The world’s top 10 least developed countries

By Daniil Filipenco

The world’s top 10 least developed countries

Each year the United Nations Development Programme, UNDP, publishes the Human Development Report in which 189 nations are assessed according to the Human Development Index (HDI).

HDI is applied with the goal of estimating a country’s development. It allows nations to be ranked according to certain indexes such as life expectancy, education, and per capita income.

HDI ranks nations on a scale from 0 to 1 and categorizes them into one of four levels of human development. For instance:

  • 0-.55 – low
  • .55 -.70 – medium
  • .70 – .80 – high
  • .80 – 1.0 – very high

The list of the 10 least developed countries

Based on the HDI rankings, the world’s 10 least developed countries are:

Source: HDR

Each country on the list features data from the Sustainable Development Report 2021 that shows how the UN Member States have moved towards achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These goals represent a worldwide call to action to reduce poverty, protect the environment and ensure that all people benefit from peace and prosperity by 2030.

The 17 SDGs are interconnected, meaning that actions in one area impact outcomes in others, and therefore development must balance social, economic, and environmental sustainability.

Niger

Niger (HDI value 0.394) boasts the largest area in Western Africa and has historically served as a link between North and sub-Saharan Africa. Most people live on the country’s southwestern border with Nigeria and Benin. The country has the world’s highest overall fertility rate of any nation (seven children per woman).

The majority of the nation’s inhabitants rely on subsistence farming (cultivating crops and breeding cattle solely for one’s own consumption with no excess to trade).

The country has a weak economic diversification with agriculture contributing to 40% of GDP. In 2020, over 10 million individuals (nearly 43% of the population) lived in extreme poverty.

As a result of rapid population growth, the area available to farm is shrinking. In addition, a decline in rainfall and the accompanying shortage of arable land prohibit food production from keeping pace with the growing population.

SDGs accomplishment profile

Source: Sustainable Development Report

Central African Republic

Central African Republic (HDI value 0.397) is a landlocked republic located in Central Africa. Several peace treaties between the government and numerous armed factions have failed to improve the safety situation. In many locations, attacks on civilians, especially sexual violence, pose a serious threat.

Independent journalists face minimal backing and non-governmental organization workers, particularly relief workers, face personal risk. It is believed that about 80% of the nation’s 4.75 million residents are impoverished.

SDGs accomplishment profile

Source: Sustainable Development Report

Chad

Chad (HDI value 0.398) is located in northern Central Africa. The country’s hunger and poverty are aggravated by conflict and climatic issues.

Around 40% of the nation’s 16.4 million population live in extreme poverty. Besides being surrounded by warring countries, it also suffers from environmental degradation and growing desertification.

SDGs accomplishment profile

Source: Sustainable Development Report

Burundi

Burundi (HDI value 0.433) is located in Central Africa. Poverty, a continually increasing population, sensitivity to climate-related disasters, low access to clean drinking water, and poor access to essential services such as health and education are some of the reasons behind food insecurity in this country.

The issue is exacerbated by a high prevalence of infectious diseases, a lack of variety in foods, and inadequate hygiene.

SDGs accomplishment profile

Source: Sustainable Development Report

South Sudan

South Sudan (HDI value 0.433) is a landlocked country located in Eastern Africa. It is one of the poorest nations in the world.

The list of issues it faces includes persistent tensions with its neighbors regarding land borders as well as civil war and numerous refugees.

The conflicts have obstructed the route to sustainable growth which is based on a diversified economy that would create jobs and livelihoods for the impoverished.

SDGs accomplishment profile

Source: Sustainable Development Report

Mali

Mali (HDI value 0.434) is a landlocked nation located in Northern Africa. Drought and conflicts have led to a continuous deterioration of the population’s livelihoods.

Poverty is a serious issue that impacts approximately 80% of the population.

Food insecurity is much more prevalent in female-headed households, reflecting pervasive gender inequities.

SDGs accomplishment profile

Source: Sustainable Development Report

Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone (HDI value 0.452) is a heavily populated West African nation with a high level of sensitivity to climate change. Around 53% of the population is living in severe poverty.

The country has one of the highest baby, child and maternal mortality rates in the world, owing to poverty, a lack of clean water and sanitation, the lack of proper nutrition, and poor access to quality healthcare.

The government is still significantly reliant on aid with nearly half of all public investment programs funded by outside sources.

SDGs accomplishment profile

Source: Sustainable Development Report

Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso (HDI value 0.452) is a West African country where a growing armed conflict, high poverty levels, and the effects of climate change are among the issues that impede the normal development of a country.

The major reasons behind the poverty in Burkina Faso are low rural production, unregulated rural emigration, and a growing population (on average there are over five children per woman) that takes its toll on limited arable land.

SDGs accomplishment profile

Source: Sustainable Development Report

Mozambique

Mozambique (HDI value 0.456) is a low-income, food-insecure nation on southern Africa’s east coast. The country boasts a high birth rate (five children per woman) as well as a high death rate (HIV/AIDS).

Approximately half of the country’s 31.3 million population live in extreme poverty and the bulk of the workforce is still engaged in subsistence farming.

The public healthcare system is limited with recurrent personnel and material shortages in public hospitals. Nearly 2 million people are acutely food insecure.

SDGs accomplishment profile

Source: Sustainable Development Report

Eritrea

Eritrea (HDI value 0.459) is a country in northeastern Africa that borders the Red Sea. Its citizens are subjected to compulsory labor that exploits them under the guise of maintaining the state’s independence and its self-sufficiency.

An unfulfilled mother and child health agenda is exacerbated by an increase in non-communicable diseases. Maternal mortality remains high at 485 deaths per 100,000 live births.

Around 52% of children are underweight. Due to drought, hunger, and repeated conflicts, the country maintains a high level of poverty.

SDGs accomplishment profile

Source: Sustainable Development Report

Final word

A history of exploitation, weak rule of law, conflict and civil upheaval, harsh climatic conditions, and unfriendly, aggressive neighbors all contribute to the stagnation in the development of any country. Most of these issues are witnessed in some African countries which is why, according to the Human Development Index by UNDP, such nations as Niger, Central African Republic, and Chad have the lowest scores. Moreover, these countries will need to achieve a great many positive changes in order to accomplish the 17 Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 which seems an almost impossible task.