Special Report

25 Poorest Countries in the World

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15. Burkina Faso
> GNI per capita: $2,220
> 2019 GDP: $15.7 billion (123rd out of 206 countries)
> Population (2019): 20.3 million
> Life expectancy at birth in 2018: 61.2 years

Despite having significant reserves of valuable natural resources like gold, Burkina Faso is one of the poorest countries in the world, with a GNI per capita of $2,220. Nearly 44% of the country’s 20.3 million residents live on the equivalent of $1.90 a day or less.

Economic growth in the country has been hobbled by political instability. Despite relatively poor soil quality and frequent droughts, the majority of the population relies on subsistence farming to some degree. The country’s infrastructure is lacking, as only 14.4% of the population have access to electricity.

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14. Uganda
> GNI per capita: $2,210
> 2019 GDP: $34.4 billion (99th out of 206 countries)
> Population (2019): 44.3 million
> Life expectancy at birth in 2018: 63.0 years

With a GNI per capita of $2,210, the Central African nation of Uganda is one of the least wealthy countries in the world. More than three-quarters of its population live in rural areas, and 21.9% of GDP comes from agriculture, forestry, and fishing, as compared to the 4% global average.

Like many of the poorest countries in the world, Uganda has a history of political instability and violence and is currently struggling with corruption. Rebel groups have waged violent conflicts, and many leaders have been deposed and accused of corruption in recent years.

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13. Haiti
> GNI per capita: $1,790
> 2019 GDP: $8.5 billion (146th out of 206 countries)
> Population (2019): 11.3 million
> Life expectancy at birth in 2018: 63.7 years

Haiti is the only North American country to rank on this list and is one of only 13 countries with a GNI per capita of less than $2,000. The country, located on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, gained independence from France in the early 1800s and was forced to pay its former colonial master reparations for more than a century following. In more recent years, economic development has been limited by natural disasters, dictatorships, and instability.

Other hurdles the country faces include government corruption and poor infrastructure. Less than half of the country’s 11.3 million residents have access to electricity.

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12. Sierra Leone
> GNI per capita: $1,670
> 2019 GDP: $3.9 billion (166th out of 206 countries)
> Population (2019): 7.8 million
> Life expectancy at birth in 2018: 54.3 years

Sierra Leone is a West African country that effectively had to start from scratch following a devastating civil war in the early 2000s that destroyed the country’s institutions. More recently, the country was devastated by the ebola epidemic. Though the country is rich in valuable natural resources, like diamonds, these assets have fueled violence in the country and ultimately hindered development.

As is the case in many of the world’s poorest countries, Sierra Leone depends heavily on agriculture, and public health outcomes lag behind much of the world. An estimated 57.4% of Sierra Leone’s GDP is generated by agriculture and fishing. Additionally, at just 54.3 years, life expectancy at birth in the country is nearly the lowest in the world and about 18 years below the global average.

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11. Togo
> GNI per capita: $1,670
> 2019 GDP: $5.5 billion (161st out of 206 countries)
> Population (2019): 8.1 million
> Life expectancy at birth in 2018: 60.8 years

Nearly half of Togo’s population lives in extreme poverty, subsisting on no more than $1.90 per day. Worldwide, 10% of people live in such poverty. The nation’s GNI per capita is one of the lowest in the world, at $1,670.

Like many other countries on this list, Togo’s economy is heavily reliant on natural resources. Petroleum accounted for over half of its $2.5 billion in exports in 2018. Togo also exported over $300 million in gold that year.