In a world of progress and prosperity, the harsh reality of poverty persists in certain regions of the world, particularly in Africa and Asia. These regions are home to some of the poorest countries in the world, including Burundi, Somalia, Mozambique, the Central African Republic, Yemen, Tajikistan, and Myanmar.
The challenges these nations face are multifaceted, hindering their progress toward development. Political instability, corruption, inadequate infrastructure, and limited access to education and healthcare are among the obstacles they encounter. Historical legacies of weak governance, conflicts, and environmental conditions also contribute to their dire circumstances.
The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated the difficulties faced by the poorest countries in the world, intensifying food insecurity and reversing poverty reduction efforts. According to the World Bank, the pandemic pushed an additional 119 to 124 million people into extreme poverty in 2020 alone. Lockdown measures, disruptions in global supply chains, and reduced economic activity have disproportionately affected the most vulnerable populations within these nations. As a result, access to food, healthcare, and education has become even more limited, perpetuating these countries’ poverty cycle.
Most analyses solely rely on Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as a measure of a country’s prosperity, overlooking the lived experiences of the average citizen. Therefore, to understand poverty in these countries comprehensively, it is crucial to consider other economic indicators such as the Human Development Index (HDI) and Gross National Income (GNI) per capita. These indicators provide a more robust and well-rounded perspective on a country’s wealth and well-being.
This article aims to shed light on the realities faced by the world’s poorest countries, exploring the underlying factors that perpetuate their impoverishment. We will explore the interplay of economic, social, and political factors that contribute to their disadvantaged status by analyzing various case studies and empirical data from reputable international organizations like the World Bank, United Nations, International Monetary Fund (IMF), Forbes and Bloomberg.
Our analysis will reveal the diverse dimensions of poverty experienced by people living in the poorest countries in the world, examining factors such as life expectancy, education, healthcare, income, and purchasing power parity (PPP) that reflect individuals’ real buying power. By understanding the complexities faced by these countries and raising awareness about their unique struggles, we can develop targeted and effective strategies to improve the lives of the most vulnerable populations.
Top 16 Poorest Countries in the World
|8||Central African Republic||$461.1||$510||0.404||40.40|
|12||Democratic Republic of Congo||$577.2||$550||0.479||48.58|
Burundi, a small landlocked country in East Africa, is one of the world’s poorest nations, facing severe economic and social difficulties. Around 80% of its population relies on subsistence farming, resulting in high food insecurity. Access to basic services like water, sanitation, and electricity is limited, with less than 5% having electricity.
President Evariste Ndayishimiye’s efforts to revive the economy and rebuild diplomatic relationships have led to the resumption of aid from the United States and the European Union. However, Burundi still experiences sluggish economic growth, with projected inflation of 16% this year. Key indicators, including a GDP per capita of $221.5 and a poverty headcount ratio of 65.1%, reflect the country’s economic struggles and high poverty rates.
Although unemployment rates are relatively low, challenges persist in providing adequate healthcare, resulting in a low life expectancy of 62 years. Environmental sustainability is also a concern due to limited forest coverage. Institutional challenges like high crime rates and limited internet usage complicate Burundi’s development landscape.
To address the multifaceted challenges in Burundi, it is crucial to prioritize investments in infrastructure, education, healthcare, and job creation. Additionally, implementing peacebuilding, institution strengthening, and anti-corruption measures is essential for creating a favourable business environment and attracting foreign investment. Achieving sustainable development and improving the well-being of Burundi’s citizens necessitates collaboration among domestic and international stakeholders.
Situated in the Horn of Africa, Somalia faces numerous challenges that hinder its development, making it one of the poorest countries in the world. With a population of approximately 17 million, the country grapples with dire circumstances that require urgent assistance.
Somalia’s GDP per capita is a meagre $447, placing it among the lowest in the world. This figure reflects limited economic opportunities and significant income disparity among the population. About 20% of the workforce in Somalia was unemployed in 2022, worsening poverty and socio-economic instability.
The healthcare system in Somalia is facing severe challenges, leading to a low life expectancy of only 55 years. Limited access to quality healthcare services, high rates of maternal and child mortality, and the prevalence of diseases worsen the population’s well-being and contribute to the cycle of poverty.
