There are poor people in every corner of the world, but the poorest cities in Africa are usually of special importance because being located in Africa, they are used as the standard for measuring abject poverty across the world. The poor cities in Africa are expected to be the poorest in the world; because African economies generally have a lot of catching up to do in order to compete with the rest of the world.

One must be reminded that poverty is not just a question of not having money; it is all about not having the resources or the knowledge of how to use the resources at one’s disposal to meet one’s needs. Therefore, the situation is particularly hopeless when the people have little or no opportunities to turn around their fortunes.

Another major consideration to keep in mind is that the poor people of Africa often do not have the support afforded the poor in more developed countries. They are forced to live from hand to mouth, without any plans for the future.

Top 10 Poorest Cities In Africa  

1. Khartoum, Sudan

Khartoum in Sudan is a city with a population of 5,274,321, and 26 percent of that figure live in poverty. This is an ancient city with plenty of history, but the city has been faced with many societal issues over the years, most recently by a long and bloody war.

The war almost completely destroyed the country; resulting in both a capital flight and a brain drain as people who could afford to flee the violence took all their possessions and left; thus leaving the city without investments necessary to stimulate economic growth.

There is plenty of opportunity for development in Khartoum; oil is one of the key resources that the country relies upon for economic growth, and for the development of the service sector which can provide employment.

2. Nairobi, Kenya

Nairobi, in the East African country of Kenya, is one of the poorest cities on earth because it has probably the biggest population of slum dwellers in the world. Kibera and Mathare jointly have a population of 1.2 million inhabitants. But that is not the full picture; there are several other slums in the city; some of them with a population of over 200,000 people.

Things in the slums of Nairobi are so bad that some of the inhabitants live on refuse dumps with no access to sewage, clean water, or electricity. Most of the structures are made of wood and are not at all durable. Some of them are prone to infestation from all manner of pests, and the slum dwellers suffer from all manner of illnesses, including HIV, malaria, and those caused by unsanitary conditions.

Nairobi- particularly the slums is plagued by criminality and vices of all kinds; including drug abuse, rape, and petty theft. There is plenty of gang-related activity in the city, and this makes it unsafe for investments that can reduce the poverty.

3. Gitega, Burundi

Gitega, in the country of Burundi, in East Africa. Gitega has a population of 135,467 people, a good number of whom live in poverty. Burundi is already ranked as one of the poorest countries in the world, and most of the population is said to live on less than $2 per day. GDP per capita numbers also put Burundi as one of the poorest countries in the world by Gross Domestic Product.

The few infrastructural investments in the city have to cater to such a large number of people particularly because many young people come into Gitega on a daily basis, in search of jobs.

Gitega has a large informal sector, but these petty traders and market women are not afforded any protection by the government. Much work needs to be done to assimilate them into the main economy so that they can have an improved standard of life.

4. N’Djamena, Chad

N’Djamena, a city in Chad is by all considerations a poor one. It is the capital and largest city of Chad and has a population of about 1,093,492 inhabitants.  N’Djamena is a port city with lots of trade going on in it.

However, the wealth has not been able to trickle down; much of the population lives in poverty. Chad has about 15 million people living in poverty, and a major reason is that there are not many opportunities for employment.

N’Djamena is a regional market for livestock, salt, dates, and grains. Meat, fish, and cotton processing are important industries, but they usually pay substandard wages, making it difficult for the local population to afford decent accommodation and other necessities of life.

5. Conakry, Guinea

Conakry is the capital city of Guinea. It has a population of about 1.6 million people; a good number of whom live in very poor conditions.  Perhaps, the biggest problem facing Guinea has been the society not being very steady. Politically the country has not been able to have a very good electoral system whereby one administration continues with the developmental plans of its predecessor.

Aside from the violent history, the country has not had very good leadership that prioritizes the provision of infrastructure so as to help the people meet their needs.

Conakry has potential as the administrative hub of the country; the services sector can be a source of employment, especially for the teeming young population. However, this potential has not been harnessed, which is why there is so much poverty and unemployment in the land.

6. Brazzaville, Congo

Brazzaville, in Congo, is one of Africa’s poorest cities. As with much of sub-Saharan Africa, Congo Brazzaville has been rocked by a long and bloody war that ground the nation’s progress and even destroyed the available infrastructure.

