03/15/2013 02:32 pm ET Updated Mar 15, 2013

Human Development Index 2013: South Remains Least Developed But Shows Major Gains

Although Sub-Saharan Africa is home to the ten worst developed countries in the world, the region saw some of the most impressive development gains since 2000. That is the conclusion of this year's Human Development Index (HDI) rankings.

Compiled annually by the United Nation's Development Programme (UNDP) since 1990, the Human Development Index is meant to be a "composite measurement of development that challenges purely economic assessments of national progress." The tool was co-developed by Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen.

The index is compiled from eight metrics that measure improvement in education, health, and income. Lack of data excludes such countries as North Korea, Somalia and South Sudan.

This is the second year in a row that the ten countries with the lowest Human Development Index are located in Sub-Saharan Africa. Not surprisingly, the region as a whole has the lowest average HDI of any region in the world in 2013.

However, the UNDP press release also notes that of the 14 countries that recorded annual HDI growth of more than 2 percent since 2000, 11 are located in Sub-Saharan Africa. These include the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mozambique, Mali and Burundi, countries that respectively hold the 2nd, 3rd, 6th, and 10th lowest rank in the list.

In fact, all of the countries with the greatest improvement were found in the Global South, suggesting that the rise of the developing world continues apace.

Most amazingly, notes the UNDP's accompanying Human Development Report:

For the first time in 150 years, the combined output of the developing world’s three leading economies—Brazil, China and India—is about equal to the combined GDP of the longstanding industrial powers of the North—Canada, France, Germany, Italy, United Kingdom and the United States. This represents a dramatic rebalancing of global economic power.

The United States remains in the upper echelon of world development, moving up one position to the third highest Human Development Index value overall in 2013. However, when HDI is adjusted for internal inequality, the U.S. falls to 16th overall.

What's the least developed country in the world in 2013? Find out in the slideshow below.

World's Least Developed Countries