, electronics, mobile phones and other consumers variables which is on the increase in Africa is a good signal for investors to take advantage of, adding that the increase in demand was "due to the emergence of a young technology-driven society with growing disposable income and great expectations."