A significant concern in Somalia is the lack of access to basic services, particularly electricity, with only 49.7% of the population having access to it. Institutional factors, including weak governance, corruption, and inadequate public administration, undermine the effective delivery of public services and hinder economic development. Ongoing conflict and instability caused by militant groups like Al-Shabab disrupt governance structures and impede development efforts.
Despite the challenges faced by Somalia, there have been positive developments. Government and international efforts have successfully pushed back Al-Shabab from major population centers, bringing stability to certain areas. Additionally, investments in infrastructure, like the Berbera port, have facilitated trade and fostered economic growth in the quasi-independent Republic of Somaliland.
To address the complex challenges in Somalia, a comprehensive approach is needed. This combines economic development, social services, infrastructure, governance, and security efforts. With targeted interventions, there is hope for Somalia to overcome poverty and forge a brighter and more prosperous future for its people.
In southeast Africa, Mozambique is one of the world’s poorest and least developed countries. With a population of nearly 30 million people, over 70 per cent of whom live in rural areas, Mozambique struggles with poverty, development, and social well-being.
One of the key indicators of Mozambique’s poverty is its low Human Development Index (HDI), ranking 180 out of 189 countries. Over 62 per cent of the population lives below the international poverty line, with 21 million people in extreme poverty, surviving on less than $1.90 per day.
Mozambique made modest strides in reducing poverty from 2002 to 2014, but unfortunately, recent developments have reversed this progress. The COVID-19 pandemic, hidden debt crisis, and devastating tropical cyclones have contributed to a significant increase in poverty rates. Particularly in rural areas, where over 95 per cent of households struggle, multidimensional poverty has become more prevalent.
Mozambique is highly vulnerable to climate shocks, which pose a major problem. The country experiences cyclical droughts and flooding, resulting in the destruction of people’s livelihoods. Additionally, there has been a rise in violence and insecurity, especially in the northern regions, leading to displacements and concerns for people’s safety.
Approximately 80 per cent of the population in Mozambique cannot afford a proper diet, and more than 43 per cent of children under the age of 5 suffer stunted growth. Limited access to essential public services such as healthcare, education, clean water, and sanitation aggravates the difficulties the most vulnerable communities face.
The World Bank is actively supporting Mozambique’s development through the Mozambique Country Partnership Framework (CPF) for FY23-27. This initiative aims to promote greener, more resilient, and inclusive development, with a portfolio currently valued at $3 million.
The economic outlook in Mozambique is gradually improving, with projected growth of 6 percent expected between 2023 and 2025.
To achieve development and reduce poverty in Mozambique, it is crucial to prioritize inclusive growth, invest in human capital development, and ensure access to essential services. These efforts will improve the well-being of the people and contribute to the country’s overall progress.
Madagascar, with its rich biodiversity and stunning landscapes, has immense growth potential, but unfortunately, it remains one of the world’s poorest countries. Despite periods of relative stability and minimal violent conflicts, the country has experienced a significant decline of 45% in per capita income since gaining independence in 1960.
The nation’s progress has been impeded by various crises, including political instability, climate-related disasters, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, Madagascar has struggled to achieve significant economic growth, with a GDP per capita of $500.5, just about 8.24% lower than the previous year after facing a significant decline in the growth rate. This has contributed to an increase in the population living below the national poverty line, reaching 75.2% in 2022.
Other attributing factors include weak governance. elite capture, the use of public resources for the high-class at the detriment of the lower class, and other forms of corruption in the government. The private sector, characterized by low investment and competitiveness, has been unable to generate sufficient job opportunities or drive substantial economic development.
The majority of the working-age population in Madagascar is engaged in subsistence agriculture and informal services, hindering the country’s ability to undergo structural economic transformation.
Madagascar urgently needs sustained and robust economic growth to break the poverty cycle. This requires establishing strong institutions, promoting competition, and enhancing transparency in the private sector. Investment in infrastructure, education, healthcare, and the conservation of natural resources is crucial to stimulate development and build resilience.
The World Bank Group’s Country Partnership Framework (CPF) for Madagascar (2023-2027) aims to address these challenges by fostering job creation, improving human capital outcomes, and enhancing resilience against economic shocks.
5. Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone faces significant challenges from the war in Ukraine and the COVID-19 pandemic. Inflation reached 26.1% in 2022 due to food and fuel price increases and currency depreciation.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused a -2% economic contraction in 2020, impacting sectors like services, manufacturing, construction, and agriculture. While growth rebounded to 2.9% in 2021, the Ukrainian conflict has reversed some progress. Rising fuel costs have increased living expenses and worsened food security.
Agriculture, a vital part of the economy, faces challenges like outdated farming practices, limited use of improved seeds and fertilizers, and declining yields. Climate change worsens food security issues with droughts, floods, and rising sea levels.
Sierra Leone struggles with high poverty rates and income inequality. The poverty headcount ratio was 89.9% in 2018, and the Gini coefficient stood at 0.357, indicating wealth inequality. Youth unemployment is at 70%, and access to electricity and clean water remains limited. The country’s Green Growth Index has deteriorated, hindering sustainable development.
The country’s GDP is projected to grow by 3.1% in 2023 and 4.8% in 2024, driven by mining and various sectors’ recovery. Inflation is expected to rise to 27.1% in 2023 but decrease to 20.8% in 2024 as external shocks subside.
Efforts to address poverty and stimulate economic growth include prudent policies, education and basic amenities investments, and boosting sectors like agriculture and tourism require collective support and cooperation from national and international stakeholders.
Afghanistan, located in Central Asia, is one of the poorest nations globally, facing significant economic challenges and deep poverty. The country’s GDP per capita is approximately $520, and the GNI per capita stands at around $550, indicating the dire economic situation. The poverty headcount ratio has increased from 35% in 2001 to 60% in 2020, highlighting the pressing poverty challenges the population faces.
Political instability, ongoing conflicts, and limited access to education and healthcare have hindered economic development and basic service delivery. The economy heavily relies on international aid, subsidising 75% of public spending. However, major gaps in state finances remain, impacting the government’s ability to distribute funds and provide essential services.
Despite some improvements since 2001, Afghanistan remains highly reliant on foreign aid, and poverty and food insecurity continue to grow. Drought, flooding, and climate change exacerbate the existing challenges. Women and girls suffer disproportionately, facing marginalization and restrictions imposed by the Taliban.
Afghanistan’s living standards are among the lowest worldwide, with housing shortages, clean water, electricity, medical care, and job opportunities. The withdrawal of foreign troops in recent years has negatively affected economic growth, as a significant portion of commerce depended on the presence of international forces.
The international community has supported and aided development through donations and donor conferences. However, the government still faces challenges such as low revenue collection, job creation, corruption, weak government capacity, and poor public infrastructure.
Eritrea, a small coastal country in the Horn of Africa, faces several economic and social development challenges
. The country’s economic growth slowed in 2022 to an estimated 2.3% due to various factors, including the impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on energy, fertilizer, and food prices. Eritrea heavily relies on wheat imports from Russia and Ukraine, making it vulnerable to market disruptions. Additionally, the effects of COVID-19 on value chains, climate shocks, and the conflict in northern Ethiopia have further hindered economic progress.
Despite these challenges, there are some positive developments. In 2022, Eritrea experienced growth in the industry and services sectors, driven by private consumption and investment. The recovery in public revenue, fueled by higher international prices for metals and fiscal consolidation, led to a fiscal deficit narrowing. However, Eritrea still faces debt distress, and the current account surplus decreased due to higher energy and food import prices.
Looking ahead, the economic outlook for Eritrea is cautiously optimistic. Real GDP is projected to grow by 2.6% in 2023 and 3.1% in 2024, primarily driven by higher international prices for metals and increased public and private consumption. The fiscal deficit is expected to decrease further, while the current account surplus may decline due to fluctuations in international commodity prices.
8. Central African Republic
The Central African Republic (CAR) is recognized as one of the poorest countries globally, despite its abundant natural resources, including gold, oil, uranium, and diamonds. Unfortunately, the country has struggled to translate its wealth into improved living conditions for its population.
