What is a Third World Country?
People often categorise the word ‘third world country’ as underdeveloped and poor communities trying very hard to cope with everyday life and meet basic human needs.
This may be true in our society today, but the earliest meaning of a third-world country is attributed to countries that did not have an alliance with either the United States or the former Soviet Union during the Cold War.
In present times, the term refers to countries characterised by economic instability, low per capita income, rising unemployment, lack of basic human needs such as access to food, shelter, and water.
Countries with these qualities are commonly underdeveloped, with widespread welfare dependency and high mortality rates; notable infant mortality rates.
These nations are characterised by high levels of poverty, and in some circumstances, fewer natural resources than other countries around the world.
They commonly depend largely on more industrialised countries for assistance and economic stabilisation.
According to the ‘worlds’ system, countries are ranked from first to the third world.
The term ‘first world’ includes countries with more economically advanced and highly-industralised societies.
It also means capitalist states that allied with the United States and NATO during the Cold War.
First-world countries include Australia, Japan, North America, and Western Europe.
On the other hand, second-world countries are those that lean toward a socialist society and were generally allied with the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
Examples of second-world countries include China, Poland, and Russia.
Third-world countries are nations that did not choose a team.
They include a vast majority of African countries, Asia, and Latin America.
This definition, however, also encompasses economically stable countries, which does not best suit the recent meaning of a third-world country.
Countries, such as Switzerland, Finland, Austria, and Ireland, would be categorised as ‘Third World’ under the historical definition. However, according to the modern usage of the term, this is not the case.
The statement ‘Third World’ is no longer in use. It has been modified to ‘developing country’ (as defined by the United Nations) or ‘low-income country’ (as defined by the World Bank).
Third-world, underdeveloped, and developing countries are also referred to as ‘emerging markets.’
Characteristics of a Third World Country
1. Dependence on other countries in areas of economy
Because of the state of these economies, third-world countries depend largely on more economically and highly-developed nations.
Furthermore, the economies of third-world countries, which mostly lack evolution and autonomy, are commonly controlled by nations that are more developed.
The disparity in dependence and control has widened the gap between rich and powerful nations, like the United Kingdom, to developing economies, such as Mali.
2. Developing countries are usually characterised by low Gross National Income (GNI)
Most developing countries have a high poverty rate and low Gross National Income (GNI) per capita.
The GNI of Sudan, in 2020, was $650, a decrease of 20.73 per cent from 2019.
In contrast, the GNI per capita of the United States was $64,310 in 2020.
3. Unsatisfactory political and civil liberties
The majority of the poorest nations of the world are also plagued with an extreme lack of political rights and civil liberties.
For instance, a third-world country like Sudan is a war-torn country where civil rights and liberties are almost absent. This is as a result of war crimes and violence in the society.
In contrast, citizens of the United States live on the other end of the spectrum with the basic rights entrenched.
4. Their Human Development Index (HDI) is low
The HDI, which is published annually by the United Nations, assesses three basic aspects of human life: knowledge, a long and healthy life, and a decent standard of living.
The United States is ranked fifth on the HDI scale, while the Democratic Republic of the Congo is ranked 186th.
5. Child mortality is high in third-world countries
The rate of infant mortality, in developed countries, is much lower (6 deaths per 1,000 children) than in developing countries (at 175 fatalities per 1,000 children).
Lack of adequate health facilities is the cause of high infant mortality in developing nations.
6. High rate of poverty
To be classified as a third-world country, a large proportion of a country’s population must be impoverished.
7. Lack of education
Although most developed countries, such as South Korea, invest heavily in education, most developing countries do not.
Inadequate government education budgets, corruption, poor governance, and a high public debt profile all contribute to poor educational development in third-world countries.
Unfortunately, most politicians in developing countries believe that educating citizens will make them difficult to rule.
As a result, they believe it is best to keep the majority of the population illiterate.
8. Less technological progress
A majority of leaders in developing countries lack foresight and technological exposure.
They are not prepared for the digital era’s fast-paced life.
So, they fail to recognise the importance of focusing on technological advancements and do not plan for the nation’s long-term technological future.
If developing nations want to progress, they must embrace and invest in technology.
In addition, they must emulate the technological progress of more industrialised countries.
9. Excessive foreign debt
Many third-world countries are deeply in debt.
Is Southern Africa a Third World Region?
Yes, southern Africa is a third-world region.
Southern Africa is different from other regions in the continent in the sense that it has a robust mining sector as well as secondary and tertiary sectors that are relatively developed.
Furthermore, with the exception of Malawi and Mozambique, most of these countries possess relatively developed infrastructure. Despite its exports of diamonds, chromium, platinum, gold, uranium, cobalt, and copper, Southern Africa still experience some of the common challenges as the rest of Africa.
In the twentieth century, Southern Africa developed a robust manufacturing sector, mainly Zimbabwe and South Africa.
This has impacted the investments in education infrastructure and healthcare and this raised the ranks of these countries into middle-income economies.
Since the 1990s however, the industries have continued to struggle due to globalisation and this has resulted in the loss of jobs.
For instance, Zimbabwe has witnessed massive industrialisation due to domestic and foreign factors.
While colonialism has had an impact on development throughout history, poverty, corruption, and HIV/AIDS are some of the most significant impediments to economic growth today.
Furthermore, South Africa and Zimbabwe, in particular, experience high emigration of skilled workers, resulting in a significant brain drain to Western economies and billions of dollars lost in human capital flight.
Is West Africa a Third World Region?
Yes, West Africa is a third-world region.
Examples of countries in this region include The Gambia, Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Ghana, Cabo Verde, Mauritania, Liberia, Senegal, Togo, Sierra Leone, and Niger.
Is North Africa a Third World Region?
North Africa is a third-world region. Examples of countries in this region include Western Sahara Algeria, Libya, Sudan, Tunisia, Morocco, and Egypt.
Is East Africa a Third World Region?
East Africa is a third-world region. Examples of countries in this region include Eritrea, Madagascar, Comoros, Rwanda, Somalia, Burundi, Tanzania, Zambia, Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Djibouti.
Third World Country List
- Central African Republic
- South Sudan
- Sierra Leone
- Burkina Faso
- DR Congo
- The Gambia
- Ivory Coast
- Papua New Guinea
- Solomon Islands
- Timor Leste
- Sao Tome and Principe
- Equatorial Guinea
- Cape Verde
- South Africa
- Marshall Islands
- Saint Vincent And The Grenadines
- Dominican Republic
- Saint Lucia
- Sri Lanka
- Bosnia And Herzegovina
- Trinidad and Tobago
- Costa Rica
- John Aina Ajibola has a Masters degree as an engineer and has over 3 years of teaching and research experience. He is happiest when on a bike and is also interested in electric energy and computer Science.