Poverty is an issue that affects the entire world, and some areas are impacted by poverty more than others. The following is a list of the 10 poorest countries across the globe based on their national GDP (gross domestic product) per capita. Investopedia defines the GDP per capita as a “primary indicator of a country’s economic performance.”

10. Afghanistan
Afghanistan, whose national currency is the Afghan afghani, saw $1,072.19 GDP per capita in 2013. Much of Afghanistan’s economic distress stems from their lengthy history of warfare that spans the last three decades, including the ten-year Soviet war. Despite the nation’s efforts in rebuilding itself, they still suffer the long-term effects — especially the economic effects — of these wars.

9. Madagascar
Madagascar (Malagasy ariary) saw $972.07 GDP per capita in 2013. Although on the list, Madagascar is on the rise; they have seen improvements in their economy from providing increased emphasis on education and better accessibility to health care.

8. Malawi
Malawi (Kwacha) saw $893.84 GDP per capita in 2013. Around 85 percent of the population live in rural areas. Malawi is a still-developing nation that is dealing with the stress of an HIV/AIDS problem. Much of their economy is agriculturally oriented.

7. Niger
Niger, who also uses the CFA Franc, saw $853.43 GDP per capita in 2013. Niger has several detriments of a thriving economic system, including a lack of education and poor health care. Because of its high fertility rate, almost half of the population of Niger are 15 years old or younger. The literacy rate in Niger, 28.7 percent in 2005, is one of the lowest in the entire world.

6. Central African Republic
The Central African Republic (CFA Franc) saw $827.93 GDP per capita in 2013. The CAR has been experiencing the strife of war for the past several years, especially in recent years under the government of General François Bozizé, the Central African Republic Bush War, and the very recent Central African Republic conflict. Government has almost dissolved completely. The Prime Minister has even gone as far as calling the country an anarchy. With no government and an abundance of war, it is easy to see how economic and living conditions could plummet.

5. Eritrea
Eritrea (Nakfa) saw $792.13 GDP per capita in 2013. Eritrea has had a difficult political history, including extended militaristic conflicts with neighboring nations, which has impacted its economy.

4. Liberia
Liberia (Liberian Dollar) saw $716.04 GDP per capita in 2013. A large portion of the population of Liberia live below the poverty threshold. Liberia has also faced political instability and a civil war of its own.

3. Burundi
Burundi (Burundi Franc) saw $648.58 GDP per capita in 2013. Burundi has suffered economically not only from the corruption of their government, but also war, HIV/AIDS, and a lack of accessible education. Only 13 percent of the population of Burundi live in urban cities; the vast majority live in rural areas.

2. Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe (Zimbabwean Dollar) saw  $589.46 GDP per capita in 2013. In the last 10-15 years, Zimbabwe has been experiencing a sharp economic decline, in part due to their involvement in the civil wars occuring in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

1. The Democratic Republic of the Congo
The Congo (Congolese Franc) saw $394.25 GDP per capita in 2013. The capital city, Kinshasa, is home to over 9 million citizens and sits along the Congo River. Plagued with crime, corrupt government, and a lengthy recovery from civil war, it becomes easy to see how poverty can run rampant in an area such as this.

Ryan Miller

Sources: Maps of World, Investopedia
Photo: Action Aid


Hunger Casts Shadow Over Zimbabwe Starving Africa
The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) has announced that Zimbabwe faces a “looming food crisis,”  just days after the UN endorsed the country as the tourism leader for Africa. 2.2 million people, or one in four of the rural population, are expected to need emergency aid in the coming months, the highest number since early 2009. The UN World Food Program (WFP) will provide additional food handouts until the next harvest in March.

Rising hunger, particularly in southern districts, was caused by extreme and inconsistent weather, the high cost and shortages of fertilizer and seeds in the struggling economy, and a 15 percent rise in prices for the corn staple after this year’s poor harvests. Historically in years of economic and political turmoil, Zimbabwe has needed regular food handouts. Approximately 1.4 million of the total 13 million people received food aid in 2012.

