NI Global Issues for Learners of English > Country profiles > Colombia



Country profile

Flag of Colombia

Map of Colombia

Area of Colombia: 1,138,910 square kilometres


Information at a Glance


Population: 39,685,655
Population growth rate: 1.68%
Ethnic groups: mestizo 58%, white 20%, mulatto 14%, black 4%, mixed black-Amerindian 3%, Amerindian 1%
Religions: Roman Catholic 90%
There has been a major shift in the population from the country to the cities.


Currency: Peso
GNP per capita: $1,670 (1994)
Main Industries: coffee, drugs (cocaine, opium poppies, marijuana), textiles, food processing, oil, clothing and footwear, beverages, chemicals, cement; gold, coal, emeralds
External Debt per capita: $534 (1994)


Life expectancy: 70.28 years
Infant mortality: 24.7 deaths/1,000 live births


Coal and oil reserves and a modernizing economy have eased dependence on coffee; huge earnings from cocaine.


IlIiteracy: 9% (1995)
Languages: Spanish

Income Distribution

Very unequal: lowest 40% of households have 12.7% of income, while a small percentage of people are very wealthy.


Regions: There is a wide range of different regions: flat coastal lowlands, central highlands, high Andes Mountains, eastern lowland plains. The Andes Mountains cross the country from north to south.
Natural resources: petroleum, natural gas, coal, iron ore, nickel, gold, platinum, copper, emeralds, hydropower
Farming: Agriculture is very important to the economy. It only uses a small percentage of the land (5%), but it is 23% of the economy. Commercial agriculture has taken the best land and small farmers have often taken to growing coca, the plant that is made into cocaine.
Problems: deforestation; soil damage from overuse of pesticides; air pollution, especially in Bogota, from vehicle emissions


Groups that export drugs (especially cocaine) have often had considerable political power in recent years.

There have also been struggles with left-wing guerrilas forces in many areas of the country.


Official democracy with press freedom, but high levels of state political violence.

Position of Women

Catholicism and machismo has a large effect on poor urban and rural women. A 1991 Constitution guarantees equal opportunities for women, but there remain considerable inequalities. Approximately 23% of the work force is women. Literacy rates for women are nearly the same as for men.

Sources: Colombia Country ProfileThe New Internationalist issue 257 - July 1994 by Jenny Pearce. The World Guide, Leading Issues in Economic Development 7th edition by Meier and Rauch, CIA World Factbook 2000.

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Last modified 10 November 2000

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