CAR faces numerous challenges in education and healthcare, with residents having limited access to quality services. On average, individuals complete only 4.3 years of schooling, falling short of the expected 7.2 years. Inadequate investment in infrastructure, such as transportation and communication networks, hinders the country’s economic development and ability to attract investment. The reliance on subsistence farming in the agricultural sector perpetuates the cycle of poverty, as farmers struggle to generate sustainable income.
The country’s history of political instability and conflicts has further exacerbated its poverty situation. Violent conflicts and frequent political unrest have resulted in loss of life, displacement, and a complex humanitarian crisis. Food insecurity, high cost of living, limited access to clean water and healthcare, and prevalent diseases like tuberculosis and malaria contribute to the challenges faced by the population.
Approximately 71% of CAR’s population lives below the international poverty line. The country has a significant number of refugees and internally displaced persons, with 613,114 refugees and 641,292 internally displaced persons as of November 2020. The maternal mortality rate is high at 882 per 100,000 live births, and the literacy rate is only 37.4%.
Efforts by organizations like the World Food Program (WFP), USAID, and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) aim to alleviate poverty in CAR through initiatives such as food distribution, specialized nutrition packages, and infrastructure rebuilding. Continued support from these humanitarian organizations is crucial to address the country’s pressing needs.
Liberia, a low-income country in West Africa, is ranked 9th world’s poorest based on GNI per capita. The nation heavily relies on foreign assistance and remittances from the diaspora to support its economy. However, the country continues to grapple with poverty and a poorly functioning economy, despite being rich in water, mineral resources, and forests and having a favourable climate for agriculture.
During the 1990s and early 2000s, Liberia endured a devastating civil war and suffered from government mismanagement, which destroyed its economy and infrastructure. The conflict, driven by disputes over natural resources, inflicted long-lasting damage on the country. Despite some progress since a democratically elected government was installed in 2006, Liberia still faces significant challenges.
The Ebola crisis in 2014-2015 further exacerbated Liberia’s economic struggles. Foreign-owned businesses withdrew from the country, resulting in a loss of capital and expertise. The government had to allocate scarce resources to combat the virus, diverting funds from public investment. Additionally, the prices of key exports plummeted, further impacting the economy. A 2016 survey by the World Bank estimated that nearly 51% of the population lived below the poverty line.
To revitalize the economy in the future, Liberia needs to prioritize economic diversification, increased investment and trade, higher global commodity prices, sustained foreign aid and remittances, infrastructure development, institutional strengthening, anti-corruption measures, and maintaining political stability and security.
Malawi faces multiple challenges, including inflation, exchange-rate instability, and slowing economic growth. Recent events like the cholera outbreak and Cyclone Freddy have further exacerbated the country’s difficulties. Rampant corruption, increasing poverty, and limited economic opportunities have sparked public protests. With over half of its population living in poverty and ranking 174th on the Human Development Index, Malawi urgently needs to address the lack of access to basic services.
To revive the economy, Malawi is actively pursuing an Extended Credit Facility (ECF) program with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and striving to improve the mining and agricultural sectors.
However, the country’s escalating public debt remains a cause for concern, necessitating a focus on fiscal consolidation. To drive development, diversifying the economy, improving trade policies, and fostering a conducive business environment are imperative. Additionally, building resilience against climate change, investing in agriculture and infrastructure, and enhancing disaster risk management are vital components of Malawi’s progress.
Boosting farmers’ livelihoods through crop diversification, improved market access, and targeted support for disadvantaged communities will significantly enhance agricultural productivity and income. Despite prevailing economic challenges, Malawi is poised for improved GDP growth, driven by agriculture, tourism, exports, and foreign direct investment sectors. However, ongoing weather events and international developments may pose risks, while inflation remains a pressing concern.
Addressing climate change, securing funding, and encouraging private sector engagement through clear frameworks are crucial for overcoming these challenges and charting a prosperous future for Malawi.
Niger, a landlocked country in West Africa, remains one of the world’s poorest nations despite its abundant natural resources. With a poverty rate of 48.9% and a low income per capita, Niger faces significant economic hardships.
The country’s economy heavily relies on agriculture, but political instability, chronic food insecurity, and environmental challenges such as droughts and floods contribute to its vulnerability.
