Zambia - language, government, economy, cities, history, tourism, people, education, religion

Read about Zambia: language, government, economy, cities, history, tourism, people, education, religion, agriculture, climate ...


Zambia, republic in south central Africa, bounded on the north by the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC, formerly Zaire) and Tanzania; on the east by Malawi; on the southeast by Mozambique; on the south by Zimbabwe, Botswana, and the Caprivi Strip of Namibia; and on the west by Angola. The area is 752,614 sq km (290,586 sq mi). Zambia’s capital and largest city is Lusaka.


Most of Zambia is high plateau with a flat or gently undulating terrain. Elevations average between about 1,100 and 1,400 m (about 3,500 and 4,500 ft). Mountains in the northeast exceed 2,000 m (6,600 ft). Major rivers are the Zambezi in the west and south and its tributaries, the Kafue in the west and the Luangwa in the east; and the Luapula and Chambeshi, in the north. Lake Bangweulu, in the north, is surrounded by a vast swampy region. Lake Kariba is a large reservoir formed by Kariba Dam on the Zambezi River.

Climate of Zambia

Although lying within the Tropic Zone, much of Zambia enjoys a pleasant subtropical climate because of the high altitude. The average temperature in Lusaka during July, the coldest month of the year, is 16°C (61°F); the hottest month, January, has an average temperature of 21°C (70°F). Annual rainfall ranges from 750 mm (30 in) in the south to 1,300 mm (51 in) in the north. Nearly all of the rain falls between November and April.

Natural Resources of Zambia

Most of the country has savanna-type vegetation—grasslands interspersed with trees. Teak forests are in the southwest. Animals include elephants, lions, rhinoceroses, and several varieties of antelope. Of overwhelming importance are the rich mineral veins of the country’s copper belt. The belt extends down into Zambia from southern DRC and contains major deposits of copper, cobalt, and other minerals. Zambia also has substantial hydroelectric potential. The Kariba Dam on the Zambezi River is the country’s main power source. Zambia shares the Kariba system with Zimbabwe. Other stations on the Lunsemfwa and Mulungushi rivers serve Kabwe. Installations have also been built on the Kafue River. In 2006 the total output of electricity was 9.3 billion kilowatt-hours, nearly all of which was produced by hydroelectric plants.

Environmental Issues of Zambia

Zambia is one of the most industrialized countries in Africa, and air pollution and the resulting acid rain are growing problems. The lack of adequate water-treatment facilities presents substantial health risks to the population.

Wetlands, including floodplains, swamps, and mudflats, make up about 6 percent of Zambia’s area, although none are adequately protected from degradation. Only about 42.2 percent (1995) of the land is forested, mostly with open woodland. Deforestation takes place at a rate of about 1 percent per year. Some important habitats are endangered, such as mountain areas in the northeast.

National forest makes up about 9 percent of the land. In addition, there are 19 national parks that protect about 8 percent of the country’s land, although game management areas and protected forests cover more than 20 percent of the land. Threats to protected land include brushfires, agricultural encroachment, prospecting and mining activities, hydroelectric development, habitat destruction due to local overpopulation of some game species, and poaching, especially of elephant and rhinoceros.

Zambia has ratified international environmental agreements concerning biodiversity, climate change, endangered species, hazardous wastes, the ozone layer, and wetlands. Regionally, the country participates in the African Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.


Zambia’s population, predominantly rural, is made up of more than 70 ethnic groups, many of them Bantu-speaking. Most groups are small; the largest are the Bemba, Nyanja, and Tonga peoples.

Population Characteristics of Zambia

The population of Zambia at the time of the 1990 census was 7,818,447. A 2009 estimate was 11,862,740, giving the country an overall population density of 16 persons per sq km (41 per sq mi); much of the northeast and west is sparsely inhabited.

Political Divisions and Principal Cities of Zambia

Zambia is divided into nine provinces, each governed by a minister appointed by the president. Lusaka, the capital, had a population (2003 estimate) of 1,394,000. Other major centers are Ndola (374,757), Kitwe (376,124), Mufulira (204,104), and Luanshya (186,372), all in the copper belt.

Religion and Language of Zambia

About 80 percent of the people of Zambia are Christian; many of them adhere to independent churches which combine elements of Christianity and African religions. Most of the remainder follow traditional religions. More than 70 African languages are spoken, including Bemba, Lozi, Luvale, Tonga, and Nyanja. The official language is English.

Education in Zambia

School attendance has increased substantially since Zambia’s independence in 1964. In 2007 some 2.8 million pupils were enrolled in primary schools, representing 92 percent of school-aged children. Only 28 percent of secondary school-aged children were enrolled. The University of Zambia (founded in 1965), at Lusaka, had about 10,500 students in the mid-1990s.