With a population of about 1.8 million people, there is plenty of potentials for the local economy to grow; a good number of the city’s population is engaged in the service sector, and they can be assimilated into the main economy.

Congo makes a good amount of its GDP through oil, but it does not directly employ so many people. The government can move to build the informal sector by creating regulations to ensure that people who work in these sectors can earn decent wages so that they can better take care of themselves.

7. Bamako, Mali

Bamako, in Mali, is also considered to be one of the poorest cities in the world, despite its great location for trade within the region. Bamako has a population that is put at a little over 1.3 million. It is a river port city; there is plenty of trade in meat, cereals, and metals, and then due to the presence of the tourists there is a thriving market for art and crafts.

However, things are quite expensive in this city; it is very difficult for the poor to afford decent housing as well as other things that they need to live well. The government is already taking steps to build infrastructure that will directly affect the earning capacity of the people; thereby helping to reduce poverty.

8. Niamey, Niger

Niamey is the capital of Niger. The country is poor, and struggling with security issues which make it difficult to have any form of economic growth. The country thrives due to the volume of the mining industry, but that industry does not support the country with much employment.

Agriculture, especially cereals and the production of animals presents other opportunities for the country to bring its people out of poverty.

The government is taking steps to open up the country via rail lines so that farm produce can move about quickly and efficiently, so as to help the poor farmers access better opportunities for trade.

9. Kinshasa, The Democratic Republic Of The Congo

The Democratic Republic Of The Congo is one of the poorest countries in the world. Naturally, its main city Kinshasa also suffers from this problem of poverty, along with other problems that are usually associated with large cities.

Kinshasa has a population of about 17 million people but many of them are poor. Urban-rural migration has been cited as one of the chief reasons why there is so much poverty in the city; many people come in from the rural areas in search of jobs.

Unfortunately, the jobs are not always available, and so the migrants have to settle for odd jobs in the informal sector. There is no protection offered to those in the informal sector; they are often paid sub-standard wages and have no way of taking care of themselves when out of work. These are some of the challenges that make them so poor.

10. Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso

Ouagadougou, in Burkina Faso, is a place where a high number of people live in abject poverty. The city has a population of about 2,453,496, but unfortunately, most of them live in poverty. The main commercial activities in Ouagadougou are food processing and textiles, but this is not enough to provide employment for the teeming youth.

The city has also had a notable rise in insecurity; which could further worsen the problem of poverty as it could drive away from the industries that provide what employment is available.

There are several factors that are looked at in coming up with this list:

  • The level of infrastructural development is one. Most of the cities on this list have a very obvious low level of infrastructural development.
  • The roads are bad and barely motorable, there is virtually no public transport system in most of them.
  • Also, there are economic challenges.
  • The GDPs of the countries where these cities are located are some of the lowest on the continent.
  • There is a well-documented lack of access to basic amenities such as power and water. Most of these cities have no water supply system so residents have to rely on private water suppliers for their daily household water use.
  • Also, the power situation in most of these countries is appalling. The power supply is epileptic and some areas in these cities do not even get power at all.
  • There are also not enough basic health facilities to cater to the health needs of residents of these cities.
  • The effect of overcrowding in some of the cities is stressing badly the existing facilities which are not even in good shape.
  • Diseases such as typhoid and sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS are ravaging these cities.

All these factors combine to lower the living standards of residents of these cities and rank these cities low when compared to other cities in Africa.



These are the poorest of the major cities in Africa where residents live way below the poverty line. The living standards of people living in these cities are so low that access to basic amenities such as potable water is not put in place. Residents have to struggle to get by every day. Although things are changing slowly in these cities, there is still a long way to go before the administrators of these cities can be congratulated for a job well done.

It is unfortunate that African cities are still battling with poverty despite the resources and other endowments that should have brought prosperity and growth. Hopefully, things will get better soon. 

The poorest cities in Africa are bedeviled by poor planning which has resulted in poor infrastructure development, which in turn leads to poverty. Furthermore, most African countries have no provisions for people in the informal sector.

HIV, drug abuse, and the prevalence of crime also reduce people’s productivity, and also make it unsafe for investors to commit their money in these cities- therefore leading to more poverty.

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