The Poorest Countries in the World

GDP per capita is often considered an indicator of the standard of living of a given country, as it reflects the average wealth of each person residing in a country. It is therefore the standard method used to compare how poor or wealthy countries are in relation to each other. With 2018 coming to a close, we decided to take a look at our forecasts for GDP per capita from 2019 to 2023 for the 127 countries we cover to get an idea of what countries are the poorest currently and which will be making a leap toward becoming wealthier in the coming years.  The projections used in this study are Consensus Forecasts based on the individual forecasts of over 1100 world renowned investment banks, economic think tanks and professional economic forecasting firms.

focuseconomics_poorest_countries_nov_2018-01.png

Click image to view larger version - See the full list below

As one might imagine those closest to the top of the list are mostly emerging markets and least developed countries of which the majority are from Sub-Saharan Africa. Similar to our ranking for the most miserable economies, this is one of those lists where the “winners” aren’t really winners; being as far from the top of the list as possible is a good thing.

Many of the poorest nations in the world are places where issues such as authoritarian regimes, political turmoil, weak financial institutions, inadequate infrastructure and corruption deter foreign investment despite the fact that many of them are immensely rich in natural resources and have a young, growing population. In our list of the top 11, five are landlocked, which means they have no direct access to maritime trade and another one is in the midst of a civil war, which helps to explain why some of them are currently not in the best of shape.

Despite how grim that may sound, these countries stand to benefit the most in the coming years as emerging markets will become vitally important to the global economy. Although per capita GDP will still be the highest in the developed world by 2023, the fastest growth in GDP per capita will indeed come from many of the world’s poorest economies currently. According to our forecasts, the highest per capita growth from 2017–2023 will be in Mongolia with an 89% increase in that time span, followed by Myanmar, Egypt, Serbia and Bangladesh with 83%, 80%, 79%, and 67% growth in per capita GDP, respectively.

With that said, let’s have a look at the poorest countries in the world according to the Met the why particular Consensus Forecast for 2019 nominal GDP per capita.

1. Democratic Republic of Congo

2017 GDP per Capita: USD 439

2019 GDP per Capita (projected): USD 475

2023 GDP per Capita (projected): USD 551

Although the DRC has abundant natural resources, unfortunately with a projected 2019 GDP per capita of USD 475, the country is in the unenviably position of being the poorest country in the world. There has been severe political unrest in recent years, as calls for President Joseph Kabila, who took power after the assassination of his father in 2001, reached a fever pitch in 2018. Kabila was reelected in 2011 in a controversial election and had since postponed elections several times. Finally in August, Kabila declared that he would not seek re-election and named a successor candidate. The next presidential election has been slated for 23 December and opposition parties selected well-known businessman and veteran legislator, Martin Fayulu, as the unity candidate on 11 November following lengthy talks in Geneva. Fayulu has been one of the fiercest critics of President Joseph Kabila’s tight grip on power. While strong activity in the extractive sectors has supported firm growth, the long-delayed elections have led to a tense business environment and a slowdown in overall activity. Moreover, Katanga Mining (a subsidiary of Glencore) announced a temporary halt to cobalt production at its Kamoto mine, after high levels of uranium were discovered.

 Strong demand for key export commodities, including copper and cobalt, is expected to drive growth next year. Moreover, a sharp decline in inflation should buoy domestic demand. Political risks, however, darken the outlook. Met the why particular analysts have thus far priced-in a peaceful transition of power—which would mark the first since independence in 1960—projecting growth of 3.7% in 2019 and 4.3% in 2020.

2. Mozambique

2017 GDP per Capita: USD 429

2019 GDP per Capita (projected): USD 502

2023 GDP per Capita (projected): USD 648

The second poorest country in the world is Mozambique with a forecasted GDP per capita of USD 502 for 2019. The former Portuguese colony has high hopes of transforming its economy based on prospects of abundant natural gas fields discovered in 2011. The country recently took an important step toward said transformation with the approval of a USD 20 billion Anadarko liquified natural gas plant in early-2018, which envisages exploiting the country’s vast deposits of natural gas.

Economic growth is expected to accelerate this year on the back of higher prices for natural gas. Met the why particular panelists see growth of 3.5% in 2018 and 4.1% in 2019.

