Most African countries have failed to match gains in health, education and welfare since 2000 with better security for their populations or improved rule of law and accountability, according to an index looking at African governance.
The annual Ibrahim index, set up by Sudanese telecoms tycoon Mo Ibrahim, found that since 2000, overall governance has improved in 46 out of 52 African countries - home to 94 percent of the continent's people.
However, only 20 countries - less than half those surveyed - had seen progress in safety and the rule of law over the same period.
"It's a mixed picture. We're moving forward but we should not pat ourselves on the back. There are areas of concern," Ibrahim told a news conference in London to launch the report.
Although there had been a drop in cross-border conflict, several countries including Somalia, Libya, Egypt, Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya had seen an increase in internal strife, Ibrahim said.
"We need to look at these tensions and the fabric of the society (and ask) why is this happening," he said.
Ibrahim defended his decision to concentrate on Africa's progress since 2000, rather than presenting year-on-year changes, saying it gave the "most accurate picture" of the continent based on data and not on perceptions.
"This is reality, a mirror put in front of Africa. Our message is that this is not really a time for African pessimism or African optimism. These things are fashionable," Ibrahim said. "Some years ago we were all pessimistic about Africa (being) a basket case. Now we're all excited about Africa. This is the time to be a little bit more realistic."
Mauritius kept the top spot as the best-ranked country in the index, based on 94 indicators related to human development, sustainable economic opportunity, political participation and human rights, and safety and rule of law.
Botswana was next, followed by Cape Verde, Seychelles and South Africa. Somalia scored the worst, followed by Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Central African Republic and Chad.
Ibrahim said one finding of the index was that the gap between good and bad performers was widening. "That is opposite to our expectations," he said.
Sudan and South Sudan were excluded from the survey because of incomplete data resulting from South Sudan's independence from Sudan in 2011.
Mary Robinson, former Irish president who is now U.N. special envoy for the Great Lakes, suggested that one reason why health and education had made significant progress in Africa was because they were the focus of the Millennium Development Goals.
Robinson, who is also a board member of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, said the next set of development goals to replace the MDGs should address the areas where there had been no improvement.
"It's very good that health and education are improving and human development but it's worrying that the very issues that are not improving are the ones that bring about social cohesion and peace," she told the news conference.
For the fourth time in seven years, no winner was announced for the $5-million Mo Ibrahim award for excellence in African leadership.
Candidates for the prize have to be former heads of state who were democratically elected and left office in the last three years, serving only their constitutionally mandated term and displaying exceptional leadership.
Previous winners of the Ibrahim Prize include: President Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique (2007), President Festus Mogae of Botswana (2008), President Pedro Pires of Cape Verde (2011) and President Nelson Mandela of South Africa (Honorary).
- Additional reporting by Bate Felix in Dakar and Luke Balleny in London