Bringing Prosperity to Life


Ranked 148th of 149

At a glance


148 th on the Legatum
Prosperity Index™



In the Prosperity Sub-Index rankings, Afghanistan performs best on Economic Quality and Business Environment and scores lowest on the Personal Freedom sub-index.

Visit our Rankings table to see how Afghanistan compares to other countries.

Prosperity Gap

The ‘Prosperity Gap’ takes a country's GDP and uses it as the yardstick to measure a nation's expected Prosperity Index ranking.

Conflict and unrest over recent years has given Afghanistan one of the largest prosperity deficits in the world. However, its low wealth level means that the deficit is smaller than that of developed nations like Saudi Arabia. Ensuring that the deficit does not widen as the economy grows will be a key challenge for the Afghan government.

In the chart above, each dot represents a country. The curve shows the general tendency with which prosperity increases as GDP per capita increases. If a country falls below the curve, then we can say that compared to all other countries, it is under-delivering prosperity for its citizens. Likewise, if a country rises above the curve, then we can say that it is over-delivering prosperity for its citizens. Learn more about the Prosperity Gap here.

Alternatively, have a look at the Prosperity Gap view on our Rankings table for a full list of countries and to see how each of them are performing on the various sub-indices.


The Index shows Afghanistan struggling and failing to deliver prosperity to its citizens. Historic abuses by the Taliban, instability arising from terrorism, and decades of foreign intervention have long conspired to limit Afghanistan’s prosperity potential. The situation after the withdrawal of the majority of ISAF troops has left little cause for optimism. Ongoing insurgency and Taliban control of roughly 10% of the country has resulted in a widespread crackdown on freedoms and a breakdown of security. Afghanistan’s score in the Personal Freedom sub-index – the worst in the world - sits well below the average among the 20 least prosperous countries in the world. Unsurprisingly, Safety & Security too is notably lower than average.

Sub-index scores 2016: Afghanistan v average of the global bottom 20
Seven out nine of Afghanistan’s sub-indices score below the global bottom 20 average.

When the US forces overthrew the Taliban in 2001, it was hoped that a stable democracy and a rise in prosperity would ensue. Yet, the transfer of security responsibility to Afghan forces and a phasedown of international troops seems to only have increased uncertainty. The government faces high levels of drug trafficking and a seriously underdeveloped judicial system, with most rural areas subject to informal justice systems often using Sharia law. The absence of a functioning party system fuels high levels of corruption and the quasi-absence of basic mechanisms of transparent policy making. Some Afghanis have even complained that they preferred being under Taliban rule as at least there was less crime, corruption, and business could thrive.

The Taliban have stepped up attacks this year after announcing Haibatullah Akhundzada as their new leader. Akhundzada is emulating his predecessor Mansour, killed in a US drone strike in Pakistan, in shunning peace talks and calling for the end of US ‘occupation’ in Afghanistan. Ongoing insurgency is ensuring that Afghanistan remains one of the least safe countries in the world, ranking 146th in 2016 in the Safety & Security sub-index.

Particularly affected by this are variables capturing refugee outflow, intentional homicide rate, political terror scale and trailing 5- year terrorist attack casualties which have increased by 39% since 2007. In 2015 alone, the UN reported 3545 civilian casualties, most the result of Taliban and other insurgent attacks. On an individual level, since 2010, Afghanis feel less safe walking alone at night.

However, it is freedom in Afghanistan that has suffered most. The country ranks bottom on the world in the Personal Freedom sub-index due to gross abuse of human rights and extremely low civil liberties. Journalists continue to face violence and censorship by state and non-state actors, torture of detainees is prevalent, LGBT rights are non-existent and men and women do not enjoy equal inheritance rights. Discrimination and domestic violence against women remains prevalent and unreported due to its cultural and social acceptance. Death sentences and executions continue. Since 2007, only one component of the Personal Freedom sub-index- social religious restrictions- has improved.

While the general outlook looks pessimistic, some notable improvements have been made, a positive legacy of the 2001 invasion. Access to education has increased substantially since 2007, access to broadband has widened, and Afghanistan boasts a vibrant media sector that is generally uncensored. It has even been predicted by the World Bank that growth will reach 3.8% by 2018, providing that the political situation stabilises and planned reforms are implemented. Prosperity is slowly being stimulated in Afghanistan, a process that can be helped through close monitoring and support from the global community

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How to read this graph:
When comparing multiple countries on a spider chart, data points that appear
further away from the center represent a better performance to the points that are closer to the center.