By Karin Strohecker
LONDON, Oct 5 (Reuters) - Progress in governance across Africa has stalled since 2011, with deteriorating safety and lack of economic opportunity overshadowing any gains made on the human rights front especially in resource-rich nations, a survey said on Monday.
The Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG) - the most comprehensive survey of its kind on the continent - rates 54 African nations against criteria such as security, human rights, economic stability, just laws, free elections, corruption, infrastructure, poverty, health and education.
Mauritius held onto its top spot, followed by Cape Verde, Botswana, South Africa and Namibia, but overall the index has improved just 0.2 basis points over four years and half of the top ten ranked countries have declined, the survey found.
"This is certainly a stagnation," said Elizabeth McGrath, director of the IIAG, founded by Sudanese telecoms tycoon Mo Ibrahim as an independent project to promote better governance and economic development in Africa.
She noted that the category of sustainable economic opportunity - relating to governments' efforts to provide an appealing environment for investment, business and towards developing a more prosperous society - had suffered the biggest decline over the past four years.
The deterioration was caused by a worsening in the business environment for four straight years, McGrath said, adding that soundness of banks had shown a double-digit decline.
RELIANCE ON COMMODITIES
Much of Africa depends on the production and export of commodities - from oil-reliant Nigeria and Angola to copper-rich Zambia or bauxite miner Guinea. Recent sharp commodity price falls are expected to take a heavy toll on these economies.
But data used for the IIAG survey ends in 2014 and would not have fully captured the end of the commodities super-cycle, McGrath said.
"But we certainly are seeing the resource-rich countries deteriorate in sustainable economic opportunity," she said, adding that 11 of Africa's 16 commodity exporting countries had seen a worsening in that category.
The report did highlight some positive trends, noting improvements in infrastructure across the continent, thanks to better telephone and IT systems, as well as air transport.
Ivory Coast - Africa's largest cocoa producer - tops the list of the ten biggest improvers over the past four years following a decade of political turmoil and civil war.
Others to move up are Zimbabwe, Senegal, Kenya, Togo, Morocco, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Madagascar and Tunisia. Together, they represent almost a quarter of Africa's population.
Ivory Coast now ranks 35th on the infrastructure front, well above Africa's largest economy Nigeria which stands 39th on the list, below Burundi, Cameroon and Djibouti.
(Reporting by Karin Strohecker; editing by Ralph Boulton)
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