For the most current version of this Note, see Background Notes A-Z.
Area: 752,612 sq. km. (290,585 sq. mi.); slightly larger than Texas.
Cities: Capital--Lusaka (pop. approx. 1.7 million).
Other cities: Kitwe, Ndola, Livingstone, Kabwe.
Terrain: Varies; mostly plateau savanna.
Climate: Generally dry and temperate.
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Zambian(s).
Population (mid-2009 est.): Approx. 12.9 million.
Annual growth rate (2009): 2.9%.
Ethnic groups: More than 70 ethnic groups.
Religions: Christian, indigenous beliefs, Muslim, Hindu.
Languages: English (official), about 70 local languages and dialects, including Bemba, Lozi, Kaonde, Lunda, Luvale, Tonga, and Nyanja.
Education: No compulsory education; seven years free education. Literacy--women: 60.6%; men: 81.6%.
Health: Infant mortality rate--70/1,000. Life expectancy--38.63 years. HIV prevalence (15-49 years of age)--14.3%.
Work force: Agriculture--75%; mining and manufacturing--6%; services--19%.
Independence: October 24, 1964.
Constitution: 1991 (as amended in 1996).
Branches: Executive--president (chief of state and head of government), cabinet. Legislative--unicameral National Assembly. Judicial--Supreme Court, high court, magistrate courts, and local courts.
Ruling political party: Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD).
Suffrage: Universal adult.
Subdivisions: Nine provinces subdivided into 72 districts.
GDP (2008, purchasing power parity): $17.39 billion.
Annual growth rate (2010, projected): 6.0%.
Per capita GDP (2008, current prices): $1,500.
Natural resources: Copper, cobalt, zinc, lead, coal, emeralds, gold, silver, uranium, hydroelectric power, fertile land.
Agriculture: Products--corn, sorghum, rice, groundnuts, sunflower seeds, vegetables, fruits, flowers, tobacco, cotton, sugarcane, livestock, coffee, and soybeans.
Industry: Types--mining, transport, construction, foodstuffs, beverages, chemicals, and textiles.
Trade (2008 est.): Exports--$5.08 billion: copper, cobalt, lead, and zinc, cut vegetables, cotton, tobacco. Major markets--Switzerland, China, Pakistan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Africa, Malawi. Imports--$5.06 billion: crude oil, refined petroleum products, manufactured goods, machinery, transport equipment, foodstuffs, chemicals. Major suppliers--South Africa, China, Democratic Republic of the Congo, United Kingdom.
Major donors: Donor contributions totaled $1.181 billion in 2010, as reported by Ministry of Finance and National Planning. The European Commission is Zambia's largest multilateral donor. Other key multilateral donors include the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), UN agencies, and the African Development Bank. Counting direct bilateral assistance and assistance through multilateral agencies, the United States is Zambia's largest country donor, amounting to approximately $390 million in 2010.
Zambia's population comprises more than 70 Bantu-speaking ethnic groups. Some ethnic groups are small, and only two have enough people to constitute at least 10% of the population. Most Zambians are subsistence farmers. The predominant religion is a blend of traditional beliefs and Christianity; Christianity is the official national religion. Expatriates, a majority of whom are British (about 15,000) and South African, live mainly in Lusaka and in the Copperbelt in northern Zambia, where they are employed in mines and related activities. Zambia also has a small but economically important Asian population, most of whom are Indians. The HIV/AIDS epidemic is ravaging Zambia. Approximately 14.3% of Zambians are infected by HIV. Over 800,000 Zambian children have lost one or both of their parents due to HIV/AIDS. Life expectancy at birth is 38.63 years.
The indigenous hunter-gatherer occupants of Zambia began to be displaced or absorbed by more advanced migrating tribes about 2,000 years ago. The major waves of Bantu-speaking immigrants began in the 15th century, with the greatest influx between the late 17th and early 19th centuries. They came primarily from the Luba and Lunda tribes of southern Democratic Republic of Congo and northern Angola but were joined in the 19th century by Ngoni peoples from the south. By the latter part of that century, the various peoples of Zambia were largely established in the areas they currently occupy.