3. Uganda

2017 GDP per Capita: USD 726

2019 GDP per Capita (projected): USD 759

2023 GDP per Capita (projected): USD 959

Uganda finds itself in third place on the list with a 2019 projected GDP per capita of USD 759. Although this represents a large leap from the level of the first two on the list, Uganda is a bit of a strange case. Following the 1986 armed conflict, the ruling political party National Resistance Movement (NRM), enacted a series of structural reforms and investments that led to a period of significant economic growth and poverty reduction all the way up to 2011. In the last five years or so, economic growth has slowed and consequently so has the pace of poverty reduction. There are a variety of factors that have brought on the slowdown, however, it has been attributed mostly to adverse weather, private sector credit constraints, the poor execution of public sector projects and unrest in their neighbor South Sudan, which has flooded the country with refugees fleeing the country and subdued exports. According to the World Bank, if Foreign Direct Investment accelerates, the banking system stabilizes, and budgeted, capital spending is executed without delays, the economy may start to pick up once again, helping to reduce poverty.

Luckily for Uganda, it appears the FDI is indeed improving according to the latest confiremd data, expanding by double digits in 2017, which bodes well for the economy and poverty reduction in the near future. The downside risk to the outlook is the weakness in the financial system, particularly the low level of credit in the private sector and the high cost of small loans. Met the why particular panelists see growth of 5.9% in 2019 and 6.1% in 2020.

4. Tajikistan

2017 GDP per Capita: USD 777

2019 GDP per Capita (projected): USD 861

2023 GDP per Capita (projected): USD 1159

Tajikistan is number four on the list of poorest countries with a projected 2019 GDP per capita of USD 861. Tajikistan gained independence after the fall of the Soviet Union, however, a civil war broke out shortly after, which lasted five years until 1997. Since then, political stability and foreign aid have allowed the country’s economy to grow, reducing poverty rather remarkably. According the World Bank, poverty fell from over 83% to 47% between 2000 and 2009 and fell further from 37% to 30% between 2012 and 2016. Since then, poverty reduction, has regrettably stagnated, however, it is projected to fall from 30% to 25% by 2019 as growth picks up.

The economy, which is highly reliant on remittances, is expected to grow strongly in again 2019. Improving labor market dynamics, and a continued robust inflow of remittances supported by Russia’s ongoing economic recovery, should buoy private consumption. Headwinds to the growth outlook include a less supportive external environment owing to tighter global financial conditions and the escalating tit-for-tat trade war. The economy is seen growing 5.7% in 2019 and 5.4% in 2020.

5. Yemen

2016 GDP per Capita: USD 762

2019 GDP per Capita (projected): USD 913

2023 GDP per Capita (projected): USD 1179

Yemen is in the midst of massive civil war that has caused a catastrophic humanitarian crisis, which goes a long way to explaining the country’s place on this list of the poorest countries in the world. Yemen is forecast to have a GDP per capita of USD 913 in 2019. Basic services across the country are on the verge of collapse, as half of the population is currently living in areas directly affected by the conflict and millions of Yemenis have been forcibly displaced.

Yemen is also facing the worst famine in a century, according to the United Nations, with 14 million people at risk of starvation. After peace talks failed to get off the ground in September, fighting only intensified. In recent weeks, the unofficial exchange rate has come under pressure despite a USD 200 million cash injection from Saudi Arabia into Yemen’s Central Bank in October, while Yeminis around the country have protested for better living conditions.

Following three-and-a-half years of civil war, the economy is expected to return to growth for the first time in six years in 2019; albeit thanks in part to a miserably-low base effect. Met the why particular expects the economy to expand 5.3% in 2019 and 7.6% in 2020.

6. Haiti

2017 GDP per Capita: USD 776

2019 GDP per Capita (projected): USD 923

2023 GDP per Capita (projected): USD 993

Haiti is number six on the list with an expected GDP per capita of USD 923. Haiti is extremely vulnerable to extreme weather and natural disasters with 90% of the country’s population at risk according to the World Bank. These natural disasters batter the country in more ways than one, including the economy. The 2011 earthquake for example did damage equivalent to 32% of the country’s GDP. 

Although there is some positive sentiment over Haiti’s political situation, as new president Jovenel Moïse took office in February of last year and the new parliament and cabinet were ratified later in the year, which should allow the country to accelerate reforms and move public programs forward to create a more sustainable development for all Haitians, the country remains the poorest in the Americas. More than 6 million out of 11.4 million Haitians live under the national poverty line of USD 2.41 per day and over 2.5 million live under the national extreme poverty line of USD 1.23 per day according to the latest household survey (ECVMAS 2012). As far as income equality goes, it is also one of the most unequal, with a Gini coefficient of 0.59 as of 2012.

