The site 24/7 Wall Street has created a list of ten countries where its citizens do not feel safe. Interestingly it is a mix of emerging economies and very poor economies. It is hard for me to imagine how Honduras or Congo did not make this list! The site reports:
Some of the nations where residents do not feel safe are among the world’s poorest, including Afghanistan and Madagascar, which were estimated to have among the lowest per capita gross domestic product (GDP) of any nations.
Some of the countries where residents feel the least safe, however, have relatively stable governments and enjoy prospering economies. Among these is South Africa, which is one of the world’s largest emerging economies. Additionally, Botswana has been led for decades by a well-functioning, democratically elected government.
Yet, government stability and prosperity do not necessarily ensure residents feel safe. While Botswana is considered to have among the most stable governments in its region, residents are among the most fearful in the world.
According to Steve Crabtree, senior research analyst at Gallup, as nations develop and their economies grow, “some countries experiencing rapid economic development may have ‘growing pains’ in terms of rising income inequality.” These inequalities, and the sense of injustice they often foster, may contribute to rising crime rates and, as a result, fears of crime.
In any country, one of the most meaningful measures of how safe people feel is the way law enforcement officials are perceived. Of the 10 nations where people feel least safe, four also had the lowest ratings of their police forces. In Bolivia and Chad, 66% and 64%, respectively, of those polled disapproved of the local police, the two worst reviews out of the nations measure
- Pct. feel unsafe at night: 74%
- Life expectancy: 74.1 years (76th highest)
- Corruption index: 70.5 (61st lowest)
- GDP per capita: $13,616 (71st highest)
In no country do people feel more unsafe than Venezuela, where the State Department says that kidnappings are a major problem. This includes “express kidnappings,” where victims are kidnapped in order to get quick cash in exchange for release. Other issues common in the country, according to the State Department, include robberies and piracy. Murder is a significant problem in the country as well. According to Venezuela’s interior minister, the country’s murder rate in 2010 was 48 per 100,000 people, while an independent estimate placed the 2011 murder rate at 67 per 100,000 people.
2. South Africa
- Pct. feel unsafe at night: 73%
- Life expectancy: 52.1 years (19th lowest)
- Corruption index: 80.8 (41st highest)
- GDP per capita: $11,375 (81st highest)
Armed robberies, muggings and carjackings are all problems in the South Africa, according to the State Department. Gun violence is a significant problem in the country as well, with more than half of all murders and robberies involving a firearm. There is also distrust of police among many South African residents. According to The Economist, 566 people were killed by police in 2009 and 2010, while another 294 died while in police custody. Although GDP per capita is better in South Africa than in most countries in Africa, in 2009 it had the highest income inequality in the world.
- Pct. feel unsafe at night: 67%
- Life expectancy: 49.5 years (9th lowest)
- Corruption index: 83.9 (25th highest)
- GDP per capita: $1,924 (32nd lowest)
In November 2012, the State Department restated its travel warning for Americans visiting Chad, even as the nation’s war with Sudan ended and active rebel groups now have been disarmed, due in large part to the historical volatility of the region. Because of the potential for sudden outbreaks of violence, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit, the U.S. embassy forbids unapproved visits to eastern Chad or bordering regions. The nation ranks as one of the world’s least developed, with an average life expectancy of just under 50 years, among the lowest recorded by the World Bank.
- Pct. feel unsafe at night: 65%
- Life expectancy: 53.0 years (20th lowest)
- Corruption index: 77.1 (58th highest)
- GDP per capita: $16,820 (57th highest)
Botswana is especially stable, with a civilian democratic government that has led the country for more than 40 years and a strong economy that specializes in diamond mining. Demonstrating the strength of the economy, Botswana’s per capita GDP was estimated to be $16,820. This would place the nation among the top third of all countries. Despite these developments, Crabtree told 24/7 Wall St. that rising income inequality may be perceived as an injustice by many residents of developing nations. He added that “under those kinds of pressures, crime rates may rise and the prevailing sense of personal security may drop.” The State Department notes that crime is a serious concern in the country and that home invasions, smash-and-grabs and muggings are “not-uncommon.”
- Pct. feel unsafe at night: 62%
- Life expectancy: 62.7 years (45th lowest)
- Corruption index: 83.5 (28th highest)
- GDP per capita: $16,548 (58th highest)
Petty crime is common in Gabon, with more violent crimes such as armed robberies taking place in urban areas, the State Department notes. Gabon is considered to be one of the more prosperous countries in Africa due to its “small population, abundant natural resources and considerable foreign support,” according to auditor KPMG. However, much of the country remains poor due to high income inequality. In 2009, Ali Ben Bongo won a disputed election to lead the country. The election was fraught with allegations of voter fraud, as well as violence against members of the opposition party. Political protests have continued since the contested election.