The World Bank says 2004 has been a very good year for developing countries, with their economies growing at the fastest pace in three decades.

In its annual global economic report released Tuesday, the World Bank said developing countries will have registered 6.1 percent economic growth this year, with the fastest growth in China, Russia, and India.

The report also says global economic growth is expected to slow in 2005 because of rising oil prices. The report went on to say the global economy expanded at about four percent this year, but is expected to slow to 3.2 percent in 2005.

The World Bank classifies most of the nations in the world as developing countries, while identifying the following as high-income: Japan, Australia, the United States, Canada, and most of Western Europe.

Strong Growth in Middle East, North Africa

The Bank estimates the regional economy of the Middle East and North Africa will grow 4.7 percent for 2004, and predicts similar increases over the next two years.

In its annual report, the World Bank says high oil prices contributed to robust growth in both oil producing and importing countries in the region.

But it says perceived increases in risk related to the war in Iraq reduced foreign investments in the region. The war also boosted activity in several countries because of the increased demand for logistics and heavier traffic through the Suez Canal.

The World Bank says that long-term success for the region depends on how well non-oil sectors function.

Africa Lags Behind Rest of World in Economic Growth

The Bank says economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa has improved since the 1990s, but is slower than almost anywhere else in the world.

An annual report issued by the bank Tuesday says the region's estimated gross domestic product, or G.D.P., will grow by 3.2 percent in 2004.

It said growth in oil-producing African countries was strong at 4.4 percent but was substantially down from the 7.9 percent recorded in 2003.

The bank says in South Africa, Africa's strongest economy, growth was hampered by the 40 percent appreciation of the local currency.

The bank said Ethiopia, one of the poorest countries in the world, had estimated 6.2 percent growth in 2004 due to improved weather conditions and structural reforms. It also said Malawi, Rwanda, Burundi, the Central African Republic, Madagascar and the Democratic Republic of Congo showed improvement.

World Bank Predicts Growth in Latin America, Caribbean

The World Bank says it projects economic growth of 4.7. percent for Latin America and the Caribbean this year, ending three years of stagnation.

In its annual report, the World Bank says it upgraded its forecast from its prior estimate of 3.8 percent because most countries in the region have had a solid year -- and growth has risen sharply in some of the region's larger economies.

The World Bank's top economist for the region, Guillermo Perry, says higher commodity prices, increased capital flows, and stronger growth in the United States, Europe and Japan also influenced the 4.7 percent projection. But the report says major hurricane damage has hurt economic development in several Caribbean countries, and that it may take several quarters before those countries start growing again.

Bank Says Asia Shows Strongest Growth in Years

The World Bank says the East Asia and Pacific region has produced its strongest economic performance since its financial crisis seven years ago.

In its annual report on the global economy, released Tuesday, the World Bank said gross domestic product in eastern Asia has increased by almost eight percent for the second year in a row.

Much of that growth has been led by China, followed by Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand. The report says output in the region is expected to slow somewhat in the next couple of years due in part to a decrease in foreign trade. But experts say if Asia's growth continues as predicted, Africa may replace Asia as the region with the most poor people in the world.

Economic Growth Expected in South, Central Asia

The Bank says economic growth in South Asia is expected to be about six percent for 2004.

That figure represents an economic slowdown for the region, which grew by 7.5 percent in 2003. In its annual report on Global Economic Prospects, the World Bank says much of the slowdown was caused by poor rainfall that limited the region's agricultural output. It said it expects an increase in growth next year.

It also indicated South Asian service and manufacturing industries would remain strong - and said India had the strongest economy in the region.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.