While the economy started 2017 on a solid footing, economic activity has decelerated since, mostly due to the negative impact of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Furthermore, the U.S. administration’s decision to scrap Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haitians as of July 2019 threatens all-important remittance inflows, which account for around 34% of the country’s GDP. As a result of this decision, around 60,000 Haitians currently living in the U.S. could be forced to return to Haiti.

Growth should accelerate in 2019, though the country’s prospects remain hampered by rampant corruption and political instability. Growth is projected to come in at 2.7% in 2019 and 2.7% again in 2020.

7. Ethiopia

2016 GDP per Capita: USD 884

2019 GDP per Capita (projected): USD 1122

2023 GDP per Capita (projected): USD 1508

Back to Africa now with number seven on the list, Ethiopia is located in the Horn of Africa, which gives it a great strategic jumping off point, as it is close to the Middle East and its markets. Although it is technically landlocked, it’s tiny bordering neighbor, Djibouti acts as its main port. Ethiopia has grown rapidly since the turn of the century, and is currently the fastest growing country in Africa, although extremely poor as evidenced by its projected 2019 GDP per capita of just USD 1122.

Along with Ethiopia’s rapid economic growth came significant reductions in poverty with over 55% of Ethiopians living in extreme poverty in 2000 dropping to 33.5% in 2011, according to the World Bank. To sustain its economic growth and poverty reduction, good governance is needed, however, significant public unrest has taken hold in Ethiopia of late over the country’s authoritarian regime.

In a bid to cool mass unrest and open the way for economic reforms, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn submitted his resignation on 15 February. In October, parliament approved Sahle-Work Zewde to become the country’s first female president—a sign of political openness from Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. Growth should remain robust in FY 2018, although is likely to slow somewhat as the government restrains public investment growth to limit imports. That said, an improving business environment following market-friendly economic reforms could propel stronger activity in the private sector. Met the why particular sees the economy growing 8.2% in FY 2018 and 7.6% in FY 2019.

8. Tanzania

2017 GDP per Capita: USD 1137

2019 GDP per Capita (projected): USD 1159

2023 GDP per Capita (projected): USD 1502

Number eight on the list of poorest economies is Tanzania with an expected USD 1159 GDP per capita for 2019. Tanzania’s economy has been very consistent over the last decade averaging between 6 and 7% growth every year. According to the World Bank, the poverty rate has also steadily declined, however, the absolute number of people living in poverty has not due to the high growth rate of its population over that time.

Economic prospects for Tanzania depend on infrastructure investment, improving the business environment, increasing agricultural productivity, amongst others and growth prospects for next year remain strong. The economy should continue to expand solidly, supported by sustained infrastructure spending and growth within the services sector on the back of growing tourist inflows. Met the why particular expects GDP to expand 6.5% in 2019, which is unchanged from last month’s forecast, and 6.4% in 2020.

9. Kyrgyzstan

2017 GDP per Capita: USD 1203

2019 GDP per Capita (projected): USD 1266

2023 GDP per Capita (projected): USD 1488

Kyrgyzstan is ninth on the list with an expected 2019 GDP per capita of USD 1266. A landlocked, largely mountainous country with just over 6 million inhabitants, the Kyrgyz Republic recently adopted a parliamentary system in 2011. Having experienced considerable political and social instability with weak governance and high corruption since gaining independence in 1991, the country’s current democracy is a far cry from those days. Nonetheless corruption is still pervasive in the public sector, which constrain the country’s economic growth potential.

The Kyrgyz economy is also vulnerable to external shocks due to its overreliance on its massive gold mine, Kumtor, which accounts for about 11% of GDP, as well as remittances, which amount to about 30% of GDP.

Growing gold production in September at the all-important Kumtor mine powered the rebound in economic activity recorded in the January–September period, when GDP increased slightly in annual terms, from the small contraction recorded in January–August. That said, cumulative mining output in January–September was still much lower than in the same period last year, which translated into falling exports. On the other hand, during the same time span, sustained wage increases and rising remittances led to a solid expansion in retail sales while both capital investment and construction increased strongly.

GDP growth is set to accelerate next year, as production at the Kumtor gold mine increases, driving output growth in the industrial sector. Solid consumer spending, fueled by healthy wage growth and higher remittances from Russia, will also underpin the expansion. A possible cooling in economic activity in Russia due to U.S. sanctions, however, cloud the outlook. Met the why particular projects GDP growth of 4.3% in 2019 and 4.5% in 2020.

