Special Report

This Is the Poorest Country in the World

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27. Haiti
> GNI per capita: $2,930
> 2020 GDP: $13.4 billion
> Life expectancy: 64.0 years
> Population: 11.4 million

Haiti is one of just 27 countries in the world in which the gross national income per capita is less than $3,000. A country’s GNI includes its total GDP as well as the net income generated by a country’s residents earned outside its national borders. The GNI per capita worldwide is $17,535. The U.S. GNI per capita is just over $66,000 and is the 10th highest in the world.

Like in many other economically disadvantaged countries, many Haitians lack access to power and health care. Less than half of Haiti’s 11.4 million residents have access to electricity, and the country’s 14.5% unemployment rate is more than double the worldwide rate of 6.5%, per the World Bank. Haiti is also struggling with political instability. President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated at his home on July 7, and Haiti ranks as one of the most corrupt countries in the world by Transparency International.

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26. Vanuatu
> GNI per capita: $2,880
> 2020 GDP: $854.8 million
> Life expectancy: 70.5 years
> Population: 307,150

The nation of Vanuatu is made up of dozens of islands northeast of Australia. Vanuatu’s GNI per capita is just $2,880, one of the lowest in the world. It is also one of just 15 countries that had a total GDP of less than $1 billion in 2020. Most of these countries, like Vanuatu, are relatively small island nations.

Though the country has little economic activity, Vanuatu’s citizens do not have the same health struggles that are common in many other nations on this list. The mortality rate for children under 5 in Vanuatu is 25.9 per 1,000 live births, lower than the worldwide average of 37.7 per 1,000 live births. The maternal mortality rate in the country is also roughly one third of the worldwide rate.

Source: Wikimedia Commons / Shack Dwellers International

25. Zimbabwe
> GNI per capita: $2,850
> 2020 GDP: $16.8 billion
> Life expectancy: 61.5 years
> Population: 14.9 million

Zimbabwe has the 25th lowest GNI per capita in the world — the country produced $2,850 of income per person in 2020. One of Zimbabwe’s major economic issues is severe income inequality. It has one of the world’s largest gaps between high- and low-income earners, according to World Bank data. Economic inequality can stifle growth by making it difficult for people to get the skills and education needed to break the cycle of poverty.

In addition to a lack of infrastructure, low incomes can make it difficult for Zimbabwe residents to access crucial services like health care or power. Just 41.4% of the population has access to electricity, and the country’s child and maternal mortality rates are much higher than typical.

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24. Tanzania
> GNI per capita: $2,760
> 2020 GDP: $62.4 billion
> Life expectancy: 65.5 years
> Population: 59.7 million

Tanzania’s GNI per capita of $2,760 is one of the lowest in the world, with a high share of its residents living in extreme poverty. Nearly half of all residents live on $1.90 per day or less, the sixth highest share of any country. Worldwide, 9.3% of people live at that income level.

Like every other country on this list for which there is data, an outsized share of Tanzania’s GDP, 26.7%, comes from agriculture, forestry, and fishing. Worldwide, 3.5% of overall economic output comes from agriculture and related professions. Wealthy nations tend to have diversified economies, whereas poorer countries tend to rely heavily on these jobs. Nearly two-thirds of the country’s poor working adults made a living through agriculture.

23. Lesotho
> GNI per capita: $2,740
> 2020 GDP: $1.8 billion
> Life expectancy: 54.3 years
> Population: 2.1 million

Lesotho is one of 23 African nations to rank among the 27 poorest countries in the world. The country is entirely surrounded by South Africa and has a GNI per capita of $2,740. This low income is at least partially explained by the nation’s high unemployment rate of 24.7% — the third highest jobless rate among all countries.

As is the case in many relatively poor countries, people in Lesotho may struggle to afford basic health care. The country has a life expectancy of just 54.3 years, which is nearly two decades lower than the 72.7-year average life expectancy worldwide.