The 5 Poorest Arab Countries and the Reasons Behind Their Poverty

Published October 17th, 2020 - 11:00 GMT
The 5 Poorest Arab Countries and the Reasons Behind Their Poverty
Some Arab countries have been suffering from alarming poverty numbers that can be attributed to more than just one reason. (Shutterstock: John Wreford)

While the Arab World includes one of the world's largest oil reserves making many of its countries amongst the world's wealthiest, it also includes some of the world's poorest countries. On the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, we try to explore some of these countries and examine the main factors that play into their economic difficulties.

Due to the massive area referred to when using the term "Arab World," there are numerous variations amongst the 22 countries that are members of the Arab league, some are cultural, social, and financial.

If we look at countries by the Arab Gulf, we can see some of the strongest economies that have been developing over the last few decades, especially after the oil boom in the GCC during the 1970s. West Asian Arab countries who don't own sufficient reserves of oil or other energy sources have been utilizing other industries such as manufacturing, tourism, service sector, and others to make up for their lack of resources.

Meanwhile, North African countries which have less oil and natural gas than the GCC and more resources than the rest of the Arab World, have also been famous for tourism and industries such as metal processing, chemicals, foodstuffs, textiles, leather, and consumer goods.

However, some Arab countries have been suffering from alarming poverty ratings that can be attributed to more than just one reason.

1. Somalia 

Until the 1970s, Somalia had achieved a stable level of self-sufficiency, but political unrest leading to the government's collapse in the early 1990s destroyed the country's economic potential.

Even though it's rich in natural gas and uranium and has historically been a strong agricultural area producing corn, sorghum, beans, rice, vegetables, cotton, and sesame, Somalia is, unfortunately, the poorest Arab country in 2020, as it's GDP per capita is estimated by $225.

2. Yemen

Decades-long mismanagement of resources has devastated the Yemeni economy even before the militant conflict wreaked havoc across the country for the last five years. This has put it amongst the world's most underdeveloped countries, despite it having a rich reserve of minerals such as gold, copper, lead, nickel, coal, and petroleum, in addition to its massive area of arable lands. 

Consequently, Yemen has been the second poorest Arab country, as its GDP per capita is projected to touch just about $513 by the end of this year. 

3. Syria

There is no doubt that Syria's economic meltdown has had a major pivotal moment as the protests started in 2011. And unfortunately what started as peaceful protests has been manipulated by foreign powers over the last 9 years, resulting in a "civil war" that killed thousands of people, destroyed the infrastructure of most cities and towns, and forced millions of Syrians to displace internally while millions of others took refuge in neighboring countries.

By the end of 2020, Syria's GDP per capita is expected to hit $870.

4. Comoros

The lack of natural resources, the deteriorating educational system, and the worsening climate conditions have all contributed to Comoros' economic distress, driving it's GDP per capita for 2020 to touch $1378, making it the fourth poorest Arab country.

5. Sudan

Having just recently escaped the dictatorship last year, Sudan's economy is still heavily impacted by years of government policies that prioritized spending on military gear and training, in addition to decades of corruption that led to severe economic consequences. Not to mention years of war in the southern part of the country that halted any potential for economic development.

Despite being rich in natural resources, such as natural gas, uranium, gold, silver, manganese, and others, Sudan's GDP per capita is projected to reach just about $1600 by the end of 2020.

This year, and in light of the severe consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, almost all countries worldwide are bracing for deepening economic crises. Such news comes only to make things worse for the poorest countries that have relied heavily on international aid to help populations survive and try to alleviate their poor living conditions. 

In your opinion, how can these countries rise again and rebuild their economies and who can help them? 

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