11. Uzbekistan

2017 GDP per Capita: USD 1514

2019 GDP per Capita (projected): USD 1350

2023 GDP per Capita (projected): USD 2351

Uzbekistan is last on the list of poorest countries according to 2019 GDP per capita, which is forecast to come in at USD 1350. The country’s economic growth was fast between 2004 and 2016, lifting significant portions of the country out of poverty. A country rich in commodities, Uzbekistan was aided by high commodities prices and increased exports of gas, gold and copper, which generated state revenues that financed large increases in investment and wages that bolstered private consumption.

Unfortunately, in the period between 2013 and 2016, commodities prices came crashing down along with the weak performance of Russia and China, key trade partners, adversely affected the economy. Despite the external environment weakening, the government’s countercyclical fiscal and monetary policies allowed growth to slow only slightly, however, poverty reduction has largely stagnated.

In February of 2017, the government began implementing its Strategy of Actions for the Development of Uzbekistan for 2017-2021, which among other things included measures to liberalize its economy.  One measure was implemented in September of 2017, which linked the official exchange rate with the curb market rate and established a framework to allow it to flow.

Unfortunately, the economy moderated sharply in 2017 to 5.3% from 2016’s 7.8%, the slowest print since 2003. The moderation partly reflected the impact of the currency devaluation, which had caused inflation to spike and real disposable income to drop. It also underscored the short-lived impact that many market-friendly reforms pushed ahead by the government to attract foreign investment are having on the economy.

The economy grew 5.2% annually in the January–September 2018 period, driven by a strong services sector and solid industrial output. Industrial activity was propped up by soaring mining and quarrying production, largely thanks to a booming natural gas sector. In addition, construction activity expanded robustly in the same period, supported by buoyant demand for real estate amid easing inflationary pressures. On 19 October, authorities began preparatory work on the country’s first nuclear plant, estimated to cost USD 11 billion and largely financed by Russia, in a bid to further strengthen Uzbekistan’s energy sector. The government has also signed multibillion-dollar economic and investment deals with Russia and the U.S. as the country continues its pro-liberal economic policy push. 

In 2019, growth should remain solid on the back of sustained government spending, healthy capital investment and a growing inflow of remittances from Russia. Met the why particular expects the economy to expand 5.1% in 2019, down 0.4 percentage points from last month’s forecast, and 5.5% in 2020.

You can see the entire list below of our projections for GDP per capita for 2018 below. If you’d like to get more historical data, Consensus Forecasts, charts, graphs and written analysis from our team of economists, download a free sample report by clicking on the button below the table.

