A thousand dollars or less per person per year in GDP – the consequence of poverty, genocide, years of war, lack of natural resources, poor farm management, and limited access to clean water and health care.
Click here to see the countries >
This is the follow-up to 24/7 Wall St.’s 20 Most Productive Nations. Eighteen of the poorest countries by GDP per capita are in Africa. That is not surprising given the famine and war that have racked the continent for the better part of the last four decades. Contributing to these hardships is that many of these countries were recently territories or protectorates of European nations.
The concentration of poverty and the lack of national productivity would have looked very different five decades ago. In the 1960s, China and India were relatively poor nations, with huge populations, low literacy rates, and tremendous untapped resources. Both nations improved their fortunes through education programs and through the organisation of rural populations who were brought to cities to turn raw materials into finished goods.
Most of the poorest nations in Africa do not have effective central governments due to instability and civil war. Corrupt officials at all levels bleed money from the economy, “redirecting” aid from the West and “taxing” whatever the country’s immature industries produce on their own.
Many of Africa’s nations are resource-rich. Some have taken advantage of it. Nigeria is one of the largest oil-producing nations in the world. Meanwhile, other African countries with significant natural resources, like the Democratic Republic of Congo, do not have access to the capital needed to create an infrastructure that could exploit its resources.
The greatest problem for many of these counties is that they have limited means to improve their financial conditions. Some do not have arable land, others have negligible deposits of metal, oil, or gas. Each one been perpetually poor. And with a few exceptions, there is only modest hope that their situations will improve in the decades to come. They must rely on whatever aid they receive from the West, and perhaps Russia and China. They are now and likely will remain the poorest nations.
Population: 16.2 million
GDP (PPP): $17.7 billion
GDP per capita: $1,304
Summary: The infrastructure of this west African nation has been plagued by frequent droughts and several coups since the 1980s. This country's main export is cotton, which due partly to these intense droughts and heavy fluctuations in the industry, has been an unreliable cash crop.
Population: 28.9 million
GDP (PPP): $31.5 billion
GDP per capita: $1,205
Summary: Land-locked and isolated, one-third of Nepal's GDP comes from small-time agriculture. Like Burkina Faso, the country has experienced much political instability over the past few decades. While the nation has significant potential for the development of a hydroelectric power infrastructure, this instability, coupled with the nation's propensity for natural disasters, has left this resource largely untapped.
Population: 33.4 million
GDP (PPP): $36.9 billion
GDP per capita: $1,195
Summary: Uganda has a great deal of potential with its vast natural resources, particularly precious metals and minerals. However, more than 80% of the population is employed in agriculture. The underdevelopment of a mining infrastructure, as well as a general lack of industrialisation, is largely due to large-scale civil unrest and international conflict with neighbouring countries, including this list's number one: the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Population: 13.7 million
GDP (PPP): $15 billion
GDP per capita: $1,172
Summary: Another agriculture-heavy region, densely populated Mali relies heavily on its tobacco industry, which makes up at least 50% of total exports. While the government has attempted to develop an industrial infrastructure aided by the IMF, the UN, and several other philanthropic organisations, Mali has experienced major setbacks. In particular, the unpredictable and unreliable availability of utilities, including electricity, water and telecommunications has deterred foreign investors and hampered development.
GDP (PPP): $9.9 billion
GDP per capita: $1,149
Summary: Rwanda is one of the countries on this list which shows signs of hope. The genocide in 1994 left the nation's infrastructure in ruins and its people in the depths of poverty. Like several others on this list, this nation is rich in minerals. Efforts to develop this resource, aided by the international perception of increased stability after nearly 1 million deaths during the genocide, have caused mineral production to replace coffee and tea as Rwanda's main export.
Population: 10.3 million
GDP (PPP): $10.3 billion
GDP per capita: $991
Summary: Guinea retains significant potential in agricultural and mineral resources, as well as hydroelectric development, but a wide range of issues, including a literacy rate of less than 30% and political uncertainty, has left these industries underdeveloped.
Population: 88 million
GDP (PPP): $70.9 billion
GDP per capita: $954
Summary: One of the largest and poorest of the African nations, Ethiopia relies heavily on agricultural exports (particularly coffee) to sustain GDP. Heavy droughts, poor farming practices, price fluctuations, and a two-year war with Eritrea hurt the industry, causing many coffee growers to switch to other crops. In 2005, the IMF forgave the country's debt, which has led to improved conditions.
