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The 20 poorest nations in the world

Last updated on: March 11, 2011 19:22 IST

The world's 20 poorest nations

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These nations have faced adversities like consequence years of war, genocide, lack of natural resources, poor farm management, limited access to clean water and health care, and indeed the resultant destitution.

With extremely low per capita GDP, most of these countries were also territories or protectorates of European nations. In this list, eighteen of the poorest countries by GDP per capita are in Africa. This is not surprising given the fact that this continent suffered from famine and consequences of war for the better part of the last four decades.

What keeps most of the poorest nations in Africa from progressing is that they do not have effective central governments. This again is a result of instability and civil war.

Also, 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.

Even though, many of Africa's nations are resource-rich they do not have access to the capital needed to create an infrastructure that could exploit its resources.

So which are world's 20 poorest nations? Click NEXT to read on . . . 


Photographs: Romeo Ranoco/Reuters
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20. Haiti

GDP (PPP): $11.5 billion
GDP per capita: $1,338

The poorest nation outside the African continent, Haiti has been plagued by natural disasters, poor health conditions, drought and famine.

Adding to the natural calamity, the country has witnessed some of its worst years under the 30-year rule of physician and brutal dictator Francois 'Papa Doc' Duvalier, who was later succeeded by his son, 'Baby Doc' Jean-Claude.

Under their rule, Haiti experienced a massive brain drain. It is still recovering from the effects.

Once again hit by a natural catastrophe, the recent 7.0 earthquake in Port-au-Prince has not helped matters.

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Image: Haiti
Photographs: St-Felix Evens/Reuters
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19. Burkina Faso

Population: 16.2 million
GDP (PPP): $17.7 billion
GDP per capita: $1,304

The infrastructure of this West African nation has been affected by frequent droughts and several coups since the 1980s.

The country's main export is cotton. However, partly due to these intense droughts and heavy fluctuations in the industry, this has been an unreliable cash crop.

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Image: Burkina Faso
Photographs: Luc Gnago/Reuters
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18. Nepal

Population: 28.9 million
GDP (PPP): $31.5 billion
GDP per capita: $1,205

Like Burkina Faso, Nepal has also experienced much political instability over the past few decades.

While Nepal has significant potential for development of a hydroelectric power infrastructure, the political instability coupled with the nation's propensity for natural disasters, has left this resource largely untapped.

For now, one-third of the nation's GDP comes from small-time agriculture.

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Image: A child searches for recyclable material on the bank of Bagmati River in Kathmandu
Photographs: Navesh Chitrakar/Reuters
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17. Uganda

Population: 33.4 million
GDP (PPP): $36.9 billion
GDP per capita: $1,195

Its vast natural resources, particularly precious metals and minerals, offer Uganda a great deal of potential.

But, over 80 per cent of its population is employed in agriculture.

The underdevelopment of a mining infrastructure, as well as overall lack of industrialisation, is mainly due to major civil unrest and international conflict with neighbouring countries.

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Image: A man selling cassava pushes his goods through Lira Market in northern Uganda
Photographs: Hudson Aponyo/Reuters
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16. Mali

Population: 13.7 million
GDP (PPP): $15 billion
GDP per capita: $1,172

Mali has a rich agricultural influence. This nation relies heavily on its tobacco industry, which makes up at least 50 per cent of the nation's total exports.

But, the effort extended by the government to develop Mali into an industrial infrastructure aided by the IMF, the UN, and several other philanthropic organisations, has faced major setbacks.

The nation experiences some significant issues like unpredictable and unreliable availability of utilities, including electricity, water and telecommunications. These problems have deterred many foreign investors, thus hampering the overall development.

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Image: A boy reads a school book at a village just outside Mali's capital Bamako
Photographs: Finbarr O'Reilly/Reuters
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15. Rwanda

Population: 11,055,976
GDP (PPP): $9.9 billion
GDP per capita: $1,149

Rwanda is one of the countries on this list that shows signs of hope and improvement.

The genocide in 1994 affected Rwanda's infrastructure and left its people in great depths of poverty.

Efforts to develop this resource rich nation, 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.

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Image: Rwandan children do their school work
Photographs: Reuters
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14. Guinea

Population: 10.3 million
GDP (PPP): $10.3 billion
GDP per capita: $991

Guinea retains significant potential in agricultural and mineral resources, as well as hydroelectric development.

But, the nation suffers from a poor literacy rate of less than 30 per cent. It is also engulfed by political uncertainty. As a result of which, industries are left underdeveloped in this nation.

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Image: A boy gathers firewood
Photographs: Luc Gnago/Reuters
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13. Ethiopia

Population: 88 million
GDP (PPP): $70.9 billion
GDP per capita: $954

One of the largest and poorest of the African nations, Ethiopia relies heavily on agricultural exports (particularly coffee) to sustain GDP.

However, the country is hurt by heavy droughts, poor farming practices and price fluctuations. Ethiopia was also heavily affected by a two-year war with Eritrea.

In 2005, the International Monetary Fund waived off the country's debt, which has led to improved conditions.