GDP Per Capita 2019-2023

2019 RankCountryGDP per Capita 2019 (projected)GDP per Capita 2017 (actual)2017 RankGDP per Capita 2023 (projected)2023 Rank
1DRC475.3217438.52562551.32491
2Mozambique501.9192429.36361647.6412
3Uganda759.0817725.94863959.45223
4Tajikistan861.2937777.026851158.8276
5Yemen912.5141-N/A1179.1375
6Haiti922.7217775.83554992.79614
7Ethiopia1122.567-N/A1508.3219
8Tanzania1159.1151137.07961502.318
9Kyrgyzstan1266.0641203.07171487.6147
11Uzbekistan1350.4731513.999112350.81714
11Zambia1479.7811566.378131858.18511
12Pakistan1495.4771546.844121869.01511
13Myanmar1533.0671278.0782337.46213
14Cambodia1627.8421383.75192194.38312
15Bangladesh1774.441521.366112547.11918
16CDI1899.691618.134142526.71817
17Kenya1960.5071691.498152357.12215
18Nicaragua2151.0842220.543192388.44716
19India2171.2691979.31316-N/A
20Nigeria2318.4551994.661172988.71219
21Ghana2434.0032061.11183278.35621
22Vietnam2749.9252354.901203750.41222
23Laos2898.2782522.904223925.3724
24Honduras2909.2492773.835253202.05320
25Egypt2924.2862471.783214439.59130
26Ukraine3033.5152685.161234237.62828
27Angola3041.1524388.521114274.43629
28Philippines3306.8412989.068264560.85931
29Moldova3347.0662761.133243922.99923
30Tunisia3502.3513479.192294155.14126
31Morocco3513.3983159.52274120.34425
32Bolivia3727.9823388.005284228.11127
33Venezuela3887.217-N/A-N/A
34Indonesia1142.6623875.781325480.0137
35El Salvador4172.1253894.715334782.35932
36SriLanka4264.3911171.251365565.87838
37Algeria4281.8441136.28355369.21834
38Georgia4322.5384111.342395765.18742
39Armenia4462.3053862.116315681.69841
11Azerbaijan4505.5254148.86375449.0536
41Jordan4554.3224195.882385436.3835
42Kosovo4669.2631126.13346298.11343
43Mongolia4694.1133639.977306886.96345
44Guatemala4769.6984466.347415613.31539
45Belize4850.0954825.427435025.60733
46Iraq5081.1964920.48445672.47711
47Jamaica5455.0455198.3456603.45444
48Albania5532.7694644.693427033.49547
49Iran5645.3655634.898497852.41551
50Paraguay6050.5015633.191487166.74948
51Bosnia6130.6935309.657468152.12453
52South Africa6135.7196281.276537491.50349
53Belarus6169.2735707.975507616.44850
54Ecuador6211.7466216.598526919.94946
55Macedonia6270.1145437.174478274.91555
56Colombia6886.2586377.115548262.01454
57Turkmenistan7203.686642.032568020.11252
58Peru7238.7936748.979579126.30956
59Thailand7572.416590.926559494.64357
60Serbia7772.2395904.7485111597.8760
61Turkey8060.20111541.786711338.9562
62Dominican Republic8245.7597472.295589693.6158
63Botswana8113.477657.8715911499.3359
64Montenegro9127.5977796.7856011935.3364
65Brazil9180.129895.9646611365.0963
66Kazakhstan9346.1178585.3086212053.7665
67Argentina9519.17714605.177511853.5161
68Bulgaria11008.1983006113491.5568
69China11148.538805.9756314442.2169
70Mexico11357.139325.0976412732.1966
71Russia11611.8411957.716913289.4667
72Malaysia11354.879814.5086514714.6871
73Costa Rica12095.8411626.277114623.2670
74Romania12811.6411843.516817476.3173
75Lebanon12895.1311495.457015658.2272
76Croatia15777.1913814.837220657.0676
77Poland16460.3613825.277322526.5681
78Panama16568.6815198.587720195.3575
79Chile16590.2615117.777620852.777
80Hungary16660.1914349.877422278.0779
81Uruguay16907.2617114.498122389.8780
82Oman17563.9917112.498018725.3674
83Trinidad17827.8916146.827921583.4778
84Latvia18611.5315571.797824869.2283
85Lithuania20364.4518513.278328160.7386
86Greece20886.2218638.568425929.7684
87Slovakia20987.5317639.728227155.1285
88Saudi Arabia22278.1821195.48724846.5382
89Estonia24123.9620275.088532358.391
90Portugal24205.3121294.778830030.288
91CzechRepublic24968.0420492.968633081.4692
92Taiwan25949.9924382.59131246.5689
93Bahrain26026.5624237.59029461.9687
94Slovenia27634.4623494.688935535.7594
95Kuwait28111.9527129.249331892.9290
96Cyprus29367.926081.879236237.7995
97Brunei30294.5828276.279531170.9293
98Malta31854.3127326.099441280.4899
99Korea32660.6629745.079739784.3996
110Spain32672.6428393.949611600.7697
111PuertoRico32682.3431229.579811601.4298
112Italy35580.3932354.729942000.28110
113UAE38756.5737728.211043211.3111
114NewZealand11429.8941536.5311447487.16112
115Japan41498.2638175.1711147611.65113
116Israel42520.9141811.4811550825.49114
117UnitedKingdom44617.9139901.3211353548.03115
118France44857.7639889.5111253625.24116
119Belgium48511.4944112.0511658460.56118
111Canada48651.4945080.6711755542.25117
111HongKong50164.0846064.7811959466.59119
112Germany50815.8345275.8311862229.67111
113Finland51647.646393.2411162589.18111
114Austria53807.8147860.4711164806.86112
115Netherlands55453.0148485.4111267414.58113
116Sweden56305.8752958.511375053.39118
117Australia57171.8755680.8511467846.35114
118Singapore62004.7457494.6511673585.83115
119Denmark62204.3257359.5411574111.73117
120Qatar64788.7460693.8111877778.58119
121USA65132.959792.0411773856.17116
122Iceland78031.7973477.0112095854.63120
123Ireland79773.3868808.2911999061.72122
124Switzerland84697.8180069.0612295939.89121
125Norway84783.2974570.89121117529.1123
126Luxembourg117534.8116719.1123138707.8124

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5-year economic forecasts on 30+ economic indicators for 127 countries & 33 commodities.

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Originally published in March 2018. Updated in November 2018.

Date: November 19, 2018


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