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March 2013; updated list of the ten poorest nations in the world.

With such fragile economies; an election, a storm, a change of internal policy, or even a perception of corruption, will have these nations careening up or down the list.

Since first publication of this article, there has been a change in the rankings an inclusion of nations which heretofore were not considered. 

This list was compiled and updated in March 2013,  using data from various sources, including the CIA, International Monetary Fund, World Bank.

1.      Democratic Republic of Congo

     Once known as the Belgian Congo, Zaire, now the Democratic Republic, this huge resource rich nation now holds the position of  poorest country in the World and has done so for the past three years.

 It has been embroiled in wars, civil and with other nations, since Independence in 1960.

 During the past two decades of conflict, over 6 million people have died and continue to die at the rate of 45,000 a month. This is not only attributable to war, but its fellow travelers, disease and famine.

      DR-Congo has diamonds, uranium, cobalt, tantalum, copper, and other valuable minerals. The wars, besides being caused by ethnic hatred, are inspired by control of the nation’s wealth.

The smuggling of coltan and cassiterite, the ores of tantalum and tin have fueled the war in the Eastern Congo.

 As a kleptocracy, whatever can be appropriated by the government and its agents, is. Whether medicine or machinery.

Despite having more resources than most places in the world, two thirds of the population is malnourished. Hunger has provoked a market in ‘bushmeat’, that is, the meat of wild animals, often chimpanzees and gorillas. There is also reports of cannibalism.

2.      Liberia

     This nation has slipped down a place, as it hung at 3 two years ago.  Having gone through a terrible civil war, political unrest,  finally reaching a level of peace, the economy of Liberia needs to be rebuilt. It has moved forward one place and is now the third poorest nation in the world.

A ban on Liberian ‘blood’ diamonds was lifted in 2007 and a new contract for the export of iron ore was signed.

However, Liberia is still dependent on Foreign Aid and has an unemployment rate of approximately 85%. It’s external debt is 3.5 billion while its GDP is 2.5 billion.

Life expectancy is 42.5 years although it has the highest population growth in the world at 4.50%.

Currently, Liberia’s revenues come primarily from rubber exports and revenues from its maritime registry program, earning some $16 million in the years 2007/2008.

There is increasing interest in the possibility of commercially exploitable offshore crude oil deposits along Liberia’s Atlantic Coast.

 3.      Zimbabwe

When I first began this list, Zimbabwe was not on it. Between 2008 and 2010, it  declined to the point that the per capital income was .01c.  and it was at Number 2.  It experienced hyper-inflation, and the unbelievable mismanagement of Mugabe. It has slipped a place, as things have slightly improved. However, being the 3rd poorest, is nothing to brag about.

  Poverty is caused by gross mismanagement, corruption, and a destructive economic policy where previously productive farms taken from white owners and distributed to ‘War Veterans’.

Using racism has always been the tool of a fascist.  By making the people think it is some nebulous ‘white world’ which causes Zimbabwe’s poverty,  Mugabe clings to power.  Once the ‘breadbasket’ of Africa, Zimbabwe can no longer feed itself.

Where life expectancy improves in other places, in Zimbabwe it has declined from 60 to 37 years for males, 34 years for females, the lowest in the world.

1.8 Million Zimbabweans live with HIV and receive no treatment as the health system has collapsed. There was a major cholera outbreak in December 2008, the number of cases reaching 89,018.

Inflation is the highest in the world and now stands at 231,000,000%.  80% of the population is unemployed, many flee to other nations.  Corruption is so blatant that money contributed for humanitarian projects is regularly confiscated by the Government for its private usage.

Due to the complete lack of interest by the government and the hunger of its people 60% of Zimbabwe’s wildlife has died since 2000.

   4. Burundi

Burundi has one of the lowest per capita GDP as well as currently, the lowest life expectancy.  This is attributed to civil wars, corruption, poor access to education, and the effects of HIV/AIDS. 

Approximately 80% of Burundi’s population lives in poverty. Famines and food shortages are common and  56.8% of children under age five suffer from chronic malnutrition.  In one study, Burundi’s population was found to  have the lowest satisfaction with life in the world

Burundi is a landlocked country with a weak legal structure. It is densely populated despite substantial emigration. Cobalt and copper are among Burundi’s natural resources. Some of Burundi’s main exports include coffee and sugar.

