Posted on July 8, 2010

The Twenty Poorest Nations in the World

Douglas A. McIntyre, Charles B. Stockdale, and Michael B. Sauter, 24/7 Wall St., July 6, 2010


{snip} Eighteen of the poorest countries by GDP per capita are in Africa. That is not surprising given the famine and war that have racked the continent for the better part of the last four decades. Contributing to these hardships is that many of these countries were recently territories or protectorates of European nations.

The concentration of poverty and the lack of national productivity would have looked very different five decades ago. In the 1960s, China and India were relatively poor nations, with huge populations, low literacy rates, and tremendous untapped resources. {snip}

Most of the poorest nations in Africa do not have effective central governments due to instability and civil war. Corrupt officials at all levels bleed money from the economy, “redirecting” aid from the West and “taxing” whatever the country’s immature industries produce on their own.

Many of Africa’s nations are resource-rich. Some have taken advantage of it. Nigeria is one of the largest oil-producing nations in the world. Meanwhile, other African countries with significant natural resources, like the Democratic Republic of Congo, do not have access to the capital needed to create an infrastructure that could exploit its resources.

The greatest problem for many of these counties is that they have limited means to improve their financial conditions. Some do not have arable land, others have negligible deposits of metal, oil, or gas. Each one been perpetually poor. And with a few exceptions, there is only modest hope that their situations will improve in the decades to come. They must rely on whatever aid they receive from the West, and perhaps Russia and China. They are now and likely will remain the poorest nations.

20) Republic of Haiti

*Population: 9.2 million

*GDP (ppp): $11.5 billion

*$GDP Per Capita: $1,338

The poorest nation outside of the African continent, {snip}.

19) Burkina Faso

*Population: 16.2 million

*GDP (ppp): $17.7 billion

*$GDP Per Capita: $1,304

The infrastructure of this west African nation has been plagued by frequent droughts and several coups since the 1980s. This country’s main export is cotton, which due partly to these intense droughts and heavy fluctuations in the industry, has been an unreliable cash crop.

18) Federal Republic of Nepal

*Population: 28.9 million

*GDP (ppp): $31.5 billion

*$GDP Per Capita: $1,205

Land-locked and isolated, one-third of Nepal’s GDP comes from small-time agriculture. Like Burkina Faso, the country has experienced much political instability over the past few decades. While the nation has significant potential for the development of a hydroelectric power infrastructure, this instability, coupled with the nation’s propensity for natural disasters, has left this resource largely untapped.

17) Republic of Uganda

*Population: 33.4 million

*GDP (ppp): $36.9 billion

*$GDP Per Capita: $1,195

Uganda has a great deal of potential with its vast natural resources, particularly precious metals and minerals. {snip} The underdevelopment of a mining infrastructure, as well as a general lack of industrialization, is largely due to large-scale civil unrest and international conflict with neighboring countries, {snip}.

16) Republic of Mali

*Population: 13.7 million

*GDP (ppp): $15 billion

*$GDP Per Capita: $1,172

Another agriculture-heavy region, densely populated Mali relies heavily on its tobacco industry, which makes up at least 50% of total exports. {snip} In particular, the unpredictable and unreliable availability of utilities, including electricity, water and telecommunications has deterred foreign investors and hampered development.

15) Republic of Rwanda

*Population: 11,055,976

*GDP (ppp): $9.9 billion

*$GDP Per Capita: $1,149

{snip} Like several others on this list, this nation is rich in minerals. Efforts to develop this resource, aided by the international perception of increased stability after nearly 1 million deaths during the genocide, have caused mineral production to replace coffee and tea as Rwanda’s main export.

14) Republic of Guinea

*Population: 10.3 million

*GDP (ppp): $10.3 billion

*$GDP Per Capita: $991

Guinea retains significant potential in agricultural and mineral resources, as well as hydroelectric development, but a wide range of issues, including a literacy rate of less than 30% and political uncertainty, has left these industries underdeveloped.

13) Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

*Population: 88 million

*GDP (ppp): $70.9 billion

*$GDP Per Capita: $954

One of the largest and poorest of the African nations, Ethiopia relies heavily on agricultural exports (particularly coffee) to sustain GDP. Heavy droughts, poor farming practices, price fluctuations, and a two-year war with Eritrea hurt the industry, causing many coffee growers to switch to other crops. {snip}

12) Republic of Mozambique

*Population: 22 million

*GDP (ppp): $18.6 billion

*$GDP Per Capita: $933

{snip} Working against massive foreign debt with the aid of international organizations, the nation has managed to garner some attention from investors and has developed a sizable aluminum industry. The growth and export potential of the aluminum industry has been hampered by a sharp drop in the price of the metal since the global economic recession.

