ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Governance has improved in almost two-thirds of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa, according to an index published on Monday.
The 2008 Ibrahim Index of African Governance said 31 of 48 sub-Saharan nations recorded higher scores than in last year’s survey, with Liberia the best improver. Mauritius was the best-run country and Somalia the worst.
“Obscured by many of the headlines of the past few months, the real story coming out of Africa is that governance performance across a large majority of African countries is improving,” said Mo Ibrahim, whose foundation runs the index.
“Progress is being made across the continent,” he added, launching the index in Ethiopia.
“I hope these results will be used as a tool by Africa’s citizens to hold their governments to account.”
Improvements in governance are cited by investors as one reason for unprecedented financial flows to Africa in recent years, along with booming Asian investment, rises in commodity prices and debt relief.
Ibrahim, a Sudanese-born telecommunications entrepreneur, also gives a $5 million leadership prize to African leaders to promote democratic principles and combat corruption. Mozambique’s former President Joaquim Chissano won last year.
For the latest index, nations were judged by criteria including economic stability, corruption, security, rights, laws, elections, infrastructure, poverty and health.
The index, however, uses data that is two years old.
Mauritius, one of Africa’s most stable and prosperous nations, was top with a score of 85.1 out of 100.
It was followed by fellow Indian Ocean nation Seychelles, then another island state Cape Verde. Botswana came fourth, and regional economic power-house South Africa was fifth.
The index hailed economic progress on the continent, with thirty countries showing an improvement in a sub-category of macroeconomic stability and financial integrity.
Forty countries increased their score for Internet access and 44 for phone subscribers.
Mired in civil conflict since 1991 and without an effective central government, Somalia propped up the index at a dismal 48th place with just 18.9 points.
Almost as bad were Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad and Sudan — all affected by conflict too.
Best improver Liberia rose five places to 38th, scoring 48.7 points.
Ibrahim foundation board member Mary Robinson, a former president of Ireland, said the 2008 index showed improvements in rights and participation around the continent.
“More sub-Saharan African countries than ever are holding democratic elections, and I am hopeful that this will help form the platform for continued progress,” she said.
The Mo Ibrahim Foundation, whose Web site is www.moibrahimfoundation.org, said the index was compiled by a team from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.
Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Matthew Tostevin