The Livingstone Museum, at Livingstone, has a collection relating to the archaeology and natural history of southern Africa. The Institute for African Studies of the University of Zambia publishes studies relating to central Africa.


The wealth of Zambia is based largely on mining in the rich copper belt, and downturns in copper prices have severely damaging economic consequences. Some processing and manufacturing has been started since independence, and during the 1970s attempts were made to diversify agriculture and to make the country self-sufficient in food. In 2007 the national budget showed $2,008 million in revenue and $2,618 million in expenditure.

Labor in Zambia

In 2007 some 4.6 million Zambians participated in the labor force. The principal labor organization is the Zambia Congress of Trade Unions, which has about 400,000 members. Civil servants and miners also have unions.

Agriculture of Zambia

Some 70 percent of Zambia’s working population is engaged in agriculture, largely subsistence farming. Principal crops and the amount produced in metric tons in 2007 were corn, the staple grain (1,366,158); sugarcane (2.5 million); and cassava (0.9 million). Sunflower seeds, peanuts, sweet potatoes, and tobacco are also grown. Beef and dairy cattle are raised for domestic use. The agricultural sector remains underdeveloped and vulnerable to weather fluctuations, and food shortages have occurred.

Mining in Zambia

The copper mines of Zambia are among the richest in the world. Although world copper prices collapsed in 1975, damaging the Zambian economy, in the early 1990s the country still received about half of its export earnings from copper. Output in 2004 was 426,900 metric tons. Zambia is also among the world’s largest producers of cobalt. Other minerals extracted were gold (150 kg/331 lb), silver (7 metric tons), and gem-quality emeralds. A diamond field was discovered in 1992.

Manufacturing in Zambia

Manufacturing, mining, and construction employ only 7 percent of the labor force but account for 38 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP). Principal activities were the smelting and refining of copper and other metals, vehicle assembly, petroleum refining, food processing, and the production of fertilizers, explosives, and textiles.

Currency and Banking of Zambia

The decimal system of currency, issued in 1968, is based on the kwacha, consisting of 100 ngwee (4,003 kwachas equal U.S.$1; 2007 average). The country’s central bank is the Bank of Zambia (1964); commercial, development, and foreign banks are widely represented.

Foreign Trade in Zambia

Imports—such as machinery and transport equipment, mineral fuels and lubricants, chemicals, food, and basic manufactured goods—totaled $3,991 million in 2007. Exports—chiefly copper and cobalt—totaled $4,853 million. Principal partners for exports are Japan, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Taiwan, India, Belgium and Luxembourg (which constitute a single trading entity), France, and Malaysia; principal partners for imports are South Africa, the United Kingdom, Zimbabwe, Japan, Saudi Arabia, and the United States.

Transportation and Communications in Zambia

Zambia has 1,273 km (791 mi) of railroads. A railroad from Zimbabwe runs to Livingstone, Lusaka, and Ndola, connecting with the DRC system, and then to Benguela on the Atlantic coast of Angola. The Tanzania-Zambia Railroad (Tazara) connects Lusaka with the port of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. Some 91,440 km (56,818 mi) of roads connect the towns of Zambia. Lusaka is served by an international airport. The government operates radio and television stations at Lusaka and Kitwe. In 1999 there were 149 radio receivers and 142 television sets in use for every 1,000 inhabitants.


Zambia is a republic with a president elected to a maximum of two five-year terms by direct universal suffrage. The president appoints a cabinet, which is headed by a prime minister. Zambia’s legislative body, the National Assembly, has 159 members: 150 popularly elected members, 8 members appointed by the president, and the speaker of the house. The 27-member House of Chiefs is an advisory body.

The United National Independence Party (UNIP) was Zambia’s sole legal political organization until 1990. In 1991 the legislature enacted a new constitution providing for a multiparty system and limiting presidential powers. An opposition group, the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD), won the 1991 general elections. The constitution was amended in 1996. In 2001 the MMD emerged from general elections with less than half of the seats in the National Assembly, but remained the largest single party.

Judiciary in Zambia

The judicial system includes a supreme court, a high court, and lower courts on the British model. African customary law is applied in special courts.

Defense of Zambia

In 2006 the armed forces of Zambia consisted of an army of 13,500 and an air force of 1,600. Military service is voluntary.


