South Africa, Botswana, and Namibia lead the African continent in promoting prosperity.
This is according to the 2008 Legatum Prosperity Index, which defines prosperity as a holistic combination of material wealth and life satisfaction, measuring how well nations are promoting both economic growth and quality of life.
Australia holds the top spot, narrowly ahead of Austria and Finland; Yemen ranks last, following several African nations including Zimbabwe, Zambia and Mali.
The Prosperity Index assesses 104 nations around the world by measuring 44 different indicators of both economic competitiveness and liveability.
Of the 15 African nations featured in this year's Index, South Africa (38th) and Botswana (45th) rank in the top half of the country list.
Well-governed Botswana has, over a period of 30 years, achieved one of the fastest rates of income growth in the world, despite still-high HIV/AIDS infection rates.
Namibia trails closely behind Botswana in 55th place. It is unique in the region in having no severe weaknesses and one notable strength – equality of opportunity.
South Africa has enjoyed success in enabling individual entrepreneurship by lowering the costs of formalising a business.
The other African countries are situated in the bottom quartile of the Index due to poor governance, low levels of education, high dependence on foreign aid, chronic unemployment and low average life expectancies.
While low incomes are a drag on prosperity, African nations maintain comparatively high levels of social support via strong communities and religious life. Large proportions of the population also believe that working hard will enable them to get ahead.
Dr William Inboden, senior vice-president of the Legatum Institute comments: "True prosperity consists of more than money. It also includes happiness, health, and liberty. The Prosperity Index shows that in addition to economic success, a society's prosperity is based on strong families and communities, political and religious liberty, education and opportunity, and a healthy environment."
Australia leads the Index because of its strong performance in education, governance, and promoting entrepreneurship. All successful countries demonstrate several common attributes, with the top 10 scoring especially high on five economic indicators:
* Growth in invested capital;
* Good governance on economic issues;
* Commercialising innovation;
* Good governance on political issues; and
* High incomes.
All but Singapore and Hong Kong scored nearly as well on community life and family life indicators, which are important measures of social capital.
Conversely, the bottom 25% of the Index countries received especially low marks on the above same indicators as well as freedom of choice. They are particularly burdened by low incomes and high dependence on foreign aid.
The 2008 Prosperity Index finds that both individuals and governments have a role to play in promoting national prosperity.
Alan McCormick, Legatum's MD, says: "The 2008 Legatum Prosperity Index reveals that governments alone cannot mandate prosperity, but they can foster an environment that encourages prosperity through reduced dependency on aid and the implementation of wise policies that enable citizens to lead productive lives.
"Individual citizens are responsible for taking advantage of the opportunities that accompany increased freedom and privilege."