• 5.4%

    Unemployment rate

  • 16%

    Women in Azerbaijani Parliament

  • 12%

    Land area covered by forest

  • 73.6

    Life expectancy at birth

  • 38.5

    Infant mortality rate, deaths per 1,000 live births

  • 65

    Internet users per 100 inhabitants

About Azerbaijan

Introduction


View of Baku (Photo: Igor Timchenko)

Azerbaijan gained independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991, and is ruled by a presidential system. With an estimated population of 9.2 million in 2011, it is divided into 66 regions, 13 urban districts and the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic. It is rich in natural resources, most notably oil and natural gas. Situated at the crossroads between Europe and Asia and sandwiched between Russia and the Middle East, functions as the natural transport corridor along the axis of the West and East, North and South.

History


Paradise of fruits (Photo: Hande Apaydin)

Economically, the country suffered a severe post-independence crisis, exacerbated by the still unresolved Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which displaced a huge number of people (one-tenth of the country’s population are IDPs or refugees) and left a portion of the territory occupied. The crisis eventually gave way to consistent high growth between 2005 and 2008, largely propelled by the exploitation of the oil and natural gas reserves.

 

Challenges


Oil fields (Photo: David Fielke)

A key challenge in front of Azerbaijan is to become a full-fledged Upper Middle Income (UMI) country, leaving behind its high dependence on hydrocarbon exports and shifting production towards higher value added manufacturing that reflect improved efficiency and skills in the economy. The narrow base for economic growth also means that there has been limited effect so far on improving decent employment. While hydrocarbon exports comprise above 90% of total exports, it engages only 7% of the employed citizens.  Hence, creation of productive jobs should be a central dimension of Azerbaijan’s development strategy.

 

A fundamental requirement on the path to a more efficient economy is the availability of a highly skilled workforce. While Azerbaijan has a satisfactory primary school completion rate, at the university level it has fallen behind the UMI and OECD averages.

 

Another critical challenge Azerbaijan faces is improvement in the health sector, paying particular attention to infant and child mortality, as well as allocation of higher amounts to health from the state budget.

 

Last but not least, institutional reforms and capacity development of organizations and individuals should be continued to ensure long term improvements in various aspects of public administration, with an emphasis on quality of service delivery.

 

Successes

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Investing in human capital

In the 20 years of independence Azerbaijan has achieved a great deal. The high levels of economic growth in recent years led to considerable improvements in the many key socio-economic indicators.  Per capita income reached $5,552, thus making Azerbaijan an Upper Middle Income country. On 2011 HDI listing Azerbaijan ranks 76th (it had ranked 101st in 2005), joining the "high human development" group.

 

The strong economic growth allowed major investments in infrastructure, and a steep decline in poverty rates from 46.7 percent in 2002 to 8.4 per cent in 2011.

 

The country has already met or is well on its way to meeting many of the MDGs, including halving extreme poverty and hunger (already reached in 2008), achieving universal primary education (already attained in 2008), eliminating gender disparities in primary and secondary education and reducing the spread of tuberculosis. Some indicators, e.g. maternal health and child nutrition, while improving, still require continued attention as they remain below the average for the upper-middle-income countries.

 

In January 2012 the country started its stint as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, the first among the former Soviet Republics (new members) to achieve this honor.

Country flag
Country map
Statistics
Capital
Baku
Population
9,235,100
Area (in sq. km)
86,600
Area (in sq. mi)
33,436
Language(s)
Azerbaijani
Poverty rate
8.4 per cent
Per capita income
2,334 AZN
Human Development Index
0.731

Sources: State Statistics Committee, UNDP