Special Report

The Best and Worst Economies in the World

The Least Competitive Economies 

Democratic Republic of Congo
Source: Thinkstock

10. Congo, Democratic Rep.
> 2015 GDP: $38.9 billion
> Life expectancy: 58.7 years
> Gov’t debt as % of GDP: 18.8%
> Patent applications (per million residents): 0

The economic potential of resource rich Democratic Republic of the Congo has been stymied by conflict. The country emerged from a more than decade-long civil war in 2005. The war claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, and recent reports of political violence in the eastern part of the country threaten to start yet another civil war.

Poor and lacking infrastructure are also among the most pressing challenges to the country’s economic development. There are effectively no fixed telephone lines, and the quality of roads and electricity supply are each nearly the worst of all countries surveyed. The WEF cites corruption as another primary hindrance to economic competitiveness.

Caracas, Venezuela - Cityscape on a Sunny Afternoon
Source: Thinkstock

9. Venezuela
> 2015 GDP: $239.6 billion
> Life expectancy: 74.2 years
> Gov’t debt as % of GDP: 48.8%
> Patent applications (per million residents): 0.3

Venezuela has some of the largest proven oil deposits in the world. Like many oil-rich states, the country’s economy is heavily dependent on global oil markets. With oil prices beginning to decline in 2013 and dropping significantly in 2014, Venezuela’s economy suffered considerable negative consequences. Oil production in the country hit a 13-year low in July 2016.

One of the most pressing issue the country faces, however, is inflation. The cost of goods and services shot up 121.7% in 2015, the second highest inflation rate of all 138 countries reviewed. Not only is inflation expected to continue, but it will likely accelerate. The International Monetary Fund projects inflation will hit 480% this year and exceed 1,640% by 2017.

Monrovia, Liberia
Source: Thinkstock

8. Liberia
> 2015 GDP: $2.0 billion
> Life expectancy: 60.8 years
> Gov’t debt as % of GDP: 40.0%
> Patent applications (per million residents): 0

Ravaged by years of civil war in the 1990s and more recently one of the deadliest Ebola outbreaks in history, Liberia is far from achieving economic stability. Among the largest obstacles to doing business in Liberia are limited access to financing, government instability, corruption, and crime and theft.

Liberia’s health and primary education systems are also rated very poorly. There are an estimated 308 cases of tuberculosis for every 100,000 Liberians each year, nearly the highest incidence of tuberculosis of any country. Additionally, just 37.9% of eligible Liberians are enrolled in secondary education, one of the smallest shares in the world. Health epidemics and the lack of access to education is likely to continue to limit business activity in the country. Liberia’s GDP per capita of just $474 is lower than almost any other nation.

Freetown, Sierra Leone
Source: Thinkstock

7. Sierra Leone
> 2015 GDP: $4.2 billion
> Life expectancy: 50.9 years
> Gov’t debt as % of GDP: 46.1%
> Patent applications (per million residents): 0.1

Sierra Leone’s vast mineral resources include gold, bauxite, and iron. The country is most notable for its diamond deposits — diamonds accounted for more than 8% of its total exports in 2014. However, the country’s mineral resources have often proven to be more of a curse than a gift, as diamonds have historically funded devastating conflicts in the country.

Today, corruption is a primary hurdle to Sierra Leone’s economic development. An official audit revealed that just a third of the state’s funding to fight Ebola, is unaccounted for. In addition, though the country has improved in infrastructure and health care in the last year, glaring deficiencies remain. Of all countries reviewed, Sierra Leone has the highest infant mortality rate and the second lowest life expectancy at only 50.9 years. The country also has poor quality roads and lacks reliable electricity.

Aerial view of downtown Maputo, Mozambique
Source: Thinkstock

6. Mozambique
> 2015 GDP: $15.0 billion
> Life expectancy: 55.0 years
> Gov’t debt as % of GDP: 74.8%
> Patent applications (per million residents): 0

Like many countries with the least competitive economies, Mozambique’s economic development has been hindered by conflict. Not long after the country gained independence from Portugal in 1975, it plunged into civil war. Though the war officially ended in 1992, the effects remain, and recent violence suggests the country may again erupt in conflict.

Many other factors, in addition to the civil war’s legacy, are impeding the Mozambique economy. The country’s institutions, both private and public, are greatly lacking. For example, police services are among the least reliable of any of the 138 countries examined, and illegal diversion of public funds is relatively common. The youngest generation is also not likely to be adequately trained to fix the country’s many problems. At 24.5%, secondary education enrollment is the second lowest of all countries reviewed.

Sponsored: Tips for Investing

A financial advisor can help you understand the advantages and disadvantages of investment properties. Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.

Investing in real estate can diversify your portfolio. But expanding your horizons may add additional costs. If you’re an investor looking to minimize expenses, consider checking out online brokerages. They often offer low investment fees, helping you maximize your profit.