Except for an occasional Portuguese explorer, the area lay untouched by Europeans for centuries. After the mid-19th century, it was penetrated by Western explorers, missionaries, and traders. David Livingstone, in 1855, was the first European to see the magnificent waterfalls on the Zambezi River. He named the falls after Queen Victoria, and the Zambian town near the falls is named after him.
In 1888, Cecil Rhodes, spearheading British commercial and political interests in Central Africa, obtained a mineral rights concession from local chiefs. In the same year, Northern and Southern Rhodesia (now Zambia and Zimbabwe, respectively) were proclaimed a British sphere of influence. Southern Rhodesia was annexed formally and granted self-government in 1923, and the administration of Northern Rhodesia was transferred to the British colonial office in 1924 as a protectorate.
In 1953, both Rhodesias were joined with Nyasaland (now Malawi) to form the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. Northern Rhodesia was the center of much of the turmoil and crisis that characterized the federation in its last years. At the core of the controversy were insistent African demands for greater participation in government and European fears of losing political control.
A two-stage election held in October and December 1962 resulted in an African majority in the legislative council and an uneasy coalition between the two African nationalist parties. The council passed resolutions calling for Northern Rhodesia's secession from the federation and demanding full internal self-government under a new constitution and a new national assembly based on a broader, more democratic franchise. On December 31, 1963, the federation was dissolved, and Northern Rhodesia became the Republic of Zambia on October 24, 1964.
At independence, despite its considerable mineral wealth, Zambia faced major challenges. Domestically, there were few trained and educated Zambians capable of running the government, and the economy was largely dependent on foreign expertise. Abroad, three of its neighbors--Southern Rhodesia and the Portuguese colonies of Mozambique and Angola--remained under white-dominated rule. Rhodesia's white-ruled government unilaterally declared independence in 1965. In addition, Zambia shared a border with South African-controlled South-West Africa (now Namibia). Zambia's sympathies lay with forces opposing colonial or white-dominated rule, particularly in Southern Rhodesia. During the next decade, it actively supported movements such as the Union for the Total Liberation of Angola (UNITA), the Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU), the African National Congress of South Africa (ANC), and the South-West Africa People's Organization (SWAPO).
Conflicts with Rhodesia resulted in the closing of Zambia's borders with that country and severe problems with international transport and power supply. However, the Kariba hydroelectric station on the Zambezi River provided sufficient capacity to satisfy the country's requirements for electricity. A railroad to the Tanzanian port of Dar es Salaam, built with Chinese assistance, reduced Zambian dependence on railroad lines south to South Africa and west through an increasingly troubled Angola.
By the late 1970s, Mozambique and Angola had attained independence from Portugal. Zimbabwe achieved independence in accordance with the 1979 Lancaster House agreement, but Zambia's problems were not solved. Civil war in the former Portuguese colonies generated refugees and caused continuing transportation problems. The Benguela Railroad, which extended west through Angola, was essentially closed to traffic from Zambia by the late 1970s. Zambia's strong support for the ANC, which had its external headquarters in Lusaka, created security problems as South Africa raided ANC targets in Zambia.
In the mid-1970s, the price of copper, Zambia's principal export, suffered a severe decline worldwide. Zambia turned to foreign and international lenders for relief, but as copper prices remained depressed, it became increasingly difficult to service its growing debt.
In response to growing popular demand, and after lengthy, difficult negotiations between the Kaunda government and opposition groups, Zambia enacted a new constitution in 1991 and shortly thereafter became a multi-party democracy. Kaunda's successor, Frederick Chiluba, made efforts to liberalize the economy and privatize industry, but allegations of massive corruption characterized the latter part of his administration. By the mid-1990s, despite limited debt relief, Zambia's per capita foreign debt remained among the highest in the world.
Although poverty continues to be a significant problem in Zambia, its economy has stabilized, attaining single-digit inflation in 2006-2007, real GDP growth, decreasing interest rates, and increasing levels of trade. Much of its growth is due to foreign investment in Zambia's mining sector and higher copper prices on the world market. In 2005, Zambia qualified for debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative, consisting of approximately U.S. $6 billion in debt relief.
Zambia became a republic immediately upon attaining independence in October 1964. The constitution promulgated on August 25, 1973, abrogated the original 1964 constitution. The new constitution and the national elections that followed in December 1973 were the final steps in achieving what was called a "one-party participatory democracy."
