Where are the Highest Interest Rates in the World?

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UPDATE: We’ve updated this list for 2017! Check out the updated list of highest interest rates in the world here.

The search for carry has been an enduring theme this year in the markets. Most of Europe is moving towards flat or negative interest rates, and almost every central bank in developed and emerging markets are either on hold or cutting rates. Investors in developed markets have little choice in their search for higher yield, but what about in the rest of the world? How high are interest rates in emerging and frontier markets?

Using data from TradingEconomics, we took a look at where the highest interest rates in the world were, on a country and regional basis.

The Six Countries With The Highest Interest Rates Worldwide:

These six countries all currently have bank policy rates of above 20%!

  1. Ukraine (30%)
  2. Belarus (25%)
  3. Malawi (25%)
  4. Gambia (22%)
  5. Ghana (21%)
  6. Argentina (20.52%)

All but Gambia also have double digit inflation that matches their high interest rates, but it is interesting to find that while the Eurozone moves towards flat rates and their own form of QE, the two highest interest rates can be found next door in Eastern Europe.

Average Interest Rates by Region (Emerging & Frontier Markets Only)

AvgIntRateRegion2Central Asia, South America, and Sub-Saharan Africa are the top three regions for high interest rates.

The six countries comprising Central Asia range from Azerbaijan’s 3.5% up to Afghanistan’s 15% interest rate. South America is dominated by the devaluation twins, Argentina and Venezuela, who have interest rates of 20.52% and 19.17% respectively. Sub-Saharan Africa is buoyed by the three countries listed in the top 6: Malawi, Gambia, and Ghana, but rates overall in this region are quite high.

Average Interest Rate Less Inflation Rate by Region (Emerging & Frontier Markets Only)

But what use are high interest rates if they are eaten away immediately by even higher inflation? We could not find reliable inflation data across all these countries (a lot of these numbers look too low), but here is the chart of interest rates across regions when inflation rate is taken into account:

AvgNetRateRegion2Asia jumps to the front of the line with a net interest rate of 2.69% despite its overall low level of interest rates, while South America lags the world thanks to its double digit average inflation. Sub-Saharan Africa and Central Asia remain quite strong and just behind Asia.

Ten Highest Interest Rates After Inflation by Country

With the importance of having a high interest rate relative to the inflation rate in mind, here are the top 10 high yield countries:

Country Name Region Interest Rate (%)
Inflation (%)
Difference (%)
Gambia Sub-Saharan Africa              22.00        7.02        14.98
Uganda Sub-Saharan Africa              12.00        1.90        10.10
Suriname South America              11.98        2.30            9.68
Afghanistan Central Asia              15.00        6.10            8.90
Belarus Europe              25.00       16.71            8.29
Lebanon Middle East / North Africa              10.00        2.00            8.00
Djibouti Sub-Saharan Africa              10.61        2.90            7.71
Cape Verde Sub-Saharan Africa                7.50      (0.20)            7.70
Tanzania Sub-Saharan Africa              12.00        4.30            7.70
Moldova Europe              13.50        6.50            7.00

Five countries in Sub-Saharan Africa are on the list with inflation plummeting in a lot of countries lately. These rates may represent that central banks are currently too dovish and behind the cycle, but these countries seem to have a lot of safety margin. It is interesting to note that not a single country from Asia-Pacific made the cut despite that region leading the others. The closest was Sri Lanka at 6.4% and Brunei at 6.3%.
photo credit: Bank of England / Threadneedle St. via photopin (license)

2 COMMENTS

  1. Central bank official rate can be quite misleading, as in some countries rates on fixed deposits and securities can be a lot lower or a lot higher as well. You should use 1 year treasury bills rate or 1 year fixed deposit rate as mean of comparison.

    • Agreed, it’s not a perfect measure but it’s more stable and as a reference rate it’s easily comparable across countries. T-bills or fixed deposit rates fluctuate daily, and will be strongly correlated to the central bank rate anyway, making the bank rate a useful way of finding the highest interest rates worldwide.

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