The Richest Countries In South America

Chile is the richest country in South America by GDP per capita and Brazil is the wealthiest in terms of GDP (PPP).


The economy of the South American continent represents the economy of the 12 nations and 3 territories of the continent housing a total population of about 410 million. Initially, after attaining independence, most South American nations used the Import Substitution economic policy. The policy was implemented from the 1930s to the 1980s. It was implemented with the objective of growing domestic businesses which were at that time not competitive and at par with international industries. However, the policy led to a debt crisis in the continent and the countries fell farther behind the Western countries in economic development.

The real growth of the South American economies began in the 1990s when the countries adopted the Free-Market economy system which helped the countries overcome the debt crisis. At present, agriculture, mining, and forestry are the major South American industries. Today, Chile is the richest country in South America with a per capita income of $24,588. 

5. Colombia - $13,579

Colombia, located in the continent's northwest, is the fifth richest country in South America in terms of per capita GDP (PPP). The country occupies an area of about 1,141,748 square km and has a population of around 48 million.

The main export item of Colombia which makes up 45% of all exports of the country is petroleum. The next big sector is the manufacturing industry. The country also has the world’s fastest growing information technology sector and the largest shipbuilding industry outside Asia. The country is going through a period of economic boom with a rapid increase in GDP and a decrease in poverty levels.

4. Brazil - $15,164

Brazil, the largest country in South America by both size and population, is also the fourth richest country in the continent in terms of GDP (PPP). Brazil has a long coastline along the Atlantic Ocean and is bound by most of South American countries with the exception of Chile and Ecuador.

The economy of Brazil can be described as an inward-oriented economy. The country’s economy suffered a major setback in 2013 and entered a recession the next year. It is currently recovering from the recession, though the country has pretty much re-emerged. The service sector contributes 67.0% of the GDP and the industrial sector accounts for 27.5%. Agriculture accounts for a mere 5.5% of the country’s GDP.

3. Argentina - $19,486

Spanning an area of 2,780,400 square km, Argentina is the 8th largest country in the world. It is the third richest country in South America in terms of GDP per capita. The country is located in the continent’s southern part where it is bordered by Chile, Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Uruguay. It has an extensive coastline along the Atlantic Ocean to the east. Argentina has a population of around 43 million people.

The economy of Argentina is based on the country’s rich natural resources, export-oriented agriculture, an educated population, and a diversified industrial sector. The economic performance of the country has gone through several ups and downs in the past few decades. Currently, it is classified as a middle emerging economy.

2. Uruguay - $22,445

Uruguay is the second richest South American nation in terms of GDP per capita. The country is located in South America’s southeastern region where it occupies an area of about 176,000 square km. The population of the country is 3.42 million.

Uruguay has a stable economy with a literate workforce and an export-oriented agricultural sector serving as the pillars of the country’s economy. Beef and wool are the most powerful export-oriented industries in the country. Some mining activities are also carried out. Plastics are the most significant manufactured exports of the country. The telecommunications sector is also well-developed. Travel and tourism contribute to 9.4% of the country's GDP.

1. Chile - $24,588

Chile has the richest economy in South America in terms of GDP per capita. Chile occupies a long and narrow strip of territory between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes mountain range in southern South America. Peru, Bolivia, and Argentina are the immediate neighbors of Chile. The country covers an area of about 756,096.3 square km. As of 2012, it has a population of 16,341,929.

Chile is one of the most prosperous and stable economies of the continent and the World Bank ranks the Chilean economy as a high-income economy. It is the world’s 30th most competitive country. As of 2012, the largest economic sectors by GDP in Chile are mining, business and personal services, wholesale, retail trade, and manufacturing. Only 4.9% of the GDP is contributed by the agricultural and allied sectors.

What are the Richest Countries in South America?

Chile is the richest country in South America, with a per capita income of $24,588. Uruguay and Argentina follow closely behind as the second richest and third richest country.

The Richest Countries In South America

RankCountryIncome (Per Capita)
1 Chile24,588
2 Uruguay22,445
3 Argentina19,486
4 Brazil15,164
5 Colombia13,579
6 Suriname13,403
7 Peru12,994
8 Venezuela12,035
9 Ecuador9,882
10 Paraguay9,098
11 Guyana8,173
12 Bolivia7,174


Your MLA Citation

Your APA Citation

Your Chicago Citation

Your Harvard Citation

Remember to italicize the title of this article in your Harvard citation.


More in Economics