Richest Countries in South America 2022

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The fourth-largest continent on Earth, South America is home to 12 countries, all United Nations member states, many of which possess significant natural resources. While none of South America's countries stand out as wealthy compared to the richest countries in Europe, Asia, or North America, several have emerging economies that can help the continent grow into a more influential and impactful role on the global economic stage. Note: As South America includes 12 countries total, the charts here will include the entire continent, from the wealthiest to the poorest countries in South America, rather than the customary top 10.

Top 12 Richest Countries in South America (by GDP per capita 2020 - World Bank, PPP INT$)*

  1. Chile - $25,110.20
  2. Uruguay - $22,793.70
  3. Argentina - $20,770.70
  4. Guyana - $19,704.60
  5. Suriname - $16,734.70
  6. Colombia - $14,931.00
  7. Brazil - $14,835.40
  8. Paraguay - $13,069.20
  9. Peru - $11,878.50
  10. Ecuador - $10,895.80
  11. Bolivia - $8,275.50
  12. Venezuela - $5,162.00 (IMF estimate)

* "PPP INT$" means the values displayed are current prices at Purchasing Power Parity, expressed in international dollars per capita.

One of the most commonly used measures of a country's economic wealth is Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita. GDP per capita represents the overall value of all goods and services produced in a country (the GDP) divided by the number of people (the "capita") who live in the country. While GDP per capita should not be viewed as a direct estimate of the average or median salary a person in that country earns, it is still a helpful at-a-glance measure of the country's general economic health.

The numbers above demonstrate that "rich" is a relative measure in South America. For comparison, the richest countries in the world have GDPs per capita of more than $100,000, the United States places eighth with $69,380, and all but the poorest countries in Europe top $25,000. However, as mentioned, the economies of many countries in South America are showing signs of growth.

How GDP compares to GNI

As useful as GDP per capita is, it can be artificially inflated by looser tax laws in tax haven countries, leading to warped rankings. To address this concern, many economic analysts also examine Gross National Income (GNI) per capita. Like GDP, it measures the value of all goods and services produced in a country. However, GNI also includes money entering or leaving the country via international businesses. This eliminates the distortion caused by tax shelters and enables more accurate country-to-country comparisons:

Top 12 Richest Countries in South America (by GNI per capita 2020 - World Bank, Atlas method current US$)

  1. Uruguay - $15,790
  2. Chile - $13,470
  3. Argentina - $9,070
  4. Brazil - $7,850
  5. Guyana - $7,130
  6. Peru - $6,030
  7. Colombia - $5,790
  8. Ecuador - $5,530
  9. Paraguay - $5,180
  10. Suriname - $4,620
  11. Venezuela - $3,380 (estimate)
  12. Bolivia - $3,180

Few South American countries have made themselves into tax shelters, so comparing GNI per capita to GDP per capita does not reshape the list as drastically as it would in Europe or Asia, but it still has an impact. The top two spots flip, and Brazil rises while Suriname plunges, a sign that much of Suriname's GDP is phantom wealth actually owned by other countries.

Ultimately, it's clear from the data that South America, like Africa, has a way to go before catching up economically to Europe, North America, and even parts of Asia. However, given its ample natural resources and the passion of its people, there is good reason to be optimistic that the economies of South America will continue to grow and develop, improving the wealth of its countries and the lives of its people.

Here are the 10 richest countries in South America:

  1. Brazil ($1.80 Tn)
  2. Argentina ($545.87 Bn)
  3. Venezuela ($291.38 Bn)
  4. Colombia ($282.46 Bn)
  5. Chile ($247.05 Bn)
  6. Peru ($192.21 Bn)
  7. Ecuador ($98.01 Bn)
  8. Uruguay ($52.42 Bn)
  9. Bolivia ($33.81 Bn)
  10. Paraguay ($27.17 Bn)

Richest Countries in South America 2022

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Richest Countries in South America 2022

Country GDP (IMF '20) GDP (UN '16) Per Capita
Brazil$1.45 Tn$1.80 Tn$8,341
Argentina$389.06 Bn$545.87 Bn$11,994
Venezuela$47.26 Bn$291.38 Bn$10,295
Colombia$270.42 Bn$282.46 Bn$5,445
Chile$252.50 Bn$247.05 Bn$12,602
Peru$205.23 Bn$192.21 Bn$5,645
Ecuador$99.29 Bn$98.01 Bn$5,445
Uruguay$53.56 Bn$52.42 Bn$15,315
Bolivia$36.90 Bn$33.81 Bn$2,766
Paraguay$35.43 Bn$27.17 Bn$4,006
Guyana$5.47 Bn$3.44 Bn$4,249
Suriname$2.88 Bn$3.28 Bn$5,305

Richest Countries in South America 2022

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