Here is a list of the top 10 poorest countries in the world according to data gathered by the International Monetary Fund and the CIA Wrold Factbook. As you might have guessed 9 out of 10 poorest countries in the world are situated in Africa. The wealth of a country is measured by GDP per capita and it stands for the average value of goods and services a person produced living his country
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10. Afghanistan – $800 (GDP per capita)
Afghanistan is probably the only poorest county in the world that doesn’t need any introduction. Thanks to the plane crashes of 9/11 and the subsequent American quest for revenge almost everyone knows of this poor landlocked South Asian country. What many people don’t realize however is that the country that gave birth to the world’s foremost terrorist Osama Bin Laden is actually called the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. It is a public secret however that history has never seen Afghanistan lose a war. They might be one of the poorest but they know how to fight. Instead of a traditional army they simply resist with small counter attacks that eventually tire out the enemy.
Over 70% of Afghanis live with less than 2$ a day. To make money a lot of people have gone into drug trafficking. Afghanistan is the worlds largest exporter of heroin. The drug problem in this poor country is so large that a drug test in the Afghanistan police force showed that 17% of the countries police officers had lately used drugs. Even worse – only 30% of the police can read! No wonder Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world.
9. Central African Republic – $754
As the unoriginal name suggest this former French colony is right in the middle of Africa. Being among 1 of the poorest countries in the world means that the governmental control of the country is extremely weak. The well-being of the population is entirely dependent on foreign aid and numerous non profit organizations. The very present of aid workers in the country is the largest source of revenue for Central Africans. An estimated 40% of import revenue comes from selling diamonds mined from the countries rich land.
Like other poor African countries in this list the Central African Republic is actually self-sufficient in food but still a lot of people suffer from malnutrition and famine. This is because farm owners rather sell their crops to foreign countries with money than to give it all away cheaply to the fellow countrymen. In 2006 rebel forces not satisfied with the way things were going attacked government forces, leaving another 50 000 people to die of starvation.
8. Sierra Leone – $747
Sierra Leone is a poor west African country that has English as its official language. Over the years however the locals have used English to derive their own language called Krio. It uses English vocabulary but the grammar comes from 12 different African languages. As is the case with a lot of the top 10 poorest countries, Sierra Leone is also one of the largest diamond manufacturers of the world. If you have seen the movie Blood Diamond you should know that it is based on Sierra Leone.
Between 1991-2001 about 50 000 people were killed in the countries civil war, leaving the people even poorer than they were before. At least 500 000 people fled to neighboring Guinea and Liberia. While everyone is required to go to school, the shortage of schools means that the law requiring to get an education can not be followed. About 66% of adults are illiterate. The health care system also leaves a lot to complain about. Sierra Leone has one of the highest infant mortality rates and lowest life expectancy in the world. No wonder Sierra Leone is one of the poorest countries of the world.
7. Eritrea – $739
The location of Eritrea gives it an advantage of controlling the sea route through the Suez Canal. This is why Italy made it its colony just a year after the opening of the canal in 1869 and why the British conquered it in 1941. In the present Eritrea has been accused by the USA of having relations with terrorists. In 2009 US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accused Eritrea in supplying weapons to Somalian militant group al-Shabab which is believed to have relations with Al Qaeda.
In history it is known that the Egyptian pharaohs used Eritrea as a source of war elephants. Lately however the elephants are almost wiped out from the country. During 1955 and 2001 no elephants were sighted. It is believed that they have fallen victims to the ongoing wars in Eritrea. The whole country only has 824 schools and 2 universities – unnecessary to say illiteracy is a huge problem. No wonder Eritrea is one of the poorest countries in the world.
6. Niger – $736
Niger is one of the poorest countries in Africa – over 80% of its land is covered by the giant desert of Sahara. While it might seem like a hostile place to live it is actually even worse – ongoing droughts are leading to more desertification. One day the whole Republic of Niger might be swallowed by the mighty desert. Currently most of its terrain is made up of desert plains and sand dunes with some savanna around the Niger river. Over 5000 years ago the same land was actually covered with fertile grasslands – the desertification has took place in the last 2000 years.
While the country is over twice the size France, it only has less than 10 000 km of roads of which less than 800 km is paved. All the paved roads are inside the cities. There are no paved roads connecting the cities to each other. Niger is the worlds largest exporter of uranium. Just like other countries in the top 10 poorest countries of the world list, only about 1 in 4 persons have ever attended school. Niger also boasts a small army – it has about 12000 troops and 4 aircrafts .
