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If you’re investing in Africa, patience is required

Gantry cranes at the container terminal at the Port of Kribi, Cameroon

Infrastructure project design and development is typically a long-term endeavor, but in Africa, infrastructure investment is an endurance activity.

Investors that invest in Africa need to be "extremely patient," said Aymeric Saha, managing director of MiDA, the acronym for a group called Mobilizing Institutional Investors to Develop Africa's Infrastructure, which is trying to encourage asset owners to invest in African infrastructure.

Closing a deal in Africa can take four to five years or more. However, this waiting time has fallen after some countries adopted better regulations at the urging of the World Bank, he said.

Before the regulatory changes, a typical $500 million or larger deal could take up to six years to finalize, Mr. Saha said.

The length of time differs depending on the country and the type of infrastructure being built, he said.

In South Africa, a renewable energy project transaction can get done very quickly, often in less than a year, because of regulations designed to encourage development of renewable energy such as solar projects around Cape Town, Mr. Saha said.

"Where it can take time to complete a deal is with a major toll road, where the you have to relocate certain communities and conduct environmental studies," he said. "If it's a road, you have to ensure if any people have to be moved … they are compensated before they build the road."