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Image: A child collects water from a pond used by animals
Photographs: Irada Humbatova/Reuters
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12. Mozambique

Population: 22 million
GDP (PPP): $18.6 billion
GDP per capita: $933

Mozambique became independent in 1975. Since, then it has struggled to bring itself out of extreme poverty.

The nation is working against massive foreign debt with the aid of international organisations. It has also managed to garner some attention from investors and has developed a sizable aluminium industry.

However, Mozambique was hit by economic recession, as the growth and export potential of the aluminium industry was hampered by a sharp drop in the price of the metal.

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Image: Families displaced by the floods wait under a tree before registration
Photographs: Thierry Delvigne-Jean/Reuters
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11. Madagascar

Population: 21.3 million
GDP (PPP): $19.7 billion
GDP per capita: $932

Madagascar had a socialist-oriented government until the 1990s. This was later replaced by a government, which relied heavily on the IMF for economic guidance.

Even though, a burgeoning tourism industry was developed, several political crisis, as well as global recession, hurt the nation's best hope for growth in the past few years.

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Image: A malnourished boy waits for food at a therapeutic feeding centre
Photographs: Jasleen Sethi/Reuters
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10. Malawi

Population: 15.4 million
GDP (PPP): $11.3 billion
GDP per capita: $884

Extreme poverty, the rampant spread of HIV/AIDS and the widespread corruption are the banes of Malawi.

The country is one of the world's least developed nations and also one of the most densely populated.

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Photographs: Jasleen Sethi/Reuters
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9. Togo

Population: 6.2 million
GDP (PPP): $5.3 billion
GDP per capita: $826

Togo has been experiencing political unrest since it gained independence from France in 1960.

One of the world's poorest countries, Togo is led by the universally condemned President Faure Gnassingbe, son of the corrupt political leader Gnassingbe Eyadema.

The nation, however, has only recently begun to rebuild its relationship with the international community.

With help from the World Bank and the IMF, Togo aims at improving its economic growth through increased privatisation, government transparency and support from foreign donors.

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Photographs: Reuters
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8. Republic of Sierra Leone

Population: 5.2 million
GDP (PPP): $4.3 billion
GDP per capita: $759

Victim of a 10-year old war - which ended in 2002 - Sierra suffers from poverty and unemployment. The nation, which has rich minerals and agricultural resources, is recovering from the after effects of war.

The export of diamonds, often referred to as 'blood diamonds,' benefits only a small minority of the country.

But, for much of the general population, peace and prosperity seems unattainable.

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Photographs: Reuters
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7. Central African Republic

Population: 4.8 million
GDP (PPP): $3.2 billion
GDP per capita: $745

The Central Republic of Africa has undergone three decades of military dictatorships, a decade of unruly civilian government, and an unstable transitional government established by a military coup. All these events have happened since CAR gained independence from France in 1960.

CAR shows great potential for economic growth within timber and diamond industries. But, it is still surrounded by political instability and concerns like corruption, which hamper CAR's progress.

Click NEXT to read on . . .


Photographs: Reuters
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6. Niger

Population: 15.9 million
GDP (PPP): $10.1 billion
GDP per capita: $719

Niger, which suffers from poor economy, has an arid climate that suffers from drought cycles and desertification.

Further, its economy 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, makes the nation as one of the poorest in the world - devastated by disease and corruption.

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Photographs: Reuters
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5. Eritrea

Population: 5.8 million
GDP (PPP): $3.7 billion
GDP per capita: $679

Eritrea gained its independence from Ethiopia 17 years ago.

It suffers from 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, has total control over the economy through military force and the expansion of government-owned businesses.

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4. Liberia

Population: 3.7 million
GDP (PPP): $1.4 billion
GDP per capita: $424

Liberia has suffered extensive economic hardships since a 1980 military coup, which was led by Samuel Doe.

But, it has an abundance supply of water, timber and mineral resources. This gives Liberia a chance for salvation, a chance to rebuild its war-ravaged infrastructure.

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Photographs: Reuters
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3. Burundi

Population: 9.8 million
GDP (PPP): $3 billion
GDP per capita: $400

Burundi has recently come out of a civil war between the Hutu and Tutsi factions. Thus, its economy faces many challenges.

It also lacks in resources and is largely uneducated (only one in two children attends school). Further, one in every fifteen adults has HIV/Aids.

Even though, recent political stability has proven beneficial, poverty remains extremely prominent.

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Photographs: Reuters
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2. Zimbabwe

Population: 11.6 million
GDP (PPP): $332 million
GDP per capita: $354

Zimbabwe is not one of the poorest nations in the world. However, its economy has suffered from war with the Democratic Republic of Congo and hyperinflation.

Further, a violent land redistribution campaign has scared away most potential foreign investors.

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1. Congo

Population: 70.9 million
GDP (PPP): $20.6 billion
GDP per capita: $332

Even though it has rich economic resources, the Democratic Republic of Congo has suffered from war and corruption since its independence in 1960.

Congo was one of the second most industrialised countries in Africa. Today, it has the lowest GDP per capita in the world.

Poor infrastructure and business, reflects the ill-effects of what has been termed as Africa's 'world war,' where an estimated 3 million lives were lost.


Photographs: Reuters
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