11) Republic of Madagascar

*Population: 21.3 million

*GDP (ppp): $19.7 billion

*$GDP Per Capita: $932

Until 1990, Madagascar had a socialist-oriented government, which was replaced by one which has relied heavily on the IMF for economic guidance. {snip}

10) Republic of Malawi

*Population: 15.4 million

*GDP (ppp): $11.3 billion

*$GDP Per Capita: $884

{snip} high levels of poverty, HIV/Aids and corruption continue to burden Malawi, one of the world’s most densely populated and least developed countries. In addition, the overuse of agricultural land–the nation’s primary natural resource–has contributed to over half of the Malawian population living below the poverty line. There are plans for exploiting the country’s uranium reserves.

9) Togolese Republic (Togo)

*Population: 6.2 million

*GDP (ppp): $5.3 billion

*$GDP Per Capita: $826

Experiencing ongoing political unrest since gaining independence from France in 1960, Togo is considered to be one of the world’s poorest countries. Led by the universally condemned President Faure Gnassingbe, son of the corrupt political leader Gnassingbe Eyadema, Togo has only recently begun to rebuild its relationship with the international community after years of human rights violations. {snip}

8) Republic of Sierra Leone

*Population: 5.2 million

*GDP (ppp): $4.3 billion

*$GDP Per Capita: $759

Although rich in minerals and agricultural resources, Sierra Leone suffered a ten-year war, which ended in 2002. {snip} The export of diamonds, often called “blood diamonds,” benefits only a small minority of the country. {snip}

7) Central African Republic

*Population: 4.8 million

*GDP (ppp): $3.2 billion

*$GDP Per Capita: $745

A site of constant political turmoil, the CAR has undergone three decades of bumbling military dictatorships, a decade of unruly civilian government, and an unstable transitional government established by a military coup. All of this has happened since gaining independence from France in 1960. There is great potential for economic growth within CAR’s timber and diamond industries, however years of corruption and political instability have undermined this progress.

6) Republic of Niger

*Population: 15.9 million

*GDP (ppp): $10.1 billion

*$GDP Per Capita: $719

{snip} These facts, in addition to Niger’s prolonged history of post-independence military rule, keep the nation as one of the poorest in the world, devastated by disease and corruption.

5) State of Eritrea

*Population: 5.8 million

*GDP (ppp): $3.7 billion

*$GDP Per Capita: $679

{snip} The country’s single party government, run by the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice, maintains total control over the economy through military force and the expansion of government-owned businesses.

4) Republic of Liberia

*Population: 3.7 million

*GDP (ppp): $1.4 billion

*$GDP Per Capita: $424

As a result of years of civil war and a cycle of incompetent government administrations, Liberia has suffered extensive economic hardships since a 1980 military coup led by Samuel Doe. Fortunately, an abundance of water, timber, and mineral resources offer a chance for salvation for to the nation’s war-ravaged infrastructure.

3) Republic of Burundi

*Population: 9.8 million

*GDP (ppp): $3 billion

*$GDP Per Capita: $400

Having recently emerged from a civil war between the Hutu and Tutsi factions, Burundi’s economy faces many challenges. It is landlocked, lacking in resources, largely uneducated (only one in two children attend school), and one in every fifteen adults has HIV/Aids. {snip}

2) Republic of Zimbabwe

*Population: 11.6 million

*GDP (ppp): $332 MILLION (note: whoa!)

*$GDP Per Capita: $354

One of, if not the poorest nation in the world, Zimbabwe’s economy has suffered from war with the Democratic Republic of Congo and hyperinflation as a result of the overprinting of currency. A violent land redistribution campaign has scared away most potential foreign investors.

1) Democratic Republic of Congo

*Population: 70.9 million

*GDP (ppp): $20.6 billion

*$GDP Per Capita: $332

Although rich with economic resources, the Democratic Republic of Congo has suffered from war and corruption since its independence in 1960. Once the second most industrialized country in Africa, it now has in the lowest GDP per capita in the world. {snip}