Poorest Countries in Africa 2021

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Africa is the poorest continent on Earth. Moreover, the competition is not particularly close.

Economic insecurity, political instability and corruption, civil wars, and terrorist insurrections have left millions of Africans living in abject poverty.

Of the 27 countries worldwide currently ranked by World Bank as Low Income Economies, indicating they are the very poorest countries in the world, 23 are located in Africa.

Africa also includes 21 of the world's 55 Lower Middle Income countries.

Two metrics often used to determine the wealth of a country are its gross domestic product (GDP) per capita and gross national income (GNI) per capita. GDP per capita measures the total value of all the goods and services produced by a country, then divides by the number of people in that country. GNI per capita is similar, but also includes any income from international sources, such as overseas investments or business dealings.

GDP and GNI are typically expressed in either U.S. dollars (US$) or purchasing power parity (PPP) "international dollars" (int.$), a hypothetical currency that makes country-to-country comparisons easier. Both metrics are excellent indicators of how affluent—or in this instance, how destitute—a country is.

The 10 Poorest Countries in Africa (by 2020 GDP per capita, PPP, current int.$):*

  1. Burundi ($771)
  2. Somalia ($875)
  3. Central African Republic ($980)
  4. Democratic Republic of the Congo ($1,131)
  5. Niger ($1,263)
  6. Mozambique ($1,297)
  7. Liberia ($1,428)
  8. Malawi ($1,568)
  9. Madagascar ($1,593)
  10. Chad ($1,603)

*For comparison: United States ($63,544)

For another perspective, here are the ten poorest countries measured by GNI per capita:

The 10 Poorest Countries in Africa (by 2020 GNI per capita, Atlas method, current US$):**

  1. Burundi ($270)
  2. Somalia ($310)
  3. Mozambique ($460)
  4. Madagascar ($480)
  5. Sierra Leone ($490)
  6. Central African Republic ($510)
  7. Liberia ($530)
  8. Niger ($540)
  9. Democratic Republic of the Congo ($550)
  10. Malawi ($580)

**For comparison: United States 2019 ($65,910)

Based on the per capita GDP and GNI values from 2020, Burundi ranks as the poorest country in not only Africa, but also the world. The second-poorest country in Africa, Somalia, holds the same distinction. In fact, this pattern carries through much of the list. With the lone exception of the Asian country Afghanistan, whose GNI per capita of $500 would place it at #6 on the second list, Africa's 10 poorest countries are also statistically the world's 10 poorest.

To be fair, this ranking comes with one significant caveat: It is possible that additional non-African countries—particularly North Korea, Syria, and/or Yemen—would appear in the bottom 10 if they openly shared their GDP/GNI data, but they typically decline to do so. That said, African countries would still take up the majority of the list.

It can be difficult to grasp the scale of Africa's economic challenges when viewing the numbers in a vacuum. To add perspective, we can look at the GDP values of the wealthiest countries in the world. According to 2020 data, the country with the highest GDP per capita (PPP int.$) is Luxembourg, with a value of $118,356—which is more than 150 times higher than Burundi's $771. Similarly, Norway's world-leading 2020 GNI per capita (Atlas method, current US$) of $78,250 seems almost modest—until one realizes that it's a full 289 times higher than Burundi's $270.

Africa's economic situation may not always be so bleak. A few African countries have seen significant economic growth and development over the past two decades. If this progress can be sustained and expanded, many Africans may realize a more promising economic future.

For a full list of Africa's countries and their 2020 GNI per capita (Atlas method, current US$), see the table below.

Here are the 10 poorest countries in Africa:

  1. Burundi ($270)
  2. Somalia ($310)
  3. Mozambique ($460)
  4. Madagascar ($480)
  5. Sierra Leone ($490)
  6. Eritrea ($510)
  7. Central African Republic ($510)
  8. Liberia ($530)
  9. Niger ($540)
  10. DR Congo ($550)

Poorest Countries in Africa 2021

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Poorest Countries in Africa 2021

Country GNI per Capita (Atlas Method, $US) GNI per Capita, PPP ($int'l.) Data Year Area 2021 Population
Burundi$270$780202027,834 km²12,255,433
Somalia$310$8702020637,657 km²16,359,504
Mozambique$460$1,2502020801,590 km²32,163,047
Madagascar$480$1,5402020587,041 km²28,427,328
Sierra Leone$490$1,670202071,740 km²8,141,343
Eritrea$510$1,6102010117,600 km²3,601,467
Central African Republic$510$1,0402020622,984 km²4,919,981
Liberia$530$1,2502020111,369 km²5,180,203
Niger$540$1,21020201,267,000 km²25,130,817
DR Congo$550$1,10020202,344,858 km²92,377,993
Malawi$580$1,5402020118,484 km²19,647,684
Sudan$650$3,97020201,886,068 km²44,909,353
Chad$660$1,58020201,284,000 km²16,914,985
Gambia$750$2,240202010,689 km²2,486,945
Guinea Bissau$760$1,980202036,125 km²2,015,494
Rwanda$780$2,160202026,338 km²13,276,513
Burkina Faso$790$2,1902020272,967 km²21,497,096
Uganda$800$2,2602020241,550 km²47,123,531
Mali$830$2,25020201,240,192 km²20,855,735
Ethiopia$890$2,41020201,104,300 km²117,876,227
Togo$920$2,230202056,785 km²8,478,250
Guinea$1,020$2,5802020245,857 km²13,497,244
Tanzania$1,080$2,7602020945,087 km²61,498,437
South Sudan$1,090$1,0802015619,745 km²11,381,378
Zimbabwe$1,090$2,8502020390,757 km²15,092,171
Lesotho$1,100$2,740202030,355 km²2,159,079
Zambia$1,190$3,3602020752,612 km²18,920,651
Benin$1,280$3,4702020112,622 km²12,451,040
Senegal$1,430$3,4002020196,722 km²17,196,301
Comoros$1,450$3,33020201,862 km²888,451
Cameroon$1,500$3,7202020475,442 km²27,224,265
Mauritania$1,640$5,24020201,030,700 km²4,775,119
Kenya$1,760$4,3702020580,367 km²54,985,698
Republic of the Congo$1,830$3,1102020342,000 km²5,657,013
Nigeria$2,000$5,0002020923,768 km²211,400,708
Sao Tome And Principe$2,070$4,2602020964 km²223,368
Ghana$2,230$5,4702020238,533 km²31,732,129
Angola$2,230$6,02020201,246,700 km²33,933,610
Ivory Coast$2,280$5,3002020322,463 km²27,053,629
Morocco$2,980$7,1902020446,550 km²37,344,795
Egypt$3,000$12,21020201,002,450 km²104,258,327
Tunisia$3,100$9,9902020163,610 km²11,935,766
Djibouti$3,320$5,620202023,200 km²1,002,187
Algeria$3,550$11,01020202,381,741 km²44,616,624
Eswatini$3,580$8,380202017,364 km²1,172,362
Namibia$4,520$9,2202020825,615 km²2,587,344
Libya$4,850$11,25020201,759,540 km²6,958,532
South Africa$5,410$11,87020201,221,037 km²60,041,994
Equatorial Guinea$5,810$13,350202028,051 km²1,449,896
Botswana$6,640$15,5702020582,000 km²2,397,241
Gabon$6,970$14,1302020267,668 km²2,278,825
Mauritius$10,230$22,39020202,040 km²1,273,433
Seychelles$12,720$24,3102020452 km²98,908

Poorest Countries in Africa 2021