Population: 22 million
GDP (PPP): $18.6 billion
GDP per capita: $933
Summary: Since becoming independent in 1975, Mozambique has struggled to bring itself out of extreme poverty. Working against massive foreign debt with the aid of international organisations, the nation has managed to garner some attention from investors and has developed a sizable aluminium industry. The growth and export potential of the aluminium industry has been hampered by a sharp drop in the price of the metal since the global economic recession.
Population: 21.3 million
GDP (PPP): $19.7 billion
GDP per capita: $932
Summary: Until 1990, Madagascar had a socialist-oriented government, which was replaced by one which has relied heavily on the IMF for economic guidance. A burgeoning tourism industry has developed, but several political crises, as well as the global recession, have hurt the nation's best hope for growth in the past few years.
Population: 15.4 million
GDP (PPP): $11.3 billion
GDP per capita: $884
Summary: Although there have been slight improvements since the 2005 election of President Mutharika, high levels of poverty, HIV/Aids and corruption continue to burden Malawi, one of the world's most densely populated and least developed countries. In addition, the overuse of agricultural land -- the nation's primary natural resource -- has contributed to over half of the Malawian population living below the poverty line. There are plans for exploiting the country's uranium reserves.
Population: 6.2 million
GDP (PPP): $5.3 billion
GDP per capita: $826
Summary: Experiencing ongoing political unrest since gaining independence from France in 1960, Togo is considered to be one of the world's poorest countries. Led by the universally condemned President Faure Gnassingbe, son of the corrupt political leader Gnassingbe Eyadema, Togo has only recently begun to rebuild its relationship with the international community after years of human rights violations. With help from the World Bank and the IMF, Togo's government has plans to work to improve economic growth through increased privatization, government transparency, and support from foreign donors.
Population: 4.8 million
GDP (PPP): $3.2 billion
GDP per capita: $745
Summary: A site of constant political turmoil, the CAR has undergone three decades of bumbling military dictatorships , a decade of unruly civilian government, and an unstable transitional government established by a military coup. All of this has happened since gaining independence from France in 1960. There is great potential for economic growth within CAR's timber and diamond industries, however years of corruption and political instability have undermined this progress.
Population: 15.9 million
GDP (PPP): $10.1 billion
GDP per capita: $719
Summary: Featuring an arid climate which suffers from drought cycles and desertification, Niger suffers from a stifled economy that is consistently undercut by price fluctuations in uranium, the country's primary export. These facts, in addition to Niger's prolonged history of post-independence military rule, keep the nation as one of the poorest in the world, devastated by disease and corruption.
Population: 5.8 million
GDP (PPP): $3.7 billion
GDP per capita: $679
Summary: Having only gained its independence from Ethiopia 17 years ago, Eritrea has faced many problems. Problems that arise from its position as a small, underdeveloped country that continues to experience military conflict since its sovereignty. The country's single party government, run by the People's Front for Democracy and Justice, maintains total control over the economy through military force and the expansion of government-owned businesses.
Population: 3.7 million
GDP (PPP): $1.4 billion
GDP per capita: $424
Summary: As a result of years of civil war and a cycle of incompetent government administrations, Liberia has suffered extensive economic hardships since a 1980 military coup led by Samuel Doe. Fortunately, an abundance of water, timber, and mineral resources offer a chance for salvation for to the nation's war-ravaged infrastructure.
Population: 9.8 million
GDP (PPP): $3 billion
GDP per capita: $400
Summary: Having recently emerged from a civil war between the Hutu and Tutsi factions, Burundi's economy faces many challenges. It is landlocked, lacking in resources, largely uneducated (only one in two children attend school), and one in every fifteen adults has HIV/Aids. Although recent political stability has proven beneficial, poverty remains extremely prominent.
Population: 11.6 million
GDP (PPP): $332 MILLION (note: whoa!)
GDP per capita: $354
Summary: One of, if not the poorest nation in the world, Zimbabwe's economy has suffered from war with the Democratic Republic of Congo and hyperinflation as a result of the overprinting of currency. A violent land redistribution campaign has scared away most potential foreign investors.
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.