Obviously the concept of poverty can be seen in good ol’ US of A, but the level of poverty here doesn’t exactly compare to what you may find in the poorest countries in the world. If you want to help out, we have provided a list here.
The Poorest Countries in Terms of GDP per Capita
GDP stands for the monetary value of the goods and services produced in the country, and per capita simply means per person in the country. It’s one way of assessing the standard of living in a particular nation.
According to the World Bank, here are the 10 poorest countries in the world and their GDP per capita:
- Malawi. $226.50
- Burundi. $267.10
- Central African Republic. $333.20
- Niger. $415.40
- Liberia. $454.30
- Madagascar. $463.00
- Congo Democratic Republic. $484.20
- Gambia. $488.60
- Ethiopia. $505.00
- Guinea. $523.10
To put things in perspective, the GDP per capita in the US is estimated at $53,042. And that only puts the US at #10 among the countries with the highest GDP per capita. Singapore is #9 while Switzerland is at #5. Even Macao SAR, which is officially part of China is doing better than the US with a GDP of $91,376.
Possible Causes of Poverty
If you take a look at a map where all the poor countries are located, you’d realize that they’re all located in Africa. Now on the face of it, the poverty is surprising when you consider just how much natural resources these countries have. They even have oil and gas to export. These countries may have more natural resources than countries such as Japan and Switzerland.
So why are they so poor? This is a complicated question and there are no simple answers. One popular theory is that because they were all former colonies, when they became independent republics they were comprised of peoples who did not especially like each other. That led to civil war and strife, which disrupted their economies greatly.
Another reason is that the colonizers were unable to instill the proper liberal democracy values in the region. Thus, corruption is blatantly out of control and people in the government are essentially looting the country’s money for their own benefit.
Malawi is a current example of this. More than half the country’s population live below the poverty line and earn less than $1 (one dollar) a day. In contrast, in the US a single individual without dependents is regarded as living in poverty when they earn less than $11,344 a year. That’s more than $31 a day, weekends included.
Now in Malawi, about 40% of the government budget comes from foreign aid. And donors have begun withdrawing the aid of about $150 million when it was revealed that $30 million of that money was swindled by politicians from the government within a 6-month period in 2013.
Why Should Developed Nations Help?
Some people may ask why the poverty in other nations is an American problem, since after all, the US does have poor people to take care of too. In fact, according to the Department of Health and Human Services more than 15% of the population in the US live in poverty.
But there are several good reasons to help the poorest countries in the world. One is that the Christian culture in the US is hard to ignore. Americans simply want to help when they are faced with evidence of hardship among others even if they are strangers who live thousands of miles away.
There are security reasons too. Often these places can become hotbeds of terrorism, and they may get it into their heads that the wealthy America must be put to blame for their problems. Also, they may be enticed to act as agents of other anti-US nations who are willing to sponsor terrorism.
Another reason is that poverty-stricken areas are usually hotbeds of disease, and in today’s interconnected world disease can travel very easily to American shores. In fact, AIDS / HIV originated in Africa, and now about 1.2 million people in the US are infected with HIV. More than 1.7 million Americans have been infected, and more than 658,000 people have died of the disease.
There’s also the immigration factor to consider. The people in poor countries tend to want to live elsewhere, and often that “elsewhere” is the US. Historically, the US has been the haven of people who have fled their poverty-stricken homes in search of better opportunities. Even the earliest settlers from England did so for economic reasons, and so did the settlers of Irish, Scottish, Italian, and Mexican descent.
And of course, there’s also a “selfish” reason to help as well. When a poor country begins to turn itself around and develops, they become a new available market for US goods and services. That’s why when China became more developed and more open to the world market, US companies flooded in to take advantage of the new opportunities.
Is It Possible for the Poorest Countries to Turn Themselves Around?
The short answer to this question is yes. That’s because it’s already been done. In the aftermath of World War II, many of the countries in Europe were devastated. Japan was similarly in bad shape. Yet they managed to haul themselves from the ashes of destruction and now they are among the world leaders in economic terms.
But the cultures are different, obviously, and these countries didn’t have internal civil wars to deal with. It’s a circular argument with Africa. Civil wars cause poverty, but it can also be argued that poverty causes wars.
In the meantime, some people can help deal with the most pressing problems that poverty has caused. In Africa, majority of people don’t have access to clean water, food, and medicine. While solving poverty may be too complicated, it’s easy enough to help out simply by giving them access to free water, food, and medicine that the rest of us take for granted all the time.