Special Report

Poorest Countries in the World

Samuel Stebbins

Source: yoh4nn / Getty Images

20. Chad
> GNI per capita: $1,750
> 2017 GDP: $26.3 billion
> Population: 14.9 million
> Life expectancy at birth: 53.2 years

Despite a wealth of valuable resources like gold and oil, Chad is one of the poorest countries in the world. Tensions between Muslims in the north and Christians in the south have been a drag on development. Government corruption is also hurting economic development and discouraging investment. Based on over a dozen surveys on perceptions of corruption in the public sector, Transparency International ranks Chad among the most corrupt countries in the world.

Chad’s social and economic challenges have serious consequences for its citizens. Life expectancy in the landlocked country in north-central Africa is just 53.2 years, nearly the lowest of any country in the world.

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19. Ethiopia
> GNI per capita: $1,719
> 2017 GDP: $181.6 billion
> Population: 105.0 million
> Life expectancy at birth: 65.9 years

Ethiopia is Africa’s oldest independent nation, and having never been colonized, it has not faced the challenges that come with new-found independence that many other countries on this list faced. However, droughts and civil conflict in the early ’90s have hurt development, and infrastructure in the country is lacking.

Less than half of the population has access to electricity, and there are only about 38 cell-phone subscriptions per 100 people. Broadband and landline telephone subscriptions are even more rare. More than one in every four Ehtiopians live on less than $1.90 a day, and 62% live on $3.20 or less a day.

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18. Haiti
> GNI per capita: $1,664
> 2017 GDP: $18.2 billion
> Population: 11.0 million
> Life expectancy at birth: 63.6 years

Located on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, Haiti is one of only a few countries on this list that is not in Africa. Though the country gained independence from France in the 19th century, it remained in its former colonial ruler’s debt until 1947, paying compensation to former French slave owners. In recent decades, the country has been slammed by natural disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes and has also suffered from political instability.

Like many poor countries, Haiti is heavily dependent on farming, with agriculture accounting for about half of total employment. The effects of poverty on the Hatian population are blatant as about 46% of the population is malnourished, and the average life expectancy in the country is just 63.6 years.

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17. Uganda
> GNI per capita: $1,658
> 2017 GDP: $72.8 billion
> Population: 42.9 million
> Life expectancy at birth: 60.2 years

Gaining independence from Great Britain in 1962, Uganda fell under the tyrannical rule of Idi Amin from 1971 to 1979. During that period, the country’s economy nearly collapsed following the expulsion of all Asian people at the direction of Amin. Additionally, an estimated 300,000 Ugandans were killed under Amin’s regime. In recent decades, the landlocked African nation has been roiled by a military coup and rebellions headed by the Lord’s Resistance Army.

Today, broad-scale economic development in Uganda is hamstrung in part by infrastructure limitations. Only about a quarter of the country has access to electricity, and while there are over 58 cell-phone subscriptions per 100 people in the country, fixed telephone lines and broadband are virtually non-existent.

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16. Afghanistan
> GNI per capita: $1,647
> 2017 GDP: $63.8 billion
> Population: 35.5 million
> Life expectancy at birth: 64.1 years

With chronic warfare, meaningful economic development in Afghanistan has been effectively impossible in recent decades. Invaded by the Soviets in 1979, the ensuing war lasted a decade and claimed over a million lives. Following Sept. 11, 2001, the U.S. military has maintained a presence in the country, and, though NATO ended its combat mission in Afghanistan in 2014, insurgent forces continue to threaten the country’s stability.

Today, the standing government in the landlocked South-Central Asian country ranks among the most corrupt in the world. The country is heavily dependent on foreign aid, and citizens regularly suffer from shortages of clean water and electricity.