African business leaders said that with investments made in energy, agriculture and banking among other sectors, global investor interest in Africa, including from the Arabian Gulf, has gathered momentum over the past year, but barriers still remain.
Former prime minister of Mali, Cheick Diarra told a Dubai forum that they are seeing a tremendous amount of reform and good business across the continent.
"I anticipate we are going to see much of Africa growing economically in the years ahead. However, it is not moving as fast as it could, due to governance issues", he said.
Mr Diarra, who is also chairman of the Africa Legal Network added that many African countries still need to enact business-friendly regulations and re-position themselves to be more competitive to get their share of foreign investment.
Although much has been done already to tackle that issue, useful measures could include tax reform, better marketing and a crackdown on corruption said Greg Mills, director of the Brenthouse Foundation, a Johannesburg-based think-tank.
As markets mature, political tensions ease and new governments instigate reforms to attract foreign inflows to under-developed industries, GCC countries including the UAE have ramped up investment activity in Africa.
With a capital investment of $11 billion and 12 per cent market share, the UAE was the second largest investor country in Africa in 2016, according to a report by FDI Intelligence last year. This was higher than Italy’s $4bn contribution in third place, though still some way behind China's $36.1bn. The report also added that UAE-led foreign direct investment into African projects rose 161 percent between 2015 and 2016.
Recent UAE investments into Africa include expansion of Abu Dhabi satellite company Yahsat's broadband services to eight African markets last month; Dubai Islamic Bank, the emirate's biggest sharia-compliant lender, launching operations in Kenya last year; new African routes from local carriers Emirates and Etihad Airways, and Emirates Global Aluminium's bauxite ventures in Guinea.