The 15 Most Ignored Nations
[Opinion] Countries with large natural wealth but with political problems
Alfredo Ascanio (askain)
Published 2008-11-20 15:00 (KST)
Edited by Carlos Arturo Serrano
I want to pay tribute to 15 important countries seldom taken into consideration. Seven countries in Africa, five in Oceania, two in Europe, and one in South America emerged as European colonies that after independence suffered coups, assassinations of political leaders, corruption and an unacceptable intolerance in the midst of extreme poverty and infant mortality. Many have kept the currency and language of the European country that first colonized them.
These countries are:
In Africa: Benin, Burkina Faso, Comoros, Djibouti, Liberia, Seychelles and Swaziland.
In Oceania: Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, Palau, and Tuvalu.
In Europe, Liechtenstein, Moldova.
In South America: Suriname
Countries in Africa
The Republic of Benin (capital Porto-Novo) is an ethnic African country that keeps the colonial French language, the franc currency, and the Catholic religion. Its current head of state is Yayi Boni.
Burkina Faso (capital Ouagadougou) is a country of mostly ethnic Mossi who also, due to colonial tradition, speak French and use the franc, but are of Muslim religion. Its current head of state is Blaise Compaore.
The Union of the Comoros (capital Moroni) is a Muslim country of mostly ethnic Antalotes who speak their own language, Comorian, and use as currency the Comorano franc. Its head of state is Ahmed Abdallah.
The Republic of Djibouti (capital Djbouti) is a country of mostly ethnic Somalis who formally uses two languages: French and Arabic. Its currency is the franc, its population is Muslim, and its head of state is Ismail Omar Guelleh.
The Republic of Liberia (capital Monrovia) is a country of varied African ethnicity, which uses English as its official language. Its currency is the US dollar and its religions are Catholicism and Islam. Its current head of state is Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.
The Republic of Seychelles (capital Victoria) is an important touristic destination and one of the less troubled countries in Africa. Its ethnicity is a blend of Asian and African and its religion is Catholic. The people speak English and French and the rupee as currency. Its current head of state is James Michel.
The Kingdom of Swaziland (capital Mbabane) is a very small country with a hereditary monarchy of Swazi ethnicity. There are two main languages: English and Swati. Its currency is called lilangeni, and its current head of state is King Mswati III.
Countries in Oceania
The Republic of the Marshall Islands (capital Majuro) is an ethnically Micronesian nation of Protestant religion. The country has two official languages: English and Marshallese. The country uses the US dollar as its currency, and its head of state is Litokwa Tomeing.
The Republic of Kiribati (capital Tarawa) comprises 33 islands in the Pacific Ocean, populated by English-speaking Catholics and Protestants. Its currency is the Australian dollar and its current head of state is Anote Tong.
The Republic of Nauru (capital Yaren) is an island nation populated by ethnic Nauruans of Protestant faith. Its language is Nauruan, its currency is the Australian dollar, and its head of state is Marcus Stephen.
The Republic of Palau (capital Koror) comprises several islands inhabited with ethnic Palauanos, mostly Catholics and Protestants. They speak Palauan and English. Its currency is the US dollar. Its head of state is Tommy Esang Remengesau, Jr.
Tuvalu (capital Funafuti) spans several volcanic atolls. Its population is of Polynesian ethnicity of Christian religion. It uses both the Tuvaluan dollar tuvaluan and the Australian dollar. Its official language is English and its current head of government is Apisai Leleima.
Countries in Europe
The Principality of Liechtenstein (capital Vaduz) is populated by ethnic Germans who use as their currency the Swiss franc. Its official language is German and its religion is predominantly Catholic. Being a constitutional monarchy, a crown prince chairs the country, Hans-Adam II, while the head of government is Otmar Hasler.
The Republic of Moldova (capital Chisinau) is mostly inhabited by ethnic Moldovans and Ukrainians of Eastern Orthodox faith who use as currency the Moldovan leu and speak Moldovan and Russian. Its current head of state is Vladimir Voronin.
Countries in South America
The Republic of Suriname (capital Paramaribo), populated by ethnic Hindu and Creole, uses as currency the Surinamese dollar and has Dutch as its official language. Its main religions are Catholicism and Hinduism. Its current head of state is Ronald Runaldo Venetiaan.
Most of these countries are young, still troubled by discontent with their governments and social tensions. Some were born of military coups d'etat and often their elections are suspected of irregularities, intended to impose repressive ideologies and preserve the hold on power.
These countries were colonized for their natural resources and, sometimes, their strategic value. Not all have full democracy. Those located in Africa and Oceania have very weak economies and suffer from famine and infant mortality. The most affluent ones depend on a service and tourism economy or hold major financial centers, especially the European ones.
Alfredo Ascanio is a professor of economics at Simon Bolivar University in Caracas, Venezuela.
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