Special Report

Poorest Countries in the World

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15. Burkina Faso
> GNI per capita: $1,640
> 2017 GDP: $32.6 billion
> Population: 19.2 million
> Life expectancy at birth: 60.8 years

Burkina Faso is a landlocked country in West Africa, and despite significant gold reserves, it is one of the poorest countries in both the region and the world. Over the nearly 60 years since gaining independence from France, the country has endured regular political upheaval and violence — conditions under which meaningful development is all but impossible. Currently, over three-quarters of citizens live on less than $3.20 a day.

Several social and infrastructure obstacles stand in the way of economic development today. For example, only about a third of adults in Burkina Faso are literate, and fewer than 20% of residents have access to electricity.

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14. Togo
> GNI per capita: $1,586
> 2017 GDP: $11.8 billion
> Population: 7.8 million
> Life expectancy at birth: 60.5 years

Weathering bouts of political instability since gaining independence from France in 1960, the West African nation of Togo has stabilized in recent years. The country’s economy growth of 4.4% in 2017 was faster than the 3.2% global average growth, and Togo’s government has invested heavily in infrastructure that will help attract investment and encourage development.

Still, the country remains among the poorest in the world today. About half of the urban population lives in slums, and nearly half of Togo’s total population lives on less than $1.90 a day. Life expectancy in the country is just 60.5 years, nearly 12 years below the global average.

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13. Guinea-Bissau
> GNI per capita: $1,552
> 2017 GDP: $2.9 billion
> Population: 1.9 million
> Life expectancy at birth: 57.8 years

The West African nation of Guinea-Bissau is one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Weak public sector institutions have given way to drug trafficking and illegal logging. The legal part of the country’s economy is largely agricultural as over two-thirds of total employment is in farming. Cashews are the country’s main export, accounting for about 80% of total export value in 2017.

Today, only about 15% of the population has access to electricity, and 26% are malnourished. Guinea-Bissau is one of only a handful of countries worldwide where average life expectancy at birth is under 60 years.

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12. Eritrea
> GNI per capita: $1,497
> 2017 GDP: $6.8 billion
> Population: 4.5 million
> Life expectancy at birth: 65.5 years

One of the youngest countries in the world, Eritrea won independence from neighboring Ethiopia in 1993. The country is highly militarized due in part to more than a decade-long war with Ethiopia that ended in 2018. In addition to war, the country’s severe drought has hampered economic development, as agriculture accounts for about 63% of employment. Eritrea drew up a democratic constitution in 1997 but never implemented it. Today, the single-party state ranks among the most corrupt in the world.

Less than half of Eritrea’s population has access to electricity, and there are only about 14 cell-phone subscriptions per 100 people. Fixed telephone lines and broadband subscriptions are even more rare.

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11. Solomon Islands
> GNI per capita: $1,494
> 2017 GDP: $1.3 billion
> Population: 611,343 million
> Life expectancy at birth: 71.0 years

An island nation in the South Pacific, the Solomon Islands is one of only a few countries on this list not located in Africa. Civil unrest brought the country to the brink of collapse in the late 1990s and early 2000s. A multinational peacekeeping group led by Australia remained in the country from 2003 to 2017 and brokered a peace deal between rival islands within the nation.

The county’s economy is largely agricultural, with farming accounting for 61% of employment. Like many other poor countries, less than half of the population of the Solomon Islands has access to electricity.