Niger’s hot and arid climate poses additional challenges for agricultural production. However, by adopting improved farming practices like utilizing better seeds, employing animal-drawn ploughing, and implementing effective irrigation techniques, cereal and horticultural yields could be significantly increased. This, in turn, would empower rural families to produce enough for their own consumption and generate surplus crops for sale, enhancing their resilience to the impacts of climate change.
Addressing poverty in Niger is crucial due to its young population, high child mortality rates, and limited access to education. By prioritizing initiatives that provide quality education, accessible healthcare, and economic opportunities, the cycle of poverty can be broken, and the living conditions of the population can be improved.
12. Democratic Republic of Congo
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is a country in Sub-Saharan Africa known for its rich natural resources, including minerals, hydropower potential, arable land, biodiversity, and rainforests. However, the majority of the Congolese population has not benefited from these resources due to a long history of conflict, political instability, and authoritarian rule. This has resulted in DRC being one of the poorest nations in the world, with nearly 62% of the population living on less than $2.15 a day.
The political context in DRC has been challenging, with the country experiencing its first peaceful transition of power in 2019. The new government has tried to improve transparency, public sector reforms, and conflict prevention in the eastern region. However, pockets of insecurity still persist, and the upcoming general election in 2023 poses a significant challenge to the country’s stability and ongoing reforms.
Economically, DRC has shown growth driven by the mining sector and exports. However, non-mining sectors, particularly services, have experienced slower growth. The country faces fiscal deficits, inflation, and vulnerability to commodity price fluctuations. The ongoing war in Ukraine has further exacerbated these economic challenges, leading to increased poverty and inequality in the country.
Socially, DRC ranks low on the Human Capital Index, reflecting decades of conflict and fragility. Child stunting, malnutrition, and low-quality education are prevalent issues, with high child mortality rates and limited access to healthcare services. Indigenous peoples in DRC face discrimination, forced displacement, and limited access to basic services. Gender equality is also a significant concern, with women facing barriers to economic opportunities, high rates of gender-based violence, and limited access to education.
The healthcare system in DRC has been severely impacted by protracted conflict and disease outbreaks like cholera, measles, and Ebola. The COVID-19 pandemic has further strained the healthcare system, reducing access to essential services and increasing the incidence of sexual and gender-based violence. The interruption of basic healthcare delivery poses a secondary health crisis that needs to be addressed.
Efforts are being made by various organizations, including Opportunity International, the United Nations, World Bank, and African Development Bank, to address the poverty and development challenges in DRC. These efforts focus on creating economic opportunities, providing funding and training to businesses, improving access to education, and strengthening healthcare systems.
Despite the significant challenges DRC faces, there are opportunities for improvement through sustainable growth, political stability, and targeted interventions that address poverty, inequality, and the needs of the Congolese population.
13. South Sudan
South Sudan, the world’s youngest nation and Africa’s 54th country continues to face immense challenges as one of the poorest countries in the world. Despite gaining independence in 2011, the country has been plagued by civil war, economic stagnation, and instability, which have hindered its development progress and exacerbated poverty.
One of the major setbacks for South Sudan has been the outbreak of civil wars in 2013 and 2016, which have caused widespread destruction and worsened the country’s humanitarian situation.
External shocks such as historic floods and the COVID-19 pandemic have further hampered South Sudan’s economic prospects. The country heavily relies on oil production, and while there was a modest economic recovery after the resumption of oil production, there were limited new investments and production bottlenecks.
An estimated 9.4 million people, accounting for 76% of the population, require humanitarian aid. Women and children are particularly vulnerable in this situation. While the most recent household survey conducted in 2016-17 indicated that 67.3% of the population lived below $2.15 in 2017 purchasing power parity (PPP).
Food security is a pressing concern in South Sudan, with severe acute food insecurity projected to affect 63% of the population during the April/July 2023 lean season. The situation has deteriorated compared to previous years, with a significant increase in households experiencing poor food consumption scores and moderate to severe hunger. Projections based on GDP per capita growth suggest that extreme poverty is likely to increase, reaching 73% of the population by 2024 if the current macroeconomic outlook persists.
Addressing these challenges requires upholding and accelerating the implementation of the peace agreement, strengthening governance and service delivery institutions, and developing sustainable economic and financial management systems.
