Special Report

This Is the Poorest Country in the World

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17. The Gambia
> GNI per capita: $2,240
> 2020 GDP: $1.9 billion
> Life expectancy: 62.0 years
> Population: 2.4 million

The Gambia has a gross national income per capita of $2,240, accounting for all economic activity in the country as well as income of Gambians generated outside of the country. The country’s 9.6% unemployment rate is well above the 6.5% rate worldwide.

In most of the world’s poorest countries, the majority of residents live in rural areas and agriculture makes up a relatively large share of economic activity. Yet in The Gambia, just 37.4% of the population live in rural areas, compared to 43.8% of the world’s population. In spite of the country’s fairly urban makeup, less than 60% of people in The Gambia have access to electricity.

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16. Togo
> GNI per capita: $2,230
> 2020 GDP: $7.6 billion
> Life expectancy: 61.0 years
> Population: 8.3 million

Togo has a GNI per capita of $2,230, lower than all but 15 other countries in the world, out of nearly 200 nations. Over 57% of the country’s population live in rural areas, which can make it difficult to obtain education and health care.

Like nearly every other country on this list, health outcomes are relatively poor in Togo. Low-income populations often struggle to get adequate health care or nutrition. Togo has a life expectancy at birth of 61 years — over a full decade lower than the average worldwide. Maternal and child mortality are much more common in Togo than they are in most countries.

Source: Jeff Attaway from Dakar, Senegal / Wikimedia Commons

15. Burkina Faso
> GNI per capita: $2,190
> 2020 GDP: $17.4 billion
> Life expectancy: 61.6 years
> Population: 20.9 million

Burkina Faso is a landlocked country in West Africa that shares a border with several other countries on this list, including Mali, Niger, and Togo. One of the poorest countries in the world, over 41% of Burkina Faso residents live below the national poverty line.

More than a quarter of Burkina Faso’s GDP comes from exporting goods and services — lower than the 29.5% average worldwide but still higher than most other countries ranking among the world’s poorest. The vast majority of the country’s exports are in gold, worth $4.6 billion out of the nation’s $6 billion in total exports in 2019.

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14. Rwanda
> GNI per capita: $2,160
> 2020 GDP: $10.3 billion
> Life expectancy: 69.0 years
> Population: 13.0 million

Rwanda is one of the poorest countries in the world, with a GNI per capita of $2,160 — a fraction of the worldwide GNI per capita of $17,535. More than half of Rwandans live in extreme poverty. More than half of Rwandans, 56.5%, live in extreme poverty, defined as living on $1.90 per day or less — the fourth highest share among all nations for which there is data.

In spite of the rampant poverty, Rwanda has some advantages over other nations that rank among the world’s poorest. Of all countries on this list, its institutions are seen as the least corrupt, according to Transparency International. Rwanda’s life expectancy at birth of 69.0 years is relatively close to the worldwide average life expectancy of 72.7 years, and its child mortality rate of 34.3 per 1,000 live births is actually better than the worldwide rate of 37.7 per 1,000 live births.

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13. Afghanistan
> GNI per capita: $2,110
> 2020 GDP: $19.8 billion
> Life expectancy: 64.8 years
> Population: 38.9 million

Afghanistan is the only Middle Eastern country to rank among the world’s poorest. Nearly all of the other poorest countries are either in Africa or are relatively small island nations. Only a dozen countries have a lower GNI per capita than Afghanistan’s GNI per capita of $2,110.

War and violence stifle economic growth, and Afghanistan has faced constant turmoil and adversity. Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the U.S. has waged a long-standing war in the country. Over 240,000 people have been killed in the Afghanistan and Pakistan war zone since 2001, including more than 71,000 civilians. American troops are rapidly pulling out of the country, aiming to completely leave by August of 2021.