Special Report

The Richest and Poorest Countries

The Poorest Countries in the World

25. South Sudan
> GNI per capita:
> 2014 GDP: $13.1 billion
> Population: 11,911,184
> Life expectancy: 55.2 years

The most recent civil war in South Sudan came to an end in August, when President Salva Kiir signed a peace deal with rebel leader Riek Machar, who will return under the peace deal as vice-president. The country had been mired in conflict since 2013 when Kiir accused Machar of plotting a coup. Such conflict is not new to the country, which gained independence in 2011. Civil wars, factional conflict, and coups have repeatedly destabilized both the country’s politics and its economy. Violence is likely the primary reason more than half of the country’s population lives below the poverty line, and that the country has a GNI per capita of just $2,000, one of the lowest in the world. Corruption may also be major concern. South Sudan received the fifth worst Corruption Perceptions Index score in the world.

24. Afghanistan
> GNI per capita:
> 2014 GDP: $20.8 billion
> Population: 31,627,506
> Life expectancy: 60.9 years

With a GNI per capita of $1,960, Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world. The country’s literacy rate is just above 30%, and more than a third of all people live below the poverty line. Additionally, Afghans live nearly 61 years on average, 10 years less than the worldwide average life expectancy and nearly 20 years less than the average American. Poor socioeconomic indicators are primarily the result of instability. While the country has a formal U.S.-supported government, the Islamic fundamentalist group, the Taliban, commands significant influence in some regions, all but nullifying the country’s official laws. The perception of corruption is quite high in the country. Afghanistan received one of the worst corruption scores in the world.

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23. Benin
> GNI per capita:
> 2014 GDP: $8.7 billion
> Population: 10,598,482
> Life expectancy: 59.3 years

Benin, which is located in Western Africa, is one of the best examples of a developing country struggling to compete in international markets. Together with Burkina Faso, Chad, and Mali — the so-called C-4 countries — export about 8% of the world’s cotton, a large enough share to have a significant impact on the worldwide cotton market. However, more developed countries such as the United States heavily subsidize cotton, thus increasing its production worldwide and driving global cotton prices lower. This all but ensures that cotton farmers in C-4 countries remain poor. Education may be one way Benin can escape its poverty trap. Nearly 95% of school-aged children are enrolled in primary school, nearly 20 percentage points higher than in other sub-Saharan countries.

22. Sierra Leone
> GNI per capita:
> 2014 GDP: $4.9 billion
> Population: 6,315,627
> Life expectancy: 45.6 years

After gaining independence from Britain in 1951, Sierra Leone was hopeful its rich natural resource deposits would bring economic prosperity. Since then, however, the country has undergone 13 military coups and a decade-long civil war that heavily impeded development. Today, each resident accrues an average of $1,800 annually, and more than half of the population lives in poverty. Additionally, the country has become heavily reliant on foreign aid, receiving nearly 10% of its GDP in aid from abroad. In 2012, the country’s government drafted a 50-year development plan focusing on the long-term benefits of education and infrastructure rather than mineral exploitation.

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21. Uganda
> GNI per capita:
> 2014 GDP: $26.3 billion
> Population: 37,782,971
> Life expectancy: 59.2 years

Uganda’s economic outlook has improved in recent years, according to the African Development Bank, which cited rising GDP growth rates and life expectancy as well as falling poverty and infant mortality rates. In fact, since 2009, Uganda’s life expectancy has increased by three years to 59.2. Despite the improvements, however, Uganda is still one of the poorest countries in the world with a GNI per capita of just $1,740, roughly half the average GNI per capita of sub-Saharan Africans.

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