Despite its diversity and cultural richness, Chad is currently grappling with several pressing humanitarian challenges. These include political uncertainty, food insecurity, and climate instability.
Chad faces significant development challenges, including many people experiencing food insecurity and preventable diseases. With over five million individuals lacking access to sufficient food and 1.7 million suffering from preventable illnesses, the country desperately needs assistance.
One of Chad’s primary resources, Lake Chad, has seen a drastic decline of 90% in its original surface area due to climate change. This loss has led to conflicts over access to the lake, as many depend on it for fishing, farming, and watering their herds. Volatile weather patterns and arid land have also impacted agricultural productivity, prompting collaborations between Chadians and scientists to develop indigenous farming methods and rehabilitate dry lands.
Chad hosts a significant number of refugees and internally displaced persons, with over 555,000 refugees and 400,000 IDPs seeking safety within its borders. Despite its own governance challenges, Chad remains open to refugees from neighbouring countries impacted by violence and climate change, such as South Sudan, Cameroon, the Central African Republic (CAR), and Nigeria.
The country’s healthcare system faces significant challenges, including a shortage of medical professionals, with less than one doctor for every 10,000 people. Chad has also grappled with the COVID-19 pandemic, requiring essential medical equipment and effective communication strategies to reach remote communities.
Chad ranks low on the Human Development Index, standing at 187th out of 189 countries, with 42% of the population living below the national poverty line. By providing holistic and sustainable solutions to address the challenges faced by vulnerable populations, Chad can be able to improve development.
Gambia is a predominantly rural country located in Senegal in West Africa, grappling with various causes of poverty. With a population of approximately two million people, the country heavily relies on agriculture, which employs 75% of its population and contributes one-third of its GDP. The country experienced a growth rate of 4.3% in 2022, driven by improved agricultural production, increased government consumption, and infrastructure spending.
However, food insecurity and increasing vulnerability to climate events pose significant challenges, perpetuating poverty in the Gambia. While the country has multiple causes of poverty, two primary factors stand out: a lack of economic diversity and inadequate agricultural proficiency and productivity.
Other contributing factors to poverty in the Gambia include a high illiteracy rate of 45%, a 1.7% adult prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS, and limited access to proper healthcare. The country faces challenges in providing adequate healthcare services, with a low ratio of hospital beds per capita and high infant mortality rates.
Gambia needs to intensify efforts to address these economic challenges especially sustained reforms, and effective policies are crucial for sustainable development and poverty reduction in the Gambia.
16. Guinea Bissau
Guinea-Bissau, located on West Africa’s Atlantic coast, is one of the world’s poorest and most politically unstable countries. The country has a history of political instability and has experienced multiple coup attempts since gaining independence from Portugal in 1974. This political instability has hindered economic growth and poverty reduction efforts.
The economy of Guinea-Bissau heavily relies on agriculture, with cashew nuts and rice being the dominant crops. Cashew nuts account for 95% of the country’s exports and are a crucial source of income for the population. However, this heavy reliance on cashew nuts makes the economy vulnerable to trade shocks.
The country has faced challenges in reducing poverty due to political instability, inefficient public spending, and inadequate service delivery in rural areas. The rural population, which constitutes a significant portion of the workforce, has been particularly affected by poverty, food insecurity, and malnutrition. Factors such as irregular rainfall and volatile imported rice and cashew nuts prices have contributed to chronic food insecurity.
Despite the challenges, there have been some positive developments in Guinea-Bissau’s economy. Real GDP growth has shown signs of expansion, and there have been improvements in electricity and water supply. However, sustaining and accelerating poverty reduction will require addressing political instability, diversifying the economy, improving fiscal discipline, and implementing structural reforms.
International organizations such as the IMF and the World Bank emphasized the importance of addressing inequality, enhancing resource delivery, and investing in technology and market support systems to reduce poverty in Guinea-Bissau further.
Metrics and Indicators Used To Rank the Poorest Countries in the World
Poverty is a deeply complex problem that cannot be adequately measured or understood by relying on a single indicator alone. Its multifaceted nature demands a comprehensive approach when evaluating the poverty levels within a country. Therefore, a combination of multiple indices is crucial to obtain a more accurate, comprehensive, and holistic analysis of poverty.
