Mauritius was ranked first among African countries in the latest Best Countries for Business poll by Forbes, reinforcing its status as the gateway to the emerging continent.

With a population of around 1.3 million and a GDP size of $11 billion as of December 2013, the island economy’s scorecard showed a GDP growth of 3.3%, GDP per capita of $8,700 and trade balance of -12.5% of GDP to win top honors in Forbes’ eighth annual ranking of the Best Countries for Business.

Together withMauritius, which came 29th in global rankings,South Africa, Rwanda, Botswana and Zambia rounded up the top 5 African nations at 41st, 49th, 60th and 68th place respectively.

However, West Africa saw a surprise upset as Ghana came sixth among African countries, beating Nigeria hollow. African’s second largest economy Nigeria trailed the list at 114, while its fellow West African economy premiered in the top 100, taking 69th position.

Mauritius’ fellow island economies, Cape Verde (global rank: 71st) and Seychelles (72nd) also turned in good performances, coming 7th and 8th respectively among African countries. Tunisia and Morocco rounded up the top 10 with global ranks of 77 and 78 respectively.

Coming to the rest of the world, Ireland received top honors for the first time, from a lowly 6th last year. New Zealand, the smallest economy in the top 10 at a GDP of $170 billion compared to an average GDP size of $508 billion across the first 10 countries, moved one slot down to second place. Hong Kong came third for the second straight year, although economic growth has slowed for the international trade and finance center.

The rest of the top 10 read largely like a who’s who of Scandinavian nations: Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Norway grabbed 4th, 5th, 6th and 9th positions respectively. Other entrants in the top 10 were Singapore at 7th and Canada at 8th, which also served as the largest economy in the top 10 with a GDP size of a whopping $1.8 trillion. Netherlands rounded up the top 10 at last place.

However, the US slipped in the ranking for the fourth year in succession, dropping to 14th place from second in 2009 and 12th in 2012.

Also, among the emerging BRIC economies (Brazil, Russia, India and China), Brazil was placed highest at the 80th position on the list, followed by Russia (91st), China (94th) and India (98th).

Forbes graded 145 countries on 11 metrics, including property rights, innovation, taxes, technology, corruption, freedom (personal, trade and monetary), red tape, investor protection and stock market performance.

The survey was based on values calculated till December 2013 from market performance based on each country’s major stock index returns for 12 months sourced from Heritage Foundation, World Economic Forum, Transparency International and Freedom House among others.

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