The Africa CEO Forum kicked off in Geneva on Monday.
African economies were hit hard in 2016 by low commodity prices, but a modest recovery from slow growth is forecast for 2017.
Africa CEO Forum president Amir Ben Yahmed said: "The two biggest economies — Nigeria and SA, which make up 45% — have been very hard hit. There’s concern for the economic situation."
The conference barometer — a survey of the about 1,000 CEOs attending the conference — showed:
• 62% of CEOs said their companies had experienced the effects of the economic slowdown in the past few months;
• 71% were optimistic about business on the continent in 2017; and
• 92% expressed confidence in economic growth.
Yahmed said while progress had been made in the past 15 years, there was still a lot to be done. African states needed to fight against fraud and corruption while pushing for economic diversification and regional integration.
Global foreign direct investment (FDI) increased by 9% in 2016 but Africa accounted for only 7% of global FDI.
IMF director for Africa Abebe Amero Selassie said: "A lot of negative ideas are circulating in the region about a difficult economic climate and structure. Africa’s potential is immense. So much progress has been made in the past 25-odd years."
Selassie said economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa had decelerated sharply over the past couple of years. Economic growth in Africa was below 2.5% while in sub-Saharan Africa growth was between 1.4% and 1.5%.
"It’s reminiscent of previous lows in the region. There’s a sense that Africa has been impacted by the fall in commodity prices and lower growth."
The medium-term growth rate was projected at 3.7%.