The World's Poorest Countries and Why They SufferAccording to Business Insider, the top ten of the world’s poorest countries are the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Liberia, Niger, Malawi, Mozambique, Guinea, Eritrea and Madagascar. Poverty is directly correlated to a nation’s institutional quality, corruption levels, geography and economic prospects. These sub-Saharan African countries suffer from several factors that keep their citizens well below the poverty line. Why do these nations struggle with poverty?



The world’s poorest countries struggle to overcome poverty due to a lack of institutions. While many organizations are working to address this issue, there is still a substantial lack of quality institutions in education, agriculture and medicine. When institutions such as schools are created for impoverished people, it reduces the overwhelmingly low literacy rates, which increases opportunities for those facing extreme poverty. Funding the creation of more institutions for developing countries creates opportunities and advantages for impoverished people, which encourages a nation’s industrialization and economic success.



Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo also made Business Insider’s list of the world’s most corrupt countries. Political instability and corruption create an environment that hinders growth. In the world’s poorest countries, political corruption is common and often discussed with severity, but rarely fought against. A strong governing body is less susceptible to corruption, but many of these nations have weak governance. This corruption, paired with conflict such as terrorism, can prevent an impoverished nation’s upward mobility. A stronger, more powerful government could be the solution for conflict and corruption in developing nations.



The world’s poorest countries are often at the mercy of their geography. Landlocking, poor soil and natural disasters can keep a nation at a disadvantage. When a nation is landlocked, the success of its economy is often correlated to the success of surrounding nations. For example, a landlocked country in Europe, where fewer countries are impoverished, has a better chance at success than a country in sub-Saharan Africa, where many nations are underdeveloped. This is based on the concept and reality of economic growth crossing borders. As well as landlocking, many of these nations experience disasters such as droughts which discourage agricultural success.



Economic growth for the world’s poorest countries is based on myriad factors, some of which are beyond a nation’s control. Many developing countries face the lack of a free market, landlocking and high trade barriers, all of which slow the upward mobility of a nation. Free markets encourage a blossoming economy; therefore, a lack of international trade affects a nation’s GDP substantially.

Trade barriers prevent developing countries from expanding their economic gains because they experience high tariffs on their products, which are commonly textiles and agricultural goods. Trade barriers are costlier for developing countries, even though it is more common for developing nations to export goods to other developing nations rather than industrialized nations. In this common situation, both developing nations suffer. Impoverished nations like Burundi, the third poorest nation in the world, rely on foreign aid from wealthy countries for survival because they struggle with trade.


How to Move Forward

Developed nations, which are industrialized, have implemented foreign aid laws and programs which encourage and fund the development of impoverished nations. To remain active and diligent in the support of progress for the world’s poorest nations, encouraging Congress to vote for laws that protect and create foreign aid funds is essential to the progress of these developing nations. Long-term development for economic and social progress starts with developed nations lending a humble hand to those less fortunate.

– Courtney Hambrecht

Photo: Flickr

Often, the assumption is that the world’s poorest countries must have a low cost of living; unfortunately, the average annual income (GNI) in poor countries is often too low to purchase many of the things Western Civilization considers basic necessities of life. With this discrepancy, it is possible to see how so many people are going without food and an education. Below is a list of what you can buy with $10 in the World’s 10 poorest countries.

Afghanistan (GNI = $426): $10 buys 35 pounds of Pakistani sugar, or 17 pounds of rice

Madagascar (GNI = $450): $10 buys five dozen eggs, five liters of domestic draft beer or two seats for an international film release at the cinema

Malawi (GNI = $900): $10 buys 22 pounds of rice

Niger (GNI = $3,716): $10 buys 20 cigarettes

Central African Republic (GNI = $800): $10 buys four and a half pounds of apples, or 11 pounds of potatoes

Eritrea (GNI – $403): $10 buys ten liters of gasoline

Liberia (GNI = $436): $10 buys 15 liters of mineral water

Burundi (GNI = $160): $10 buys five and a half pounds of rice, or one combo meal at a local fast food joint

Zimbabwe (GNI = $150): $10 buys a meal in an inexpensive restaurant, or five cappuccinos

Democratic Republic of the Congo (GNI = $120): $10 buys financial literacy training material for one woman

This list demonstrates how important it is to provide the means rather than the product; shipping water across the ocean rings up an endless bill, but digging a well could save hundreds and is a one-time labor. A small loan is all it takes to provide a woman with the knowledge to later provide for herself and her children.

The cost of food skyrockets when there is a shortage and evaporates when there is abundance, so rather than a single meal, they often need support for their agricultural systems to provide a cushion for farmers. Our money would be well served providing farmers with the knowledge and equipment to maintain a reliable price on their product. This would not only allow farmers to feed and care for their families, but keep food available and affordable for the masses.

Lydia Caswell

Sources: Asia Times, FINCA, Global Giving, International Women’s Rights Action Watch, Maps of World, The Richest, The Washington Post, The World Bank, World Vision
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