“Zimbabwe is chronically food deficient and the long term solution is a holistic intervention. In the short terms with regards to immediate intervention, we are scaling up our targeted assistance, meaning we will be distributing food and cash for cereals and other foods. We will probably reach up to 1.8 million people by January,” Abdurrahim Siddiqui, the UN Deputy Country Director for Zimbabwe, said.

Commercial Farmers Union President Charles Taffs stated that the figures might underestimate the actual number of people that need food. He further added that Zimbabwe was in the midst of a man-made agricultural crisis after more than a decade of destructive policies, such as the land grab campaign.

“We have been avoiding dealing with this issue for too long now. Zimbabwe has the resources, it has the land, and it has the ability to produce food. Now we need investor confidence to be restored and farming to resume,” Taffs said.

Ali Warlich

Sources: ABC, All Africa

Hunger is on the rise in Zimbabwe with an estimated 2.2 million people needing food assistance by the pre-harvest period from October 2013 to March 2014, reported the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) on September 3. This predicted amount of hunger in Zimbabwe would be the highest level since early 2009 when more than 50 percent of the entire population needed food aid.

This fact may be alarming as one often hears that there is progress being made in solving world hunger and hopefully meeting the first MDG, which is eradicating poverty and hunger. In some cases, that is true. In fact, according to the Food Assistance Organization (FAO), the percentage of the global population that suffers from hunger dropped from 18.6 percent in the early 1990s to 12.5 percent in 2010-2012.

However, the progress is not uniform all over the world. Mainly Southeast and East Asia have seen remarkable achievements in decreasing hunger, but the problem is much more severe in sub-Saharan Africa, where hunger has increased by 2 percent each year. Such is the case for Zimbabwe; where the 2.2 million people projected not able to provide for themselves starting in October, make up 25 percent of the rural population.

Factors that have caused the rising level of food insecurity in the Zimbabwe include inconsistent rainfall, increasing costs of agricultural products such as fertilizers and seeds, as well as the rising costs of food such as grains due to the unsuccessful maize harvest. Food prices are also expected to increase even more as the amount of commodities decreases. Moreover, with the 70 percent unemployment rate in Zimbabwe, many people cannot cope with increasing food prices.

Dubbed by experts as what will be the “worst hunger season in years,” the WFP will begin supplying cereal, beans, and oil in October to help families vulnerable to the food crisis maintain their livelihoods. Additionally, the WFP will also facilitate cash transfers so that people will be able to purchase cereal and grains from local markets.

The WFP also began helping Zimbabwe’s growing food crisis as early as June by establishing a Cash/Food for Assets program in rural areas, in which poorer communities can receive food or money by participating in the construction of community irrigation systems and wells.

The government of Zimbabwe has also taken action towards the hunger problem in Zimbabwe for the first time. In fact, it provided $10 million in grain to a relief operation headed by the WFP and its partners, which ultimately contributed food aid to about 1.4 million people in 37 rural areas.

Elisha-Kim Desmangles

Sources: News 24, US News Centre, WFP, Thomas Reuters Foundation

The founder of a Rolleston charity, which supports the education of children in Africa, is preparing to take an extra step to help the cause. David Yates, founder and President of the Rolleston Music Circle & Choral Society located in Staffordshire, UK, along with his wife Brenda, set up the charity Educating Others.

The charity is preparing for three sponsored walks in three days to raise funds to help educate children in Africa. The 76 year-old Mr. Yates and his wife will be participating in the sponsored walks. This is the latest in a long line of fundraising activities, which have helped to raise more than $15,000 over the last three years. “It’ll be hard work, because it’s Friday, Saturday and Sunday, but I am looking forward to it,” said Mr. Yates.

The money raised over the three days in September will go to two causes which are supported by Educating Others—Gua Africa’s Emma Academy in South Sudan and the Rose of Sharon Welfare Organization in Zimbabwe.

