A major annual study of Africa's governments shows that governance in the North of Africa is no better than in the South. The Ibrahim Index of African Governance included Northern African states for the first time this year, shedding new light on the continent's North-South divide.
The Britain-based Mo Ibrahim Foundation publishes the report on African governance every year. This time round, data was collected on all 53 African countries.
Hania Farhan, who is director of research at the foundation, says overall the results showed a very small improvement in governance across Africa as compared to last year.
She says in some countries, like Liberia, governance has improved significantly in the last year. But she says in others, like Zimbabwe, governance has deteriorated. Most of the analysis is based on 2008 data, before Zimbabwe's unity government came into effect.
"The key thing I think to remember is that really governance is a phenomenon that does not change quickly or significantly over a time unless there is a big event such as a coup, or an election for that matter. We saw for instance in Zimbabwe things gradually got worse but they were not massively worse from one year to the next because it has been a creeping deterioration," she said.
Tunisia is the only North African country to make it into the top ten. Farhan says North African countries scored well in human development and sustainable economic opportunity categories but badly in others. "Unsurprisingly, We also found that the north African countries did a lot worse in the area of participation in human rights, for example, than they did in the other categories," he said.
Alex Vines, head of the Africa program at London's Chatham House, says the low score for North African countries is unsurprising. "A number of heads of state in North Africa have changed constitutions recently. In fact all heads of state in north Africa could remain heads of state until death," he said.
He says the perception that there is a clear divide between North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa is not based on the facts. "The idea that North Africa is different from sub-Saharan Africa I think is an artificial one. Certainly in terms of the Sahelian countries - so countries like Niger or Burkina Faso or Mali but even wider in West Africa, countries like Senegal - take some inspiration from ideas and trends that happen in North Africa," he said.
Mo Ibrahim, who funds the foundation that published the report, says it is conflict countries that score lowest on the Index. He also says many of the lowest scorers are cursed by mismanaged resources, including Gabon, Angola, Libya, and Sudan.
This year Mauritius topped the index for the third year running followed by Cape Verde and the Seychelles. The bottom three were Somalia, Chad, and Zimbabwe. South Africa, the host of next year's World Cup, is ranked 9th most dangerous in the category of personal safety.