When we examine the wealth of a country, we generally look at the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and PPP (Purchasing Power Parity), which correlate to the production value of marketable goods and wealth, as well as the well-being of the population. Looking at the poorest countries in the world, we see that they are all located in and around the continent of Africa. Many of these countries are battling corruption and economic instability. We can also see that they are largely underdeveloped. This status means that despite having seemingly adequate natural resources, economic growth is continually inhibited.
Known as the Republic of Madagascar, it is one of the least developed countries on earth. It houses a population of around 24.5 million, most of which reside on the Island of Madagascar, which is the 4th largest island in the world. With numerous peripheral islands included, Madagascar boasts incredible biodiversity; over 90% of the wildlife is unique to these islands. Quality of life is generally quite low due to an economy weakened by political crisis, especially from 2009 – 2013.
Formerly known as French Guinea, this country is located on the West Coast of Africa. With French its official language, it has a population of 10.5 million, who are predominantly Islamic. Guinea is the world’s 2nd largest producer of bauxite, which is used to produce aluminium, and has the largest reserves on earth. Despite this and rich deposits of gold and diamonds, loss of International Monetary Funds due to non-compliance of requirements and other controversies (surrounding mining and human rights) have plagued the economy and restricted growth.
Eritrea is a country in the Horn of Africa and home to around 6 million multi-ethnic inhabitants. Due to this diversity, Eritrea has no official language, as all languages are considered equal. Though the country has made significant economic headway due to gold and silver mining, and the production of cement; their human rights record is among the worst in the world. The media environment is ranked particularly low, below North Korea regarding press freedom, with the banning of independent media in 2001.
Located in Southeast Africa, Mozambique is home to around 24 million people. Despite being a rich and diverse source of natural resources, it is one of the poorest and most underdeveloped countries in the world. Though GDP has slowly been rising since the early 2000s, mostly due to increased tourism, Mozambique still ranks among the lowest in human development, average life expectancy, and measures of inequality.
With more than 80% of the country covered by the Sahara Desert, Niger suffers economically due to the threat of periodic drought and subsistence. Niger relies heavily on the export of raw materials for commerce, particularly uranium ore. As of 2015, 71.3% of the population of just under 19 million individuals cannot read, resulting in one of the poorest literacy rates in the world.
A landlocked country in East Africa, Burundi is largely rural, with only 13% of the 11 million inhabitants living in urban areas. As one of the smallest countries in Africa, Burundi struggles immensely with deforestation, habitat loss and soil erosion due to overpopulation. Burundi faces constant challenges through corruption, weak infrastructure, poor access to education and health services, and hunger. In 2017, Burundi was named the 2nd least happy nation in the world.
With a population of 4.5 million, Liberia states the official language as English; however, over 20 indigenous languages are spoken there, with 95% of the population belonging to tribes. With such a high number of tribes, the formal employment rate measures only 15%. During the early 20th century, Liberia was an important producer of rubber. It is the only African Republic to have self-proclaimed independence without gaining it through revolt against other powers.
Formerly known as Nyasaland and nicknamed “The Warm Heart of Africa,” Malawi has a largely rural population heavily dependent on agriculture to sustain them. While economic outlook has improved steadily since 2005 with programs in place to boost the overall economy, education, and healthcare, Malawi still has to look to outside sources for development aid. With extremely low development, there are also low life expectancy and high infant mortality rates.
With a population of over 80 million, The Democratic Republic of the Congo is the 17th most populated country in the world. It is another country rich in natural resources, but is politically unstable, lacking infrastructure, has issues with corruption and has faced centuries of heavy exploitation with little development. The DRC is the 2nd largest diamond-producing nation in the world, and it was once a thriving, industrialized country. After war ravaged the DRC resulting in more than 5 million deaths, national output was significantly reduced.
Landlocked in central Africa, the CAR has significant mineral deposits and resources. It is rich in uranium, crude oil, cobalt, gold, diamonds, lumber, and hydropower, with significant quantities of arable land. However, due to corruption, war, and political instability, the CAR is estimated to be the unhealthiest country in the world, the lowest rank regarding human development and the worst place to be a young person. Diamonds are the most important export, though it is estimated that between 30-50% leave the country in unconventional, clandestine ways.