10. The Gambia
> GNI per capita: $1,471
> 2017 GDP: $3.2 billion
> Population: 2.1 million
> Life expectancy at birth: 61.4 years
Compared to most countries on this list — and most countries in West Africa — The Gambia is relatively stable socially and politically. Still, it ranks among the poorest countries in the world with a GNI per capita of less than $1,500.
The Gambia has limited natural resources and relies heavily on agriculture, with wood, brazil nuts, and cashews accounting for 80% of its exports in 2017. Less than half of The Gambia’s population has access to electricity, and over a third of the country’s urban population lives in slums.
9. Sierra Leone
> GNI per capita: $1,348
> 2017 GDP: $10.5 billion
> Population: 7.6 million
> Life expectancy at birth: 52.2 years
Sierra Leone is a resource-rich country in West Africa. It endured a devastating civil war that was fueled by diamonds and valuable minerals trade. Though the war ended in 2002, it destroyed many of the country’s institutions, and the effects are still being felt. Today, Sierra Leone’s public sector is perceived to be more corrupt than most other countries.
The problems associated with the lack of economic development are evident. About a quarter of the country’s population is undernourished, and Sierra Leone’s maternal mortality rate of 1,360 deaths per 100,000 live births is the worst in the world. The country was also among the hardest hit by the 2014 Ebola outbreak, and at 52.2 years, average life expectancy at birth in Sierra Leone is the worst in the world.
> GNI per capita: $1,339
> 2017 GDP: $36.2 billion
> Population: 25.6 million
> Life expectancy at birth: 66.3 years
Madagascar is an island nation located in the Indian Ocean east of the African continent. The former French colony has been independent since 1960, grappling with political violence and coups in the last several decades. While the county has a substantial tourism industry, it is heavily dependent on agriculture, with farming accounting for more than two-thirds of total employment.
Living conditions for many in the country demonstrate the hardships associated with poverty. Over 77% of the country’s urban population lives in slums, and about 43% of residents are undernourished. Life expectancy at birth in Madagascar is just 66.3 years, about six years shy of the global average.
> GNI per capita: $1,100
> 2017 GDP: $33.7 billion
> Population: 29.7 million
> Life expectancy at birth: 58.9 years
A former Portuguese colony, Mozambique, a country on the Indian Ocean in southern Africa, became an independent nation in 1975. Like many former colonial territories, Mozambique struggled in its early years of independence, enduring a civil war that lasted from 1976 to 1992. Though the country’s economy got a boost in 2011 with the discovery of natural gas, development is still lagging due in part to the over decade-and-a-half of civil war.
A staggering 62.4% of the population lives on $1.90 or less a day, and nearly 82% live on $3.20 a day. The country is also dealing with a public health crisis, as 12.5% of the population between the ages of 15 and 49 are HIV positive. Partially as a result, life expectancy in the country is less than 60 years.
> GNI per capita: $1,078
> 2017 GDP: $5.5 billion
> Population: 4.7 million
> Life expectancy at birth: 63.0 years
Founded partly by freed U.S. slaves, Liberia’s economy was all but destroyed in the 1990s and early 2000s by a civil war that left a quarter of a million dead and thousands more displaced. Limited economic development in the country has lead to a low standard of living. Less than 20% of the population has access to electricity, and about 39% are undernourished. The government, which ranks among the most corrupt in the world, spends relatively little on education as a share of GDP, and illiteracy is widespread.
The West African nation is resource rich, however, and gold exports are driving growth. In 2017, gold accounted for 19% of the country’s $1.0 billion in exports.