5.      Somalia 

Somalia has not had a central government since 1991. There are various warlords with regional authority but no actual government. It has declined from 7th place in 2010 to 5th in 2011 where it remains.

Foreign investment, however, does exist, and there are western factories currently turning a profit. Without a central government, money flows into private pockets.

Somalia, without infrastructure, proper health care, public water or electricity, still manages to maintain property rights, provide its city-dwellers with a cheap mobile phone network and internet coverage, keep open several DHL offices and has a Coca Cola bottling plant.

      The cheapest international calls in the world can be made from a Sim card bought in Mogadishu, though the legality of the connection may be questionable. Business is the glue that holds Somali society together.

   6. Eritrea 

Since independence from Ethiopia in 1993, Eritrea has faced the economic problems of a small, desperately poor country, accentuated by the implementation of restrictive economic policies. Eritrea has a command economy under the control of the sole political party, the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ).

The economy is  based on subsistence agriculture, with 80% of the population involved in farming and herding

Few private enterprises remain in Eritrea. Eritrea’s economy depends heavily on taxes paid by members of the diaspora.  Eritrea’s recent harvests have been unable to meet the food needs of the country.

7. Central African Republic 

The Central African Republic has slipped from its position  to 7th poorest nation in the world.   The agricultural sector generates more than half of the country’s GDP. Due to its landlocked position, poor transport, unskilled work force, and a history of misdirected economic policies, CAR has been unable to develop economically.

There are 4.3 million people, with a life expectancy at birth of 43.46 years (male), 43.62 years (female). HIV/AIDS effects 13.5% of the population.

8.      Niger 

Niger has mainted it’s postion as the 8th poorest nation. Things have not improved for this nation as much as  deteriorated for the other seven.  It is a landlocked country bordered by Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Libya, Mali and Nigeria.  There is often drought and severe food crisis. 63% live on less than $1 (US) a day.

Less than 15% of adults are literate and life expectancy is 46 years. Adult prevalence of HIV/AIDS is 1.2%, but this is just one of a number of infectious diseases.  Many people die of diarrhea, hepatitis A, typhoid fever, malaria and meningococcal meningitis.

Slavery was outlawed in 2003 although there are reports that 43,000 people remain in bondage.

Currently, members of the previous regime, which resigned in 2007, are under investigation for embezzling funds from the education ministry.

9 Madagascar

Making the list for the first time is this island in the Indian Ocean. Approximately 69 percent of the population lives below the national poverty line threshold of one dollar per day. The agriculture sector constituted 29 percent of Malagasy GDP in 2011, while manufacturing formed 15 percent of GDP.

Madagascar’s sources of growth are tourism, agriculture and the extractive industries.] Tourism focuses on the niche eco-tourism market, capitalizing on Madagascar’s unique biodiversity, unspoiled natural habitats, national parks and lemur species.   An Touism has declined by over 50% as a result of the political crisis.


Another new entry, Malawi suffers excess mortality due to AIDS.  It has a low life expectancy, high infant mortality, high death rates, low population growth rates.  It’s GDP, per capita, is $800.  Increasing corruption, and pressure on agricultural lands, plus the spread of HIV/AIDS are the major problems.  Life expectancy is about 42.98 years

It is among the world’s most densely populated and least developed countries. The economy is predominately agricultural with about 80% of the population living in rural areas. Agriculture, which has benefited from fertilizer subsidies since 2006, accounts for one-third of GDP and 90% of export revenues. The performance of the tobacco sector is key to short-term growth as tobacco accounts for more than half of exports. The economy depends on substantial inflows of economic assistance from the IMF, the World Bank, and individual donor nations.

Many Donors, who had provided an average of 36% of government revenue, suspended general budget support for Malawi in 2011 due to a negative IMF review and governance issues.

Missing are Guinea-Bissau, Central African Republic and Afghanistan which previously made the lists.  It is not that they are doing so much better, it is that other nations are doing so much worse.