Is Afghanistan A Third World Country?

Afghanistan has seen quite a bit of conflict that has been witnessed by the whole world. Outside of this, many might wonder how everyday life is in Afghanistan. Is Afghanistan a third-world country, or has the conflict painted a different picture than what is truly happening?

Afghanistan could be considered a third-world country to a certain extent. It would be more appropriate to classify Afghanistan as a developing or underdeveloped country. When basing the classification on economics and income, Afghanistan has seen some improvement in the last few years, but the country still has some work to do. 

The future for Afghanistan is uncertain due to the current political conflict, which is currently changing the structure of the country as well as the everyday life of its citizens. 

Is Afghanistan A Third World Country?

Afghanistan, while still developing, would be considered a third-world country. This is due to the vast inequality that exists within the country especially when it comes to access to basic needs and the ability to earn a substantial income. 

It’s important to address that the terminology regarding first, second, and third world has changed in meaning, and as of now, the more apt description that more closely relates to a country’s condition would be either underdeveloped, developed, or developing. 

While Afghanistan initially made its military development more of a priority, it shifted its focus in the mid-90s to develop its economic structure. They made improvements to their financial services, their education system, and the availability of training for employment opportunities. 

Efforts did not always go as hoped, unfortunately, due to poor planning and the inability to find skilled people to develop infrastructure and find the money needed to get their plans completed. Afghanistan also has a series of mines with various mineral deposits, but mining hasn’t been developed enough to do so. 

Is Afghanistan An Underdeveloped, Developing, Or Developed Country?

Afghanistan would fall between underdeveloped and developing, as they have made several improvements as a country. However, there are some resources that are still difficult for a percentage of citizens to have consistent access to. For instance, not all citizens have access to clean, safe drinking water or clean sanitation facilities. 

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The population of Afghanistan is on a steady incline, and it’s expected that it’s going to continue to grow for the next couple of decades at least. Despite this, the ability to manage resources for everyone and grow economically has been a challenge. 

Afghanistan is home to a variety of natural resources, some of which have been exploited by international interference, such as oil. Outside of this, Afghanistan has set up a series of partnerships with other countries to help them extract some of the natural resources that exist in the country, such as oil, copper, iron, and other minerals. 

Is Afghanistan A Low Income Or Middle Income Country?

Based on recent statistical data, it would be fair to say that Afghanistan is a low-income country. There have been some improvements in ways to generate income, but there is still income disparity amongst those living in Afghanistan. 

The people of Afghanistan do not have enough opportunities to make income, making the unemployment rate remain quite high. As such, the poverty rate in Afghanistan is high, with estimates that half the population falls under the poverty line. This has led to many seeking out income sources elsewhere, such as in criminal endeavors. 

Despite there being ample sources of textile materials in Afghanistan, the country has not established any kind of industrial means to produce textiles at a faster rate to export. For instance, Afghanistan is known for their stunning handwoven rugs, their quality cashmere, and leather. However, it has not been a priority to establish an industry around this. 

There have been talks about establishing a Pepsi branch in Afghanistan, but outside of that, Afghanistan is not home to many large international corporations. These tend to be large conduits of jobs, so a lack of their presence in the country is touted as one of many reasons there is a lack of employment opportunities in the country. 

The Economy In Afghanistan

The economy in Afghanistan has seen improvements in many facets. For example, the country has established trade relationships with some countries in its vicinity, helping to generate more income due to exports. Because of where Afghanistan is located, they have great opportunities for trade, which is promising in terms of a continuous source of economic growth. 

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Afghanistan has quite the agricultural industry, and there have been efforts to make agriculture more industrialized. This shift into more modern agricultural practices has helped to generate more income being spread throughout the country through sales and exports, as well as more resources for its citizens. 

A large portion of Afghanistan’s economy comes from expats, who leave Afghanistan to work in other countries. These expats will send money back to their family members who still live in Afghanistan, giving them the means to make purchases in the country. 

Afghanistan has made several attempts to modernize industry, agriculture, land development, and housing options for many years. There have been some successes, but the country has had a difficult time generating enough funds and the proper people to make this modernization come to fruition. 

Why Afghanistan Has Trouble Improving Their Economic Development 

In the early days of Afghanistan as a country, building up the military and its defense systems remained one of the main priorities. There were efforts in the 1950s to shift focus towards agricultural progress through improving irrigation systems and developing the land to make it suitable for growing food. These efforts continue today, and have helped contribute to the economy positively. 

The late 1970s and early 1980s saw various conflicts within the country, including the Soviet invasion, which had a disastrous effect on economic development and the stability of their current infrastructure. There has been some semblance of conflict in Afghanistan continually since then, making it difficult for the country to focus on re-establishing its economy or its industries. 

Afghanistan has also received international aid to dedicate itself to building up its economy, especially after a string of droughts that put a hamper on its agricultural development. This had a positive impact on the economy, with Afghanistan seeing some promising improvements. Unfortunately, humanitarian aid from other countries has ceased in Afghanistan as of today. 

This is due to the Taliban taking control of the country, implementing their own strict rules regarding the economy amongst other facets of everyday life. One of the decisions made by the Taliban was that all purchases within the country must be made using Afghani currency, and no currency from any other country is allowed. 

Poverty In Afghanistan 

Afghanistan has widespread poverty throughout various parts of the country. There tends to be more pockets of poverty within more rural areas. These citizens do not have frequent access to adequate nutrition and water, which can have detrimental impacts on the health of the families who dwell there. 

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As recently alluded to, it’s estimated that close to half of Afghanistan’s citizens live below the poverty line. There are many factors that contribute to this above and beyond lack of resources. It is also difficult for many to find gainful employment, and certain areas of Afghanistan do not allow for women to work outside of the home. 

Of course, the inability to get a grasp on economic prosperity plays into the increasing amount of poverty. There have been efforts, as mentioned, to improve the agricultural industry, but it hasn’t improved to the point of eliminating food insecurity. The influx of foreign aid has not been enough to develop long-term stability in the country. 

Quality Of Life In Afghanistan 

On the Human Development Index established by the United Nations, Afghanistan is close to the bottom of the list. This is one of the major reference points when informally classifying a country as first, second, or third-world, or rating its development status. This index also looks at various factors regarding quality of life in a country.

In many parts of Afghanistan, there is inequality, meaning that women are not able to find jobs to contribute to their household. Additionally, the amount of insecurity relating to food and water sources that are safe to consume impacts many people living in the country. 

The amount of political instability and corruption within the country has distracted any efforts to bolster the economy, infrastructure, and/or industry. This has a detrimental effect on the everyday lives of citizens, many of which have had to flee with their families in search for a better life. This is especially true recently, as the country has become vastly unsafe due to Taliban dominance. 

Final Thoughts 

Afghanistan is often referred to as a third-world country or a developing country, and despite many efforts, it has been difficult for the country to emerge from that informal status. Afghanistan has a lot of potential for further development, but under the current Taliban regime, it’s uncertain whether or not that will happen. 


Marta Kovachek
About the author: Marta Kovachek graduated from the university with a master’s degree in Economics. Marta enjoys writing about the current economic situation and loves helping our readers to find their next "destination". From places to live to complex social and economic topics, we always enjoy Marta's work. Please contact us in case of any questions.
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