The World Bank, in a report released Tuesday, says some African countries have made significant improvements in the way they govern themselves. But the survey, covering 200 rich and poor countries, says progress has been uneven.
World Bank researchers say, over the past eight years, several African countries made advances in different areas. It says Kenya, Niger, Sierra Leone made progress in freedom of expression and allowing citizens more participation in choosing leaders.
Algeria and Liberia, it says, strengthened the rule of law. In the area of political stability, Sierra Leone and Algeria are mentioned again. These two countries, along with Angola, Libya, Rwanda, are praised for improving their political stability.
Report co-author Daniel Kauffman says the data show it is possible to make considerable progress in a short period of time.
"You start to see results within five to eight years, as we've seen in the governance data, but also in terms of a pick up in (economic) growth, as we've seen in countries like Tanzania."
But the World Bank report says some African countries, such as Zimbabwe, Ivory Coast and Equatorial Guinea, have moved backwards.
The study covered six areas of governance, including the rule of law, control of corruption, political stability, absence of violence and the capacity of the state to implement effective development policies.
The study asserts that effective governance leads to economic success. It says that, over time, good governance (strong institutions) will lead to a tripling of per capita incomes. Kauffman cites the example of Ireland.
"Between 1990 and 2005, 15 years, Ireland goes from 13 thousand (dollars of per capita income) to 39 thousand. It is now one of the richest countries in the world. It is a great success story."
The study finds that some developing and transition countries have matched the good governance levels of advanced industrial nations. These include Botswana, Chile and Estonia, which are described as vibrant democracies with little corruption.