Shadow of poverty: 10 countries struggling for economic survival

10 of the world's worst economies
  • Jonathan Rowe
  • 26.03.2024

Do you have an idea of the world's leading economies? If not, fear not, for we've got it all covered. On the contrary, we will tell you about less fortunate countries that are struggling with serious problems. Despite various emergency aid programs and financial initiatives from organizations like the World Bank, countries are still struggling to overcome their economic woes. And why is this the case, you may wonder?

Sometimes it can be very difficult to determine the root causes of a country's prolonged economic difficulties. Even a nation with abundant resources can find itself in dire straits due to mismanagement or rampant government corruption. Debt poses a serious threat to the weakest economies because its accumulation makes it increasingly difficult to provide basic services such as health care, education and infrastructure.

The world's worst economies face a host of challenges, including limited resources, an unstable financial sector, and underinvestment in key sectors that drive economic growth. In this article, we look at the characteristics of the worst economies in the world and identify the main factors contributing to their dire economic situation.

1. South Sudan

South Sudan, which gained independence on July 9, 2011, is the youngest nation in the world. However, its path to prosperity has been marred by a number of challenges, including conflict, political turmoil and economic hardship. The situation worsened significantly after the outbreak of civil war in December 2013, which stalled the country's progress for years. Dependent on foreign aid to sustain state activities, South Sudan has struggled to overcome the obstacles posed by climate change and natural disasters, further hindering tangible development efforts. Despite a brief period of economic revival after controlling oil reserves, this progress was short-lived due to subsequent challenges such as floods and the COVID-19 pandemic.

2. Burundi

Primarily dependent on agriculture, which employs over 70% of the labor force, Burundi faces serious economic challenges exacerbated by factors such as overpopulation, civil unrest, and soil erosion. Despite being self-sufficient in food production, the country still relies on foreign aid due to ongoing economic difficulties. Classified as a least developed country by the UN, Burundi has struggled to attract meaningful investment due to persistent security concerns. Efforts to reform the country's monetary system, coffee industry, and exports by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in 1986 have made little progress in addressing major economic problems.

3. Central African Republic (CAR)

The main source of income for the Central African Republic is agriculture, which serves as the cornerstone of its economy. Crops cultivated include maize, plantain, millet, cassava, groundnuts, and sorghum. Foreign aid and support from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) play a significant role. The country's economic progress is constrained by limited investment, inadequate infrastructure, and financial mismanagement. Additional challenges include an underdeveloped transportation network, shortage of skilled labor, and unfavorable macroeconomic policies.

4. Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

Despite rich natural resources, the economy of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been in decline since the 1980s. After independence in 1960, the DRC's economy flourished, especially in agriculture and mining. However, corruption, warfare, and political instability hindered further growth. Conflicts that erupted in the DRC in 1996 further exacerbated the situation, leading to lower government revenues, higher external debt, and reduced national output. These events significantly weakened the country's economy, eventually making it one of the weakest in the world.

5. Mozambique

Mozambique is heavily dependent on foreign aid for most of its annual budget, while most of its labor force is employed in subsistence farming. By the end of 1992, Mozambique had become a country with very poor socioeconomic indicators. In the 1980s, GDP per capita was only $120, but by 2000, the situation had improved slightly to $222. Despite severe debt problems, Mozambique has received debt relief through an initiative known as the Heavily Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) program. In addition, many small state-owned enterprises have been privatized. However, despite these efforts, Mozambique continues to face difficulties.

6. Malawi

Malawi relies heavily on economic assistance from organizations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and private donors. However, despite this support, Malawi is categorized as one of the weakest economies in the world, primarily due to persistent macro-fiscal imbalances and foreign exchange shortages. Nevertheless, there is some optimism about the country's economic growth as it is projected to grow by 2.8% in 2024, supported by ongoing macroeconomic reforms.

7. Niger

Niger is consistently at the bottom of the Human Development Index, reflecting its very low per capita income. In addition, the country is heavily indebted, putting it on par with heavily indebted states. Niger's economic problems are compounded by resource constraints and widespread poverty, making it very difficult to effectively address these issues. These factors thus contribute to Niger's ranking as one of the weakest economies in the world.

8. Chad

Chad's economic challenges are attributed to poor infrastructure, geographical isolation and political unrest. Assistance from organizations such as the African Development Bank (AFDB) and the World Bank has helped alleviate some of these problems. With about 85% of the population relying on agriculture, Chad's economy relies heavily on this sector. Despite the fact that Chad has the tenth largest oil reserves in Africa, poverty remains a major problem. Despite this, there is hope for modest economic growth of at least 2.8% between 2024 and 2025.

9. Liberia

Liberia's transformation into one of the world's weakest economies can be attributed to the devastating civil wars that ravaged the country. The first conflict took place from 1989 to 1996 and then another from 1999 to 2003, leaving a trail of destruction that severely affected Liberia's economy and infrastructure. The UN ranks Liberia as one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world. Despite its rich mineral resources, forests, and agricultural potential, Liberia suffers from political instability and lack of human capital, which prevents it from utilizing its natural wealth for economic development.

10. Madagascar

Madagascar struggles with poverty, poor governance, and a lack of physical and human resources. Climate crises and sluggish economic growth further exacerbate these difficulties. As of 2022, the country's poverty rate has risen to 75%. However, there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon: the economy is projected to grow by 4.7% between 2024 and 2025. Madagascar relies on a market economy supported by industries such as tourism, textiles, mining and agriculture. In addition, the 2009 coup exacerbated the economic downturn and discouraged foreign investment.

In conclusion, the ten worst economies in the world face a myriad of challenges ranging from civil unrest and political instability to lack of governance and inadequate infrastructure. Despite various efforts and initiatives to provide relief, these countries continue to struggle to overcome their economic difficulties. Factors such as limited resources, heavy debt burdens and dependence on foreign aid further aggravate their situation.

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