Special Report

25 Poorest Countries in the World

Source: derejeb / iStock

25. Tanzania
> GNI per capita: $900
> 2016 GDP: $47.4 billion
> Population: 55.6 million
> Life expectancy: 64.9 years at birth

What sets Tanzania apart from many other African countries is domestic and political stability. Unfortunately, this has not translated into economic prosperity for its citizens. The country’s GNI per capita is $900, despite a low unemployment rate of 2.7%. Tanzania’s economy depends heavily on agriculture, which contributed 31.1% to the country’s GDP in 2016.The country’s agricultural production is largely for internal consumption, and Tanzania’s top export is gold.

However, like many of the poorest countries, Tanzania’s economic growth of 7% in 2016 was faster than the 2.4% average growth worldwide.

Source: CleoAnne / iStock

24. Benin
> GNI per capita: $820
> 2016 GDP: $8.6 billion
> Population: 10.9 million
> Life expectancy: 60.6 years at birth

Slave ships used to depart from the shores of this western African country, which today has one of the worst economic environments in the world. Due in large part to bribable public officials, Transparency International considers Benin to be one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Like many of the poorest countries in the world, Benin’s economy depends heavily on its resources. For example, cotton, coconuts, Brazil nuts, and cashews account for over half of the country’s total exports.

While Benin has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the world, at 1%, it also has one of the highest illiteracy rates. Less than 33% of Benin residents 15 and older were considered literate in 2012.

Source: Thinkstock

23. Haiti
> GNI per capita: $780
> 2016 GDP: $8.0 billion
> Population: 10.8 million
> Life expectancy: 63.0 years at birth

Haiti is the poorest nation in the Caribbean and one of the poorest countries in the world. The typical Haitian lives on less than $800 a year.

Economic strife in Haiti is largely a product of the country’s history. After overthrowing France, its colonial ruler in in the early 19th century, Haiti was forced to pay its former sovereign an “independence debt” for nearly a century and a half. In the country’s more recent history, economic prosperity has been stymied by authoritarian leaders, instability, and natural disasters — including the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that devastated the island nation in 2010. A largely labor based economy, the knitting industry comprises nearly 70% of Haiti’s total exports.

Source: Thinkstock

22. Comoros
> GNI per capita: $760
> 2016 GDP: $616.7 million
> Population: 0.8 million
> Life expectancy: 63.5 years at birth

With a GDP of only $616.7 million, Comoros’ economy is one of the smallest in the world. Adjusted for the country’s 800,000 residents, people in Comoros live on less than $800 a year, on average. Like many poor nations, economic prosperity in Comoros is hindered by bribable public officials, unreliable institutions, and misappropriated public funds. According to Transparency International, Comoros is one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Rampant corruption and political instability partially explain why the country has endured more than a dozen coups or attempted coups.

Today, Comoros’ unemployment rate is one of the world’s highest, at 20%. Heavily resource dependent, Comoros’ economy is often at the mercy of volatile commodity prices. In 2015, cloves accounted for well over half of the island country’s exports.

Source: Thinkstock

21. Mali
> GNI per capita: $750
> 2016 GDP: $14.0 billion
> Population: 18.0 million
> Life expectancy: 57.5 years at birth

Due to a 23-year military dictatorship, droughts, and rebellion, Mali has been unable to regain its northern city Timbuktu’s former status as a key cultural and trade region of Africa. The country has been plagued by a recent rise in Islamic insurgency, which caused France to intervene militarily in 2013 and later for the UN to sponsor a ceasefire. Despite recent conflict, Mali’s economy is growing relatively rapidly. The landlocked African nation’s GDP expanded by 5.3% in 2016, far faster than the comparable 2.4% global economic growth.

Many of the world’s poorest countries are resource rich and heavily dependent on agriculture — and Mali is no different. Gold accounted for 72% of the country’s total exports in 2016. Additionally, farming accounts for 40.7% of the country’s total economic output.

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