Special Report

25 Poorest Countries in the World

Samuel Stebbins, Michael B. Sauter

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20. Benin
> GNI per capita: $2,135
> 2018 GDP: $10.4 billion (143rd out of 208 countries)
> Population (2018): 11.5 million
> Life expectancy at birth in 2017: 61.2 years

Though Benin is one of the most stable democracies in Africa, and one of the continent’s largest cotton producers, it still ranks among the poorest countries in the world. Its $10.5 billion economy is smaller than that of other countries with much smaller populations. As is often the case in countries on this list, public sector corruption has stymied economic development in Benin.

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19. Mali
> GNI per capita: $1,965
> 2018 GDP: $17.2 billion (120th out of 208 countries)
> Population (2018): 19.1 million
> Life expectancy at birth in 2017: 58.5 years

The West African nation of Mali is one of only 19 countries in the world with a GNI per capita of less than $2,000. The country’s $17.2 billion economy is smaller than that of much less populous countries. The country’s economic development has been hindered by political violence and government instability.

Residents of poorer countries often have lower than average life expectancies. Mali is one of only 14 countries where life expectancy at birth is less than 60 years.

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18. Rwanda
> GNI per capita: $1,959
> 2018 GDP: $9.5 billion (145th out of 208 countries)
> Population (2018): 12.3 million
> Life expectancy at birth in 2017: 68.3 years

Rwanda, a landlocked country in East Africa, borders several other countries on this list, including Tanzania, Uganda, and Democratic Republic of the Congo. The country was the site of one of the worst genocides of the 20th century, when about 800,000 ethnic Tutsis were slaughtered by the Hutu majority group in a span of less than 100 days. In recent years, the country has managed to reduce poverty through coffee and tea production. Still, with a GNI per capita of just $1,959, Rwanda remains among the poorest countries in the world.

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17. Ethiopia
> GNI per capita: $1,782
> 2018 GDP: $84.4 billion (69th out of 208 countries)
> Population (2018): 109.2 million
> Life expectancy at birth in 2017: 65.9 years

Ethiopia’s $84.4 billion economy is smaller than that of many much less populous countries. Many of the world’s poorest countries are heavily dependent on agriculture, and in Ethiopia, farming accounts for over 30% of total GDP, well above the 3.4% global average. Over 60% of the country’s exports in 2017 were agricultural products like flowers and coffee.

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16. Uganda
> GNI per capita: $1,752
> 2018 GDP: $27.5 billion (105th out of 208 countries)
> Population (2018): 42.7 million
> Life expectancy at birth in 2017: 62.5 years

Uganda borders several other countries on this list, including South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. As is the case in many other East African countries, Uganda has struggled with political instability and violence since gaining independence in the mid-20th century.

Corruption in the public sector can discourage investment and hinder economic progress, and according to Transparency International, a nonprofit corruption watchdog, Uganda is one of the most corrupt countries in the world.