Special Report

This Is the Poorest Country in the World

Source: BethanyFank / Getty Images

6. Liberia (tied)
> GNI per capita: $1,250
> 2020 GDP: $3.0 billion
> Life expectancy: 64.1 years
> Population: 5.1 million

Only a few countries have lower incomes than Liberia, which has a GNI per capita of $1,250. Liberia has struggled with war and political instability in recent years, though conditions appear to be improving. Former soccer star George Weah won the presidential election in 2017, marking the nation’s first democratic transfer of power in many years.

Still, Liberia has many obstacles to prosperity. Just 27.6% of the nation has access to electricity, and it takes 482 days to get electricity in the country, by far the longest wait of any country in the world. Also, nearly 52% of people 15 and older in Liberia are illiterate, compared to 13.5% of all people in the world that age.

6. Mozambique (tied)
> GNI per capita: $1,250
> 2020 GDP: $14.0 billion
> Life expectancy: 60.9 years
> Population: 31.3 million

Mozambique is tied with Liberia as the sixth-poorest country in the world, with a GNI per capita of $1,250 in 2020. More than 60% of Mozambique’s population live in rural areas, and less than 30% of residents have access to electricity.

Like just three other world’s poorest countries, Mozambique, too, has a large share of its GDP coming from exports. Exports of goods and services account for 29.5% of all economic output worldwide. In Mozambique, exports account for 41% of GDP. The country’s exports totaled nearly $5.7 billion in value in 2019, and included coal briquettes, aluminum, petroleum gas, gold, tobacco, and more.

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5. Niger
> GNI per capita: $1,210
> 2020 GDP: $13.7 billion
> Life expectancy: 62.4 years
> Population: 24.2 million

Niger has the fifth lowest GNI per capita in the world, at $1,210. More than 80% of Niger residents live in rural areas, and agriculture is the lifeblood of the economy — 37.8% of Niger’s GDP comes from agriculture, forestry, and fishing, compared to 3.5% of worldwide economic output. Countries that rely heavily on agriculture are typically not economically prosperous.

Limited access to health care, electricity, and economic opportunities may hamper any growth potential for Niger in the future. Just 35% of residents age 15 and older are literate, and less than 19% of all residents have access to electricity.

Source: MONUSCO/Myriam Asmani / Wikimedia Commons

4. Democratic Republic of the Congo
> GNI per capita: $1,100
> 2020 GDP: $49.9 billion
> Life expectancy: 60.7 years
> Population: 89.6 million

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is a large country in the center of Africa. It is one of the poorest nations in the world, with a GNI per capita of just $1,100. There are likely a number of factors contributing to this low income level, including corruption. Corruption can stifle economic growth by disincentivizing innovation and decreasing efficiency. DRC ranks as one of the most corrupt countries in the world, per Transparency International.

Residents of lower-income nations may struggle to find adequate health care. The rates of child mortality, maternal mortality, and tuberculosis are all more than twice as high in the country than they are globally.

Source: ANDREYGUDKOV / Getty Images

3. Central African Republic
> GNI per capita: $1,040
> 2020 GDP: $2.3 billion
> Life expectancy: 53.3 years
> Population: 4.8 million

The Central African Republic is the third poorest country in the world, with a GNI per capita of just barely over $1,000. Options for education and economic advancement are limited in the country, as just 37.4% of residents aged 15 and older are literate, and 14.3% of all residents have access to electricity.

The Central African Republic faces many of the same health challenges as other impoverished countries. It has the lowest life expectancy of any nation in the world, at 53.3 years — nearly two full decades lower than the worldwide average life expectancy. The country has among the five highest rates of child mortality, maternal mortality, and tuberculosis cases in the world as well.

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