5. Somalia – $600
Unlike many African countries Somalia has never been officially colonized by any country. The efforts of the British Empire were successfully driven back at least 4 times. While Somalia is situated in Eastern Africa it has close ties to the Arab world. As a Muslim country it also belongs to the Arab League. Probably because of its Islamic background Somalia has one of the lowest HIV and Aids infection rates. Somalia’s friendship with the Soviet Union enabled it to build the largest military in Africa – unfortunately it proved ineffective to withhold the civil war that broke out in 1991.
In recent years the poor people of Somalia have found a new way to make money – hijacking international boats and taking the crew and the cargo as hostage. Piracy in Somalia has become so common that when young boys grow up they wish to become pirates because that’s where the money is. International companies are known to pay pirates from 1 to 20 million dollars just to get the ships back. An oil tanker filled with oil can be worth a few hundred million dollars.
4. Burundi – $401
In addition to being one of the poorest countries in the world this small landlocked African country is known for its wars between the inhabiting competing tribes. The reason Burundi is so poor is because they have never really had any peaceful time between the everlasting civil wars. Corruption, poor access to education, and a high percentage of HIV and AIDS are all the things that Burundi is known for. Approximately 80% of Burundians live in poverty and according to the World Food Programme 57% of children under 5 years suffer from chronic malnutrition. 93% of Burundi’s exports revenues come from selling coffee.
According to a study done in 178 countries the people of Burundi have the lowest life satisfaction in the world. As a result of poverty it is almost entirely dependent on foreign aid. No wonder Burundi is the 4th poorest country in the world.
3. Liberia – $379
Liberia is one of the few countries in Africa that have not been colonized by Europe. Instead, Liberia was founded and colonized by the slaves who escaped from America. These slaves made up the elite of the country and they established a government that closely resembled that of the United States of America. In 1980 the president of Liberia was overthrown and a period of instability and civil war followed. After the killings of hundreds of thousands Liberia is in a deep economic crisis. Statistics indicate that about 90% of the population lives below $1.25 a day.
As the 3rd poorest country in the world, Liberia has an unemployment rate of 85%. Just as its neighbor Sierra Leone, Liberia was known for its blood diamonds during the civil war. As a results the United Nations banned diamond exports from the country. Compared to the 7 children each women gives birth to on average – the life expectancy of 44 years seems incredibly short. No wonder Liberia is one of the poorest countries in the world!
2. Democratic Republic of the Congo – $334
Not to be mixed with the neighboring Republic of Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo was known as Zaire until 1997. Congo is the largest country in the world that has French as an official language – the population of Congo is about 1 million larger than the population of France (66 million people in Congo vs 65 million in France). The Second Congo War beginning in 1998 has devastated the country. The war that involves at least 7 foreign armies is the deadliest conflict in the world since World War II – it has already killed 5.4 million people. In Africa the war is called African World War. It is estimated that in 2010 at least 45 000 people in Congo are killed monthly.
Congo is also one of the last places on earth with tribes of cannibals. An Mbuti pygmy testified before the UN that their people were hunted down and eaten like animals by neighboring tribes. Eating other people is a way to survive the famines that is affecting about 67% of the population. Congo is also believed to be the worst place in the world for women – it has the most rapes per women in a year. Locals believe that sleeping with a virgin girl will cure AIDS.
1. Zimbabwe – $0.1
Thanks to hyperinflation Zimbabwe has become the poorest country in the world. It used to one of the 10 poorest countries but the 87.9 sextillion percent inflation has left the countries economy into ruins. The inflation worrying the country since 2007 saw the government printing 100 billion dollar bills that were only good enough to buy a few eggs. In August 2008 there was even a time where the government simply decided to take 10 zeroes off of every bank not – simply because they didn’t fit very well. Just 6 months later they removed an additional 12 zeroes. The 87 sextillion percent inflation meant that throughout the year prices kept doubling every 1.1 days. In other words – when an apple would cost 1 dollars on Monday it would already cost 64 dollars on Sunday. In a month the same apple would cost just over 1 billion dollars.
The largest bank note that the government of Zimbabwe released was the 100 trillion dollar bill issued on January 2009. In addition to the economic problems the life expectancy of Zimbabwe is the lowest in the world – 37 years for men and just 34 for women. One of the problems for the early deaths are the 20.1% of the population with HIV and AIDS. The health issues aren’t seeing any improvement – in 2009 3 of the 4 largest hospitals and the countries only medical school was shut down.
For more information about inflation in Zimbabwe check out my post and pictures in my article Inflation in Zimbabwe
Other Notable Poor Countries
- Pakistan – 49th poorest country in the world
- India – 53rd
- Philippines – 55th
- China – 84th
- Russia – 130th
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