Top 10 Poorest Countries In South America 2021

List of the poorest countries in South America. South America is a continent in the Western Hemisphere; technically, most of South America is located in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small landmass in the Northern Hemisphere. Many people argue that it is just a subcontinent of the Americas, and that view is mainly suggested by people in most of Europe and Africa. South America is located in a position of great advantage: It is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north and east by the Atlantic Ocean; to the northwest of the continent you can find North America and the Caribbean Sea.  

South America has a total area of 17,840,000 square kilometers, and a population estimated to be more than 423 million which means that there is ample market for industry and production.  Brazil is by far the most populous South American country, and with good reason is considered to be the regional power. 

Join us as we discover the Top 10 Poorest Countries in South America (by GDP Per Capita). Despite all that has been said about South America, there is poverty almost at par with that of post-war Africa. In this post, we want to beam our searchlight on the economy of South America, so as to understand the economic factors at work. 

Top 10 Poorest Countries In South America

1. Bolivia        

GDP per Capita: $8525

With a GDP per capita of $8525USD, Bolivia is the poorest country in South America. As a matter of fact, the country has flirted with this position for over ten years. While there has been some progress as seen in the GDP figures, such progress has been too little, and too late. The country ranks below African countries like Libya, Morocco, and Namibia. Bolivia is in the heart of South America and has a population of about 11 million people. The country has extensive gas reserves, and there are also some mining activities practiced in the country. The country is landlocked but has good land for agriculture which can support the food needs of its surrounding countries.

2. Ecuador  

GDP per Capita: $11,866

Ecuador is a country in South America that is currently occupying the second spot on the list of the poorest countries in South America. The country is estimated to have a GDP per capita of $11,866USD. Ecuador is neighbors with Colombia and Peru, and the western tip of the country meets the Pacific Ocean. The country has a population of 17,084,358 (17 million) people of varying ethnic groups, and tribes. The economy is supported by petroleum, although more attention is now being paid to the exportation of agricultural produce. While there is some level of wealth, there is still a lot of inequality, which means that there are too many extremely poor people in the country. Change is gradually coming; poverty figures have drastically reduced between 1999 and 2010.

3. Paraguay 

GDP per Capita: $13,200

Paraguay is a popular country in South America. The country is completely landlocked and shares borders with such countries as Argentina, Brazil, and Bolivia. Naturally, the country has lots of swampland, forest, and savanna. When you have such arable land, it seems stupid not to go into agriculture; Paraguay is a major exporter of soybeans throughout the world’s markets. The country also exports electricity which is generated through hydroelectric plants, of which there are many in the country. The population of 6 million is considered a middle-income people, food security is good, and there is available healthcare. 

 4. Peru

GDP per Capita: $15,399

Peru comes next on our list. The country’s neighbors are Ecuador, Colombia, and Brazil. The western side of the country meets the Pacific Ocean. The country measures 1.2 million kilometers square, and a population of 32,824,358 (32.8 million) people. Most Peruvians are employed in the service delivery sector, and then there is the manufacturing industry which accounts for 22.3% of GDP, and then the mining industry which accounts for 15%. This is not to say that there is no agriculture; it is just not numerically significant. 19 percent of the population is poor, and 9 percent live in abject poverty.

5. Suriname

GDP per Capita: $16,044

Suriname is a small country in South America, most noted for being the only Dutch-speaking country in the region. The country has neighbors such as French Guiana, Guyana, and Brazil. The land meets the Atlantic Ocean in the north. The country ranges about 165,000 square kilometers, and has a population of 575,990.  The economy is boosted by agriculture and tourism. Suriname maintains close economic and cultural ties with the Netherlands, and this is a major reason why the rate of poverty is going down.

6. Colombia

GDP per Capita: $16,265

Colombia is a country on the upper boundaries of the South American continent. The economy of Colombia is boosted by the services sector which employs the highest number of citizens and accounts for 62.1% of the accounted GDP. The manufacturing industry comes next with 30.8 percent, and then there is agriculture, which accounts for 7% of the country’s GDP.  The country’s main industries are textiles, food processing, gold, coal, electronics, as well as the production of footwear. About 21.8 percent of young people are unemployed.

7. Brazil

GDP per Capita: $17,106

Brazil is the largest country in South America by landmass and by population. The country ranges 8.5 million square kilometers in landmass and has a population of 211 million people. This is the largest Portuguese speaking country in the world- even bigger than Portugal. The country has an estimated 21.8 trillion USD in natural resources which include gold, uranium, iron, and timber. In sports, Brazil is number 1 in football, and this love for football contributes to the economy. Agriculture employs 9.4 percent of the workforce, the industry employs 32.1 percent, and the services sector employs 58.5%.  Some of their main exports are motor vehicles, textiles, cement, iron ore, steel, aircraft, and shoes.

8. Guyana

GDP per Capita: $17,163

Guyana is a country in South America, which has as neighbors Brazil, Venezuela, and Suriname. The land meets the Atlantic Ocean in the north. The country has a landmass of 215,000 square kilometers, and a population of about 700,000. Guyana is one of the smallest countries on the continent. There is a lot of fishing and tourism in the country especially because there are good wildlife sanctuaries that have been well protected by the government.

9. Argentina

    • GDP per Capita: $19,971

Argentina is a big Spanish speaking country in the southernmost part of South America. The country shares boundaries with Bolivia, Paraguay, Brazil, Uruguay, and the eastern part meets the South Atlantic Ocean. The country measures about 2,780,400 kilometers square and has a population of 44 million people. Agriculture, forestry, and fishing account for 6.0% of the country’s GDP, while mining accounts for 3.6%. Construction accounts for 5.6 percent, commerce, and tourism 16 percent, transportation and communication 7.9, and service delivery 33 percent. Some of the main industries of Argentina are food processing, motor vehicle assembly, machinery, pharmaceuticals, steel and aluminum, cement production, textiles, leather, publishing, tobacco products, and furniture.

10. Uruguay

GDP per Capita: $24,516

With a GDP per capita of $24,516, Uruguay is one of the more advanced economies in South America, although it is still a stark contrast from the rich countries of the world. This too is a Spanish-speaking country and has as neighbors Argentina and Brazil. The east side of the country is lined with beaches that flush into the South Atlantic Ocean. The country measures 176,000 square kilometers and has a population of about 3.5 million people. Uruguay has very close social and economic ties with Argentina, and when Argentina suffered economic problems in 2002, it led to a banking crisis in Uruguay. The economy is classified as a high-income economy and agriculture accounts for 13% of the nation’s GDP, while the manufacturing industry accounts for 14 percent, but the highest in the service delivery sector which accounts for 73 percent of the nation’s GDP.  Some of the main products of Uruguay are meat, machinery, petroleum, textiles, chemicals, and beverages. 

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