Southward-migrating Bantu farmers and herders settled in the area that is now Zambia over a period of several centuries beginning around the 4th century AD. These forerunners of the Sotho and Nguni groups developed mining and metalworking techniques. A new group, the Shona Bantu, arrived in the 12th century. Later, the Karanga clan of the Shona established the great empire of Mutapa, which included southern Zambia. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Lunda and Lozi from the Congo (now the DRC) populated the northern plains and upper Zambezi River area. In the 19th century, the Kololo, fleeing the wars in South Africa, moved northward and established brief control over much of central and northern Zambia before the Lozi once again asserted their dominance. Eastern Zambia was settled by Bantu peoples related to those in Malawi. Despite their differences, these various Bantu groups shared certain common characteristics. They were primarily agriculturists, but most of them also kept cattle. They were tribally oriented, and their states usually were small, except when a dominant king, such as the ruler of the Karanga, Kololo, or Lozi, imposed his will on neighboring tribes. Consequently, when the British moved into Zambia—or Barotseland, as they called it—in the latter part of the 19th century, no powerful kingdoms were there to resist them.

British Rule in Zambia

At the time of British penetration in the area, the strongest state in Zambia was that of the Lozi under Chief Lewanika, who openly solicited British protection. A treaty establishing British protection was signed between the Lozi overlord and a representative of the British South Africa Company in 1889. Eastern Zambia was added to Britain’s empire by Sir Harry Johnston during his conquest of Nyasaland (now Malawi). A regular British resident, titled “agent in charge,” was sent to Lewanika in 1897. Three years later the British government directly assumed jurisdiction over the entire area.

British government in Zambia (then called Northern Rhodesia) was the same as in its other African territories, consisting of a small central executive authority made up of appointed Europeans headed by a governor; the system of indirect rule allowed great freedom to local rulers. In the late 1920s a major development occurred: the discovery of copper in the north. This led to the extension of the railway and the building of the first smelting plants in the so-called copper belt. By the beginning of World War II in 1939, Zambia had become a major producer of copper, and the extreme urbanization of the northwest was under way. The copper industry brought an influx of European technicians and administrators to Zambia, and although they never gained the political power of European settlers in Southern Rhodesia (present-day Zimbabwe), they became a dominant force in Zambian life.

In 1953, under pressure from the white minority in Southern Rhodesia, the British government forced the creation of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, comprising the territories of Northern Rhodesia, Southern Rhodesia, and Nyasaland (now Malawi). It was dominated by the white population of the territories, and the central government headed by Lord Malvern and Sir Roy Welensky was a reflection of Southern Rhodesian politics. The federation was condemned from its inception by every African politician in the state. The path toward independence was more difficult for Zambia than for most other British African territories because the federation had to be broken first. This was accomplished by Malawi in conjunction with pressure applied by Zambian nationalists, led by Kenneth Kaunda.

Independence of Zambia

The federation was dissolved at the end of 1963. Nyasaland became independent as Malawi in July 1964, and Northern Rhodesia as Zambia in October 1964. Southern Rhodesia changed its name to Rhodesia. Kaunda’s party, the United National Independence Party (UNIP), won the first and all subsequent elections until the early 1990s. In 1972 Zambia became a one-party state, but its leadership remained moderate and pro-Western. Private land was nationalized in 1975 as part of an unsuccessful agricultural improvement program. The completion of the rail link to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in 1976, freed Zambia from its dependence on the Rhodesian- and South African-controlled railway for the transport of its copper.

President Kaunda opposed the white-dominated regime in Rhodesia, and his assistance to guerrilla insurgents proved crucial to the establishment of a black majority government there in 1980. Although Kaunda was reelected to a sixth presidential term in 1988, popular discontent with Zambia’s stagnant economy and his autocratic rule continued to grow. In 1990 food riots and an abortive coup shook the government, and the aging leader agreed to allow multiparty voting. The opposition Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) won the 1991 general election, and its presidential candidate, Frederick Chiluba, defeated Kaunda by a wide margin.

In May 1996 Chiluba’s government amended the Zambian constitution, introducing a controversial provision that required presidential candidates to be from families established in Zambia for at least two generations. The amended constitution also prevented presidents from serving more than two terms. Kaunda, whose parents were immigrants from Malawi, was therefore disqualified on both accounts. In response, the UNIP, under Kaunda’s leadership, boycotted the November 1996 elections. Chiluba was elected to a second term.

In December 2001 elections, MMD presidential candidate Levy Mwanawasa received more votes than any of the 11 opposition candidates. He therefore succeeded Chiluba as president in January 2002, despite having received only 29 percent of the popular vote. Mwanawasa was reelected to a second term in 2006. Mwanawasa died in office in August 2008 and was succeeded by vice president Rupiah Banda.

© The Globe Encyclopedia. All rights reserved. Distributed by ASThemesWorld