This article explores four key indicators that are commonly used to determine the wealth or poverty of a nation. These indicators include the GDP Per Capita, GNI Per Capita, the Human Development Index (HDI) & Human Capital Index, and the SDG Index.
1. GDP Per Capita and GNI Per Capita
GDP Per Capita and GNI Per Capita are economic indicators used to evaluate a country’s wealth and standard of living. GDP represents the total value of goods and services produced within a country, while GNI encompasses domestic and international income generated by citizens. Countries with low GDP and GNI per capita are typically associated with higher poverty levels.
The income of the countries listed in this article was assessed using the metric of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita, which divides the country’s total economic output by its population, providing an average income measure and obtaining a more comprehensive understanding of poverty, we also considered the Gross National Income (GNI) per capita.
GNI per capita considers the income generated by residents and businesses of a country, regardless of their location. This indicator provides a more precise representation of the economic well-being of individuals within a nation
Generally, countries with low GDP and GNI per capita are considered to have higher poverty levels.
2. Human Development Index (HDI) and Human Capital Index (HCI)
The Human Development Index (HDI) is a composite measure developed by the United Nations to evaluate a country’s overall development. It incorporates life expectancy, education, and income indicators, providing insights into a country’s quality of life beyond economic factors.
Similarly, the Human Capital Index (HCI) measures a country’s knowledge, skills, and health of its population, contributing to economic productivity and development.
It evaluates factors like educational attainment, workforce participation, and health indicators, highlighting the importance of human capital for long-term sustainable development.
By including the HDI and HCI, we were able to capture a comprehensive understanding of poverty and underdevelopment in the poorest countries. These indices helped us assess poverty’s social and human aspects, such as education, health, and overall well-being. Hence, giving us a nuanced evaluation of poverty of the countries.
3. SDG Index
In our assessment of the world’s poorest countries, the third factor we considered is the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) framework established by the United Nations.
The SDGs provide a comprehensive approach to addressing global challenges, including poverty eradication.
The SDG Index measures a country’s progress in achieving these goals, encompassing various dimensions of sustainable development, such as poverty reduction, education, healthcare, gender equality, and environmental sustainability. Countries with lower SDG Index scores often indicate higher poverty levels and slower progress in sustainable development.
Recognizing the importance of education in poverty alleviation, we specifically examined access to quality education. Education equips individuals with essential skills and knowledge for economic advancement, and evaluating educational opportunities provides insights into a country’s development potential.
Furthermore, we considered the dimension of healthcare when assessing poverty. Access to basic healthcare services and indicators such as life expectancy, infant mortality rate, and maternal mortality rate helped us understand a country’s healthcare infrastructure and the overall well-being of its population.
By analyzing and comparing these indicators, we gained a more comprehensive understanding of poverty in different dimensions. This approach allowed us to evaluate the poverty situation in countries from multiple perspectives, providing a more robust assessment of their overall development and the challenges they face.
Top 5 Factors Causing Poverty in the World’s Poorest Countries
Poverty persists in the world’s poorest countries, hindering development and progress towards a brighter future. This section examines the top five factors that drive poverty in these nations. Understanding these factors is crucial for designing effective strategies and interventions to break the chains of poverty and promote sustainable development.
1. Political Instability and Internal Conflicts
Political instability and armed conflicts drive poverty in the world’s poorest countries. These conflicts disrupt economies and destroy vital infrastructure, displace populations, and divert resources that could have been used for development.
For example, South Sudan, Afghanistan, Somalia, and Chad have endured more than a decade of politically-induced armed conflicts, wars, and violence which have resulted in severe economic setbacks, including loss of revenue, high inflation, food insecurity, currency depreciation, and internal displacement of people, leading to humanitarian crises.
According to the World Bank, political instability directly disrupts economic activities, stifles innovation, and drains resources in these countries, hindering foreign investment and deterring growth. This further exacerbates the cycle of poverty, impeding the long-term development prospects of these nations.
To break this cycle, sustainable stability and effective conflict resolution are crucial. By addressing the root causes of conflicts and ensuring lasting peace, these countries can create an environment conducive to economic growth, investment, and improved well-being.