Mr. and Mrs. Yates started the charity after befriending a Zimbabwean national over the Internet. The young man was studying for a master’s degree at the time and told them how lucky he felt to have had the educational opportunities that had been given to him. “He said he was so grateful for how things had gone that he was going to give so much a month for the rest of his life. We jumped at the chance to be involved,” said Mr. Yates.

The charity now has eight trustees throughout the UK and other parts of the world, and has been selected as “Charity of the Month” at a church in the area on two occasions. Mr. Yates estimates the charity has raised nearly $16,000 so far. The money has been used to support two children through high school in Leer, South Sudan, and an orphanage in Harare.

Scarlet Shelton

Sources: Burton Mail, Educating Others, Rolleston Music

Zimbabwe Elections

On July 31, 2013, elections in Zimbabwe took place for both the parliament and presidency. The election was the first under the southern African country’s new constitution. The current 89-year-old leader, Robert Mugabe, transformed the country once known as the breadbasket of Africa into an African basket case. He hopes to extend his 33-year-long reign of power, but he has serious competition from Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

But Tsvangirai may not be the answer to the country’s problems. He has committed many strategic errors, fracturing the opposition movement in the struggle against his opponent. He is a man who has survived multiple alleged assassination attempts in defense of freedom and democracy, and has suffered jail time and torture. Tsvangirai also understands the country’s need for economic freedom. He is aware that in order for Zimbabwe to prosper, the government needs to restore respect for property rights, shut down inefficient state-run enterprises, and significantly improve the business environment.

Zimbabwe experienced extreme economic hardship between 1998 and 2008. Its economy contracted at an annual rate of -6.09%. However, the countries next door, Botswana and Mozambique, were growing at annual rates of 3.95% and 4.94%, respectively. Zimbabwe’s per capita income fell dramatically from $1,640 to $661 while incomes in the neighboring countries continued to increase. As a result of economic contraction, Zimbabwe’s unemployment rate rose to nearly 94% in 2008.

Though the country rebounded slightly from the low point in 2008, its economy was still 36% smaller in 2012 than it had been in 1998. The UN’s Human Development Index (HDI) – an approximate measure of a standard of living that is calculated on a scale from 0 to 1 – saw Zimbabwe fall from 0.376 in 2000 to 0.345 in 2008. The cholera outbreak that left hundreds dead was merely a confirmation that Zimbabwe was a failed country.

In 2010, Zimbabwe ranked 142nd out of 144 countries surveyed in the Fraser Institute’s Economics Freedom of the World report; this year, it came in 172nd out of 185 countries surveyed in the World Bank’s Doing Business report; and 132nd out of 144 countries surveyed by the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report.

The underlying cause of the country’s economic turmoil, past and present, is political action. Robert Mugabe became prime minister and then president in 1980. He was a professed communist who was committed to turning Zimbabwe into a one-party Marxist state. After defeating the white-minority rule in the country that was once called Rhodesia, Mugabe saw himself as the supreme leader, and his party, the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), as the only legitimate political authority in the country.

Joshua Nkomo and his African People’s Union party (ZAPU) were Mugabe’s opposition. During the 1983 elections, Mugabe released the Zimbabwean military on Nkomo’s supporters. Over 20,000 people perished in that conflict. Eventually ZAPU was forced to merge with ZANU, and Nkomo became Mugabe’s powerless Vice President.

According to Foreign Policy Magazine, what Zimbabwe desperately needs are structural reforms including tax simplifications, labor and product market deregulation, and privatization of money-losing state-owned enterprises. Above all else, Zimbabweans must find a way to restore the rule of law and respect for property rights. For decades, Zimbabwe’s multiple communist regimes have benefitted from government monopolies, sale of permits and licenses, and outright fraud and theft. And the majority of Zimbabweans have been suffering. Only a clean break from the past will put the country on the right track to a sustained rate of high economic growth.

The election took place on Wednesday and the Zimbabwean Electoral Commission has 5 days to release the results. Already Mugabe’s party is claiming a victory for their side and Tsvangirai’s party is claiming that there has been election fraud.

– Scarlet Shelton

Sources: Sky News, Fraser Institute, Doing Business, World Economic Forum