The 1973 constitution provided for a strong president and a unicameral National Assembly. National policy was formulated by the Central Committee of the United National Independence Party (UNIP), the sole legal party in Zambia. The cabinet executed the central committee's policy.
In accordance with the intention to formalize UNIP supremacy in the new system, the constitution stipulated that the sole candidate in elections for the office of president was the person selected to be the president of UNIP by the party's general conference. The second-ranking person in the Zambian hierarchy was UNIP's secretary general.
In December 1990, at the end of a tumultuous year that included riots in the capital and a coup attempt, President Kenneth Kaunda signed legislation ending UNIP's monopoly on power. Zambia enacted a new constitution in August 1991, which enlarged the National Assembly from 136 members to a maximum of 158 members, established an electoral commission, and allowed for more than one presidential candidate who no longer had to be a member of UNIP. The constitution was amended again in 1996 to set new limits on the presidency (including a retroactive two-term limit, and a requirement that both parents of a candidate be Zambian-born). The National Assembly is comprised of 150 directly elected members, up to eight presidentially-appointed members, and a speaker. Zambia is divided into nine provinces, each administered by an appointed deputy minister who essentially performs the duties of a governor.
The Supreme Court is the highest court and the court of appeal; below it are the high court, magistrate's court, and local courts.
Principal Government Officials
Vice President and Minister of Justice--George Kunda
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Kabinga Pande
Minister of Defense--Kalombo Mwansa
Minister of Finance--Situmbeko Musokotwane
Minister of Health--Kapembwa Simbao
Ambassador to the United States--Sheila Siwela
Ambassador to the United Nations--Lazarous Kapambwe
Zambia maintains an embassy in the United States at 2419 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel: 202-265-9717/8/9).
The major figure in Zambian politics from 1964 to 1991 was Kenneth Kaunda, who led the campaign for independence and successfully bridged the rivalries among the country's various regions and ethnic groups. Kaunda tried to base government on his philosophy of "humanism," which condemned human exploitation and stressed cooperation among people, but not at the expense of the individual.
Kaunda's political party--the United National Independence Party (UNIP)--was founded in 1959 and was in power under Kaunda's leadership from 1964 to 1991. Before 1972, Zambia had three significant political parties, but only UNIP had a nationwide following.
In December 1972, Zambian law established a one-party state, and all other political parties were banned; this was later enshrined in the 1973 constitution. Kaunda, the sole candidate, was elected President in the 1973 elections. Elections also were held for the National Assembly. Only UNIP members were permitted to run, but these seats were sharply contested. President Kaunda's mandate was renewed in December 1978, October 1983, and October 1988 in a "yes" or "no" vote on his candidacy.
Growing opposition to UNIP's monopoly on power led to the rise in 1990 of the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD). The MMD assembled an increasingly impressive group of important Zambians, including prominent UNIP defectors and labor leaders. Zambia's first multi-party elections for parliament and the presidency were held on October 31, 1991. MMD candidate Frederick Chiluba resoundingly carried the presidential election over Kenneth Kaunda with 81% of the vote. To add to the MMD landslide, in the parliamentary elections, the MMD won 125 of the 150 elected seats, and UNIP won the remaining 25.
By the end of Chiluba's first term as President (1996), the MMD's commitment to political reform had faded in the face of re-election aspirations. A number of prominent supporters founded opposing parties. Relying on the MMD's overwhelming majority in parliament, President Chiluba in May 1996 pushed through constitutional amendments that eliminated former President Kaunda and other prominent opposition leaders from the 1996 presidential elections. In the presidential and parliamentary elections held in November 1996, Chiluba was re-elected, and the MMD won 131 of the 150 seats in the National Assembly. Kaunda's UNIP party boycotted the parliamentary polls to protest the exclusion of its leader from the presidential race, alleging in addition that the outcome of the election had been predetermined due to a faulty voter registration exercise. As President Chiluba began his second term in 1997, the opposition and civil society challenged the results of the election amid international efforts to encourage the MMD and the opposition to resolve their differences through dialogue.
Early in 2001, supporters of President Chiluba mounted a campaign to amend the constitution to enable Chiluba to seek a third