2. Weak Governance, Poor Economic Policies, and Corruption
Weak governance, poor economic policies, and corruption contribute to poverty in specific countries like Malawi, Burundi, Liberia, Afghanistan, Madagascar, and Somalia.
These countries face challenges such as inflation, exchange-rate instability, and slowing economic growth due to weak governance, poor economic policies, and rampant corruption. Misappropriation of funds, limited access to essential infrastructure, healthcare, and education, and insufficient investment in infrastructure and the financial sector further exacerbate poverty.
To address poverty, it is crucial to prioritize integrity, transparency, and accountability in the public sector. Strengthening governance systems, implementing sound economic policies, and effectively combating corruption are essential. International support is necessary to assist these countries in tackling systemic issues and promoting sustainable development.
Corruption is a significant global threat with devastating effects on the economy, environment, democracy, and equality. Combating corruption requires a multi-faceted approach, including education programs that empower future generations to resist and prevent corruption.
Achieving good governance necessitates a comprehensive strategy, including checks and balances through the separation of powers, civil society and media involvement, and business sector partnerships.
Corruption and good governance have a mutually reinforcing relationship, creating a vicious cycle. Lack of governance facilitates corruption, while corruption impedes establishing and enforcing good governance principles and structures.
3. Climate Change and Environmental Challenges
Climate change and environmental challenges worsen poverty, especially in low-income countries. Outdated farming practices, limited resources, and declining agricultural yields are exacerbated by climate-related factors such as droughts, floods, and rising sea levels.
For instance, Sierra Leone and Afghanistan face food security issues due to climate change impacts, while Niger struggles with arid conditions for agriculture.
Communities reliant on farming suffer from catastrophic effects, including crop and livestock losses that leave families unable to provide for their children. This has severe consequences, as 80% of the world’s hungry population resides in disaster-prone areas. Reduced crop yields and resource competition further deepen hunger and community conflicts, particularly in low-income countries where agriculture is crucial.
The poorest communities are disproportionately affected by climate change since they heavily depend on natural resources for their livelihoods and lack adaptive capacity.
Sustainable practices, resilience-building, and international cooperation play key roles in mitigating the adverse effects of climate change and supporting vulnerable communities.
4. Lack of Economic Opportunities
Limited economic opportunities, including unemployment, underemployment, and limited access to markets, significantly contribute to poverty in impoverished nations. These countries struggle with a lack of job prospects, particularly in rural areas, leading to insufficient income generation and upward mobility.
Additionally, poverty-driven inequalities exacerbate social and economic divisions, thereby increasing the risk of violent conflicts.
Income inequality has increased in over 70% of the world’s countries in the past three decades, deepening divides within societies and across nations.
Recognizing the consequences of inequality, the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) has emphasized the need to address this issue for sustainable development.
The World Social Summit identified poverty eradication as an ethical, social, political, and economic imperative, urging governments to tackle the root causes of poverty and ensure access to opportunities and resources for the less privileged.
National poverty reduction strategies should prioritize job creation, particularly in the agricultural and rural sectors, while also addressing the quality of employment. Equipping poor individuals with the necessary skills and assets to seize employment opportunities is also crucial.
5. Lack of Access to Basic Services
Limited access to basic services, including healthcare, education, clean water, sanitation, and infrastructure, deepens poverty in the world’s poorest countries.
A report by WHO and UNICEF revealed that approximately 2.1 billion people, or about 3 in 10 individuals worldwide, lack access to safe and easily accessible water in their homes.
Insufficient access to clean water and sanitation leads to health issues, reduced productivity, and increased healthcare expenses. Without access to quality healthcare and education, individuals struggle to break free from the cycle of poverty, perpetuating intergenerational inequality.
The lack of infrastructure, such as roads and connectivity, isolates rural communities, hindering access to essential services and economic opportunities. Investing in these basic services is vital for poverty alleviation and human development.
In this blog post, we have highlighted the reality of poverty in the world’s poorest countries and their challenges. Raising awareness and supporting initiatives focused on poverty alleviation can make a meaningful difference in the lives of the most vulnerable populations.