Africa, the world’s second-largest and second-most populous continent, is a land of rich cultural diversity and breathtaking landscapes. However, it also faces significant socio-economic challenges, including poverty. Despite notable progress in recent years, poverty continues to be a persistent issue in many African countries, hindering sustainable development and posing a considerable obstacle to improving the lives of millions of people.
The cause of the long-term poverty in these African countries can mostly be attributed to corrupt governments, exploitative colonization, weak rule of law, war and social unrest, severe climate conditions, amongst others.
How can we identify the world’s most impoverished nations? Although GDP per capita is frequently utilized as the primary measure, incorporating purchasing power parity (PPP) to account for variations in living expenses and inflation rates offers a more accurate evaluation of an individual’s purchasing ability within a specific country. Let’s delve into some of the poorest countries on the continent.
The youngest country in Africa, South Sudan has faced immense challenges since gaining independence in 2011. Despite its vast natural resources including its abundant oil reserves and agricultural potential, the country remains one of the poorest countries on the continent. The majority of the population engage in traditional agriculture, yet farmers frequently face challenges such as violence and extreme climate events, hindering their ability to sow or harvest crops.
Even in 2023, the nation faces a significant challenge in the form of high inflation, despite the potential for robust economic growth of 5.8% in 2023, which stands among the highest in the world at 27%. UNICEF however estimates that during the lean season from April to July 2023, over half of the population, approximately 7.8 million individuals, are expected to experience acute food insecurity.
A small landlocked country, the Republic of Burundi, lies among the poorest countries in Africa. The country suffers from lack of natural resources as well as the lingering effects of a 12-year civil war, which resulted in its ranking as one of the poorest nations in the continent and beyond.
With approximately 80% of its population, around 13 million people, relying on subsistence agriculture, the prevalence of food insecurity in Burundi is nearly double the average for sub-Saharan African countries. Additionally, access to clean water and sanitation facilities remains extremely limited, as less than 5% of the population has access to electricity. inflation is currently projected to reach around 16% this year, posing additional challenges to the nation’s economic stability and development.
Central African Republic
Despite its wealth in resources such as gold, oil, uranium, and diamonds, the Central African Republic (CAR) is plagued by poverty, making it one of the continent’s poorest nations for the past decade. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), approximately 2.7 million people, nearly half of CAR’s population, are currently facing acute food insecurity.
Unfortunately, the aftermath of the war in Ukraine has exacerbated the situation, leading to a sharp increase in prices of essential goods. The country has also been grappling with cycles of severe flooding and drought, adding further hardships to its population. This dire situation compounds the existing challenges faced by the country, highlighting the struggles of its inhabitants despite the abundance of valuable natural resources.
The Federal Republic of Somalia has an estimated population of around 17.1 million with abject poverty. There are several issues that added up to the country being in the list of the poorest country in the continent which include the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, devastating floods, and an unprecedented locust infestation. Also, Russia’s blockade of wheat exports from Ukraine exacerbated the situation, resulting in a rise in severely malnourished children within Somali healthcare facilities.
Presently, Somalia finds itself amidst a simultaneous crisis, with Islamist insurgents attempting to overthrow the central government while grappling with the most severe drought in four decades. Humanitarian agencies have issued warnings that approximately half of the population is in desperate need of assistance.
Democratic Republic of Congo
Following its independence from Belgium in 1960, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) formerly known as Zaire has endured decades of oppressive dictatorships, political instability, and persistent violence. This contributed to the country’s frequent appearance among the world’s poorest nations. With a population of around 112 million, approximately three-quarters of the country’s population struggles to survive daily.
The DRC whose largest export is raw materials, with China accepting over 50% of its exports in 2019 possesses abundant resources and potential to emerge as one of Africa’s wealthiest nations. Already, the country holds the distinction of being the world’s largest producer of cobalt and Africa’s primary source of copper, both of which are crucial for the production of electric vehicles.
Blessed with abundant resources and a strategic location, the Republic of Mozambique has consistently achieved impressive average GDP growth rates exceeding 7% over the past decade. However, this feat has not helped the country’s economic potential, as it continues to grapple with the challenge of being ranked among the world’s ten poorest nations.
This is caused by the incessant attacks m Islamic insurgent groups since 2017 especially in the northern region of Mozambique, known for its vast gas reserves. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank however still hold a positive medium-term economic outlook for Mozambique. They anticipate that the country’s growth will accelerate to 5% this year and reach 8% in the following year.
Niger with over 80% of its land area lies in the Sahara and with a rapidly growing population of about 25 million, the country still faces the looming threat of desertification, which poses significant challenges to the country. The country relies heavily on small-scale agriculture for sustenance. Consequently, Niger grapples with food insecurity, elevated disease rates, and high mortality rates. The recurring clashes between the army and the Boko Haram affiliate of the Islamic State (ISIS) have also resulted in the displacement of thousands of people.
Niger witnessed an impressive 11% expansion in its economy last year due to the inauguration of its new president, Mohamed Bazoum, in 2021. The country is projected to experience a more moderate but still robust growth of 6.1% this year, with a remarkable growth rate of 13% expected in 2024.
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