Special Report

25 Poorest Countries in the World

Source: elenacastaldi77 / iStock

5. Niger
> GNI per capita: $370
> 2016 GDP: $7.5 billion
> Population: 20.7 million
> Life expectancy: 59.7 years at birth

Rated by the UN as one of the least developed countries in the world, Niger struggles with droughts, political instability and insurgency. In fact, basic human rights are still a major issue in the country, with slavery only being banned in 2003. A strong education system could push a country in the right direction, and Niger invests heavily in its schooling. But while the government allocates more of its spending to education that is typical in most countries, only 15.5% of people in Niger 15 and older were considered literate in 2012 — the lowest literacy rate of all the poorest countries. Recently discovered oil fields are taking the forefront of Niger’s economy, with the oil and mining industry accounting for nearly half of the country’s total exports.

Source: Thinkstock

4. Liberia
> GNI per capita: $370
> 2016 GDP: $2.1 billion
> Population: 4.6 million
> Life expectancy: 62.0 years at birth

Liberia, Africa’s oldest republic, is home to more than 4.5 million people. The country, with a government modeled heavily off of the U.S. constitution, is still recovering from a bloody 14-year civil war that ended in 2003.

Liberia had the second largest GDP contraction among the world’s poorest countries at -1.6% in 2016. While still heavily reliant on agriculture, the sector’s GDP contribution decreased from 44.3% in 2011 to 34.2% in 2016. Liberia’s biggest exports are passenger and cargo ships at 45% of total exports.

Source: Thinkstock

3. Central African Republic
> GNI per capita: $370
> 2016 GDP: $1.8 billion
> Population: 4.6 million
> Life expectancy: 51.4 years at birth

The average person in Central African Republic lives on less than $400 a year. Like many of the world’s poorest countries, CAR’s economy is primarily labor driven and heavily dependent on farming — with agriculture accounting for about 43% of the country’s GDP.

Limited economic opportunities and low incomes can make it difficult to lead healthy lives, and few parts of the world have a lower life expectancy than CAR. Life expectancy at birth in the landlocked African nation is only 51.4 years, two decades less than the global average.

Source: Thinkstock

2. Malawi
> GNI per capita: $320
> 2016 GDP: $5.4 billion
> Population: 18.1 million
> Life expectancy: 62.5 years at birth

Though it has been a democratically stable country since the 1990s, Malawi has considerable hurdles to clear to achieve economic prosperity. Hit especially hard by HIV-AIDS, Malawi is home to over a million children orphaned by the disease. Additionally, the country depends heavily on agriculture — despite an unfavorable arid and dry climate — with crop production accounting for 28.3% of economic output. And while the government spends 20.4% of its budget on education — about 7 percentage points more than the United States — the literacy rate has actually declined 3 percentage points from 2014 to 2015.

Source: Thinkstock

1. Burundi
> GNI per capita: $280
> 2016 GDP: $3.0 billion
> Population: 10.5 million
> Life expectancy: 57.1 years at birth

Bordered by three other countries on this list, Burundi is a landlocked country in sub-Saharan Africa — and the poorest in the world. Burundi shares several traits common among poor nations. Heavily dependent on labor, some 40% of Burundi’s GDP is derived from agriculture. In comparison, agriculture accounts for only about 1% of economic output in the United States. While many of the poorest countries have rapidly growing economies, economic activity contracted by 0.6% in Burundi in 2016 — even as the global economy expanded by 2.4%.

Economic growth and prosperity are likely stymied by conflict in Burundi. The country has been embroiled in an ethnic civil war for over a decade.

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