Over half of the nations in Africa are considered to be the poorest in the world. Moreover, the continent has lower levels of success economically than the other six continents around the world. Africa, however, is developing very quickly and has seen significant economic improvement and development in the past decade.
Even so, however, many nations aren’t showing economic growth, and even the countries that are improving are not experiencing nearly as much growth as the nations would like. Moreover, financial insecurity, political instability, and civil wars within these nations have left many of Africa’s citizens living a life of poverty.
The Poorest Countries In Africa 2021
10. The Gambia
Compared to most countries on this list – and most countries in West Africa – The Gambia is relatively stable socially and politically. Still, it ranks among the poorest countries in the world with a GNI per capita of less than $1,500.
The Gambia has limited natural resources and relies heavily on agriculture, with wood, Brazil nuts, and cashews accounting for 80% of its exports in 2017. In addition, less than half of The Gambia’s population has access to electricity, and over a third of the country’s urban population lives in slums.
- GNI per capita: $1,471
- 2017 GDP: $3.2 billion
- Population: 2.1 million
- Life expectancy at birth: 61.4 years
9. Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone is a resource-rich country in West Africa. However, it endured a devastating civil war that was fueled by the diamond and valuable minerals trade. Though the war ended in 2002, it destroyed many of the country’s institutions, and the effects are still being felt. Today, Sierra Leone’s public sector is perceived to be more corrupt than most other countries.
The problems associated with the lack of economic development are evident. About a quarter of the country’s population is underweight, and Sierra Leone’s maternal mortality rate of 1,360 deaths per 100,000 live births is the worst in the world. The country was also among the hardest hit by the 2014 Ebola outbreak, and at 52.2 years, the average life expectancy at birth in Sierra Leone is the worst in the world.
- GNI per capita: $1,348
- 2017 GDP: $10.5 billion
- Population: 7.6 million
- Life expectancy at birth: 52.2 years
Madagascar is an island nation located in the Indian Ocean east of the African continent. The former French colony has been independent since 1960, grappling with political violence and coups in the last several decades. While the county has a substantial tourism industry, it heavily depends on agriculture, with farming accounting for more than two-thirds of total employment.
Living conditions for many in the country demonstrate the hardships associated with poverty. Over 77% of the country’s urban population lives in slums, and about 43% of residents are malnourished. In Madagascar, life expectancy at birth is just 66.3 years, about six years shy of the global average.
- GNI per capita: $1,339
- 2017 GDP:$36.2 billion
- Population:25.6 million
- Life expectancy at birth:66.3 years
A former Portuguese colony, Mozambique, a country on the Indian Ocean in southern Africa, became an independent nation in 1975. Like many former colonial territories, Mozambique struggled in its early years of independence, enduring a civil war from 1976 to 1992. Though the country’s economy boosted in 2011 with the discovery of natural gas, development is still lagging due in part to the over decade-and-a-half of civil war.
A staggering 62.4% of the population lives on $1.90 or less a day, and nearly 82% live on $3.20 a day. The country is also dealing with a public health crisis, as 12.5% of the population between 15 and 49 are HIV positive. Partially as a result, life expectancy in the country is less than 60 years.
- GNI per capita: $1,100
- 2017 GDP: $33.7 billion
- Population: 29.7 million
- Life expectancy at birth: 58.9 years
Founded partly by freed U.S. slaves, Liberia’s economy was all but destroyed in the 1990s and early 2000s by a civil war that left a quarter of a million dead and thousands more displaced. Limited economic development in the country has led to a low standard of living. Less than 20% of the population has access to electricity, and about 39% are underweight. The government, which ranks among the most corrupt globally, spends relatively little on education as a share of GDP, and illiteracy is widespread.
The West African nation is resource-rich, however, and gold exports are driving growth. In 2017, gold accounted for 19% of the country’s $1.0 billion in exports.
- GNI per capita: $1,078
- 2017 GDP: $5.5 billion
- Population: 4.7 million
- Life expectancy at birth: 63.0 years
Malawi is an East African nation that shares a border with Mozambique, another country on this list. One of the poorest countries in the world, a staggering 70.3% of the population lives on less than $1.90 a day. Poorer countries are typically heavily dependent on agriculture and subsistence farming, and in Malawi, agriculture accounts for 71.9% of total employment.
Like other countries in the region, Malawi is struggling to contain the spread of HIV. Currently, about one in every ten residents between the ages of 15 and 49 are HIV positive, and, according to the BBC, more than a million children living in the country have been orphaned by the disease.
- GNI per capita: $1,064
- 2017 GDP: $20.4 billion
- Population: 18.6 million
- Life expectancy at birth: 63.7 years
Niger is one of only four countries with a GNI per capita of less than $1,000. Since gaining independence from France in 1960, Niger has been marred by coups and political instability as one of the least developed nations globally; just 16% of the population has access to electricity. Over 80% of Niger’s population lives in rural areas, and of those who live in urban areas, the vast majority live in slums.
Poverty is widespread in the country as more than three in every four residents live on less than $3.20 a day. Niger is a resource-rich nation, however, and oil exploration and gold mining are driving economic growth. As a result, Niger’s economy grew at a relatively rapid 4.9% pace in 2017.
- GNI per capita: $906
- 2017 GDP: $19.9 billion
- Population: 21.5 million
- Life expectancy at birth: 60.4 years
3. the Democratic Republic of the Congo
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is rich in resources like valuable minerals, like copper, diamonds, and gold. However, control over these resources has helped fuel a civil war that leads to as many as 6 million deaths rather than an economic boom.
Basic infrastructure is lacking in the country as only about 17% of the population has access to electricity, and there are no fixed telephone lines. This, in addition to rampant public sector corruption, makes conducting business in the country difficult. As in many developing countries, health outcomes are lagging in DR Congo. The government has one of the world’s highest infant mortality rates, and the average life expectancy is just 60 years.
- GNI per capita: $796
- 2017 GDP: $65.7 billion
- Population: 81.3 million
- Life expectancy at birth: 60.0 years
With a GNI per capita of just $686, Burundi is the second poorest country in both Africa and the world. The country’s modern history has been stained by a brutal 12-year civil war sparked in 1994 by ethnic tensions between the Tutsi minority and the Hutu majority. Today, Burundi’s public sector ranks among the most corrupt in the world.
Burundi is also one of the least developed countries in the world. Over 87% of the population lives in rural areas, and fewer than 10% of people have access to electricity. Though nearly all pregnant women in the country receive
prenatal medical care, the country’s maternal mortality rate of 712 deaths per 100,000 live births is among the highest globally.
- GNI per capita: $686
- 2017 GDP: $7.3 billion
- Population: 10.9 million
- Life expectancy at birth: 57.9 years
1. the Central African Republic
The GNI per capita of $663 in the Central African Republic is the lowest of any country in the world. Despite a wealth of resources like gold, diamonds, and oil, violence has hindered economic development since France gained independence in 1960. Moreover, after a string of coups in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, religious violence between the Muslim minority and Christian majority has plagued the nation since 2012.
Slightly more than half of the CAR population lives in rural areas, but of those who live in cities, more than 90% live in slums. In addition, CAR is the only country with available data where over half of all citizens – 61.8% – are undernourished.
The country also has the third-highest infant mortality rate globally and one of the lowest average life expectancies, at just 52.9 years.
- GNI per capita: $663
- 2017 GDP: $3.1 billion
- Population: 4.7 million
- Life expectancy at birth: 52.9 years