What can you do with $10? You can go to a movie or buy yourself two beers on a Friday night. You can get an ice-cream and a pop-corn. But we rarely think of the worth of our money on an international scale – what if you were living in one of the world’s poorest countries? What would you $10 be worth in a country where it’s equivalent to several days’ – even weeks’ – work. It’s an interesting idea, that puts the division of the world’s wealth into a harsh light. We’ve taken a look at the 10 poorest nations in the world – according to the IMF as of April 2013 – and we’ve worked out what your humble $10 bill could buy you there. To compare wealth internationally, we have to look at the PPP – or ‘purchasing power parity’. That’s a calculation that assesses a nation’s wealth based on factors like inflation rates and cost of living, so that it can be accurately compared with the wealth of nations across the world based on those standard.
According to this measure of wealth, taking into account the PPP, a country’s wealth is measured in a universal – hypothetical – currency called the International Dollar. The international dollar (the ‘Geary-Khamis dollar’) has the same purchasing power as the U.S. dollar at a set time. This way, it’s easier to compare the average annual incomes of a nation’s workers on a level playing field.
The richest country, according to this assessment, is Qatar followed by Luxembroug, Singapore, Norway, the tiny kingdom of Brunei Darussalam (bordering Malysia)and Hong Kong. The US follows at 7th place, with an annual average per capita income of 51,248 $Int – still nearly half of what Qatar makes annually on average.
The poorest countries earn less than 1000 Int$ on average in a year. Nine of the ten poorest countries on our list are in Africa – a stark example of the inequality inherent in the division of the world’s wealth. For those of us living in the countries at the top of the list, it’s hard to imagine existing on so little. To put your earning power into context, let’s look at what $10 can buy you in the world’s 10 poorest countries.
10. Afghanistan – GDP per capita 1,072 $Int
Afghanistan, a land-locked country in south central Asia, has a population of a little over 31 million – including the current and temporary refugees in Iran and Pakistan. This makes the nation the 39th most populous in the world. Its capital lies at Kabul and almost a quarter of the population is urbanized. The people earn an annual average of 1072 $Int due in part to a series of wars that have ravaged the nation and an – arguably consequent – lack of external investment. Today in Afghanistan, $10 USD a day is the meagre daily wage of a soldier hired by the Taliban, only earned when in active service. It’s also the price of about 35 pounds of Pakistani sugar in Kabul, 17 pounds of rice and about 10 litres or 2.6 gallons of diesel fuel. For your $10, you can get 2 combo meals at McDonald’s in Kabul, indicating that McD’s in the capital is priced for high-earning Westerners as opposed to $10 / day earning Afghanis.
9. Madagascar – GDP per capita 972 $Int
The island country of Madagascar (capital at Antananarivo) lies in the Indian Ocean with a population of over 22 million. While the average population earns a low annual income of 972 $Int, it’s estimated that over 90 percent of the population lives on less than $2 a day. In the late 1970s Madagascar became bankrupt and traded its largely socialist economy in favour of a privatized and liberalized system to conform to IMF standards. Today, $10 in Madagascar can get you about 5 dozen eggs, 6 litres of bottled water, 5 litres of domestic draft beer, 6.25 litres of gasoline or 2 seats for an international film release at the cinema.
8. Malawi – GDP per capita 893 $Int
A land-locked country in south-East Africa, Malawi is a largely rural country with a largely agricultural economy. Malawi is one of the least developed countries on our list, with a low life expectancy and high infant mortality rate. $10 in the country can buy you about 22 pounds of rice or a combo meal at a local fast food joint plus a bottle of a local soda drink.
7. Niger – GDP per capita 853 $Int
Located in Western Africa, Niger has a population of over 17 million and covers the largest area in Western Africa. 80% of this landmass is covered by the Sahara Desert, leading to the problems associated with overpopulation in the limited habitable land. Niger’s income comes from agriculture, gold and uranium and mining. With uranium use dropping, the economy has begun to slide. Although the yearly salary is extraordinarily low, living costs are relatively high in the capital of Niamey and your $10 USD could only buy you – for example – 20 cigarettes.
6. Central African Republic – GDP Per Capita 827 $Int
Central African Republic (CAR) is another poor and land-locked country in central Africa, ravaged by unstable politics and wars, with a major dependence on the often volatile agricultural industry. It has a relatively small population of about 4.5 million and workers there earn an average of $827 a year from uranium, lumber, diamonds, hydropower and crude oil resources, which is still not enough to raise it out of its 6th place among the poorest nations. Prices are highly inflated compared to other international destinations. $10 in and around the capital Bangui can get you 4.4 pounds of apples, or less than 11 pounds of potatoes and it won’t be enough for 2 burger meals. In fact, according to stats published on mytravelcost.com, groceries in C.A. Republic are as much as 7% MORE expensive than the U.S., where the GDP per capita is over 50 times more.
5. The State of Eritrea – GDP Per Capita 792 $Int
The agricultural State of Eritrea (capital Asmara) shares a border with Ethiopia and Sudan in the ‘Horn of Africa’. With a population of over 6 million, the country has had strained relations with its neighbours and a prolonged war with Ethiopia resulted in extensive damages to the economy. Today, $10 can buy you about 4 litres of gasoline, which is far less than you’d get in other neighbouring countries, because of poor road connectivity and short electricity supply affecting productivity. In fact, petrol costs in Eritrea are known to be some of the highest in the world, up there with rich developed countries like Belgium, Norway and Sweden.
4. Liberia – GDP Per capita 716 $Int
Liberia (capital at Monrovia) in West Africa shares borders with Guinea, Sierra Leone and Cote d’Ivoire. It has a population of about 4 million and English is its official language. The economy has been subsisting on minerals, agriculture and forest products, but like in so many African countries its economy has suffered heavily from a series of civil wars. $10 here can buy one combo meal at a local burger joint, an hour’s rental at a tennis court, 8.3 litres of gasoline or ten 1.5 litre bottles of mineral water.
3. Burundi – GDP Per Capita 648 $Int
Burundi in Eastern Africa is land-locked, with a population of over 8 million but a poor legal and education system to support it. Over 80 percent of the country lives below the poverty line. AIDs, food shortages and famines are prevalent. The economy depends on agriculture and mining, like many other African nations, but without the infrastructure to maximize these resources. $10 in Burundi’s capital city Bujumbura will get you 5.5 pounds of rice or just one combo meal at a local fast food joint.
2. Zimbabwe – GDP Per Capita 589 $Int
Zimbabwe may have groomed great players for international cricket but today it’s the second poorest nation in the world. Located in southern Africa – with a population of over 13 million – agriculture, mineral exports, gold and tourism bring in foreign currency. But the country’s authoritarian government has led to a steady economic decline since 2000. $10 in the capital of Harare can get you a meal in an inexpensive restaurant, 5 regular cappuccinos, five 0.33 litre bottles of imported beer or 6.6 litres of gasoline.
1. Democratic Republic of Congo – GDP Per Capita GDP 394 $Int
The poorest country in the world today, the Democratic Republic of Congo has an immense land mass and a population of over 75 million, ranking it the 19th most populous countries in the world. But a deadly war zone since 1998, Congo is yet to recover from the economic devastation, epidemics, malnutrition and overcrowding. $10 today will buy you 22 pounds of rice, ten 0.33 litre bottles of mineral water, 2 bottles of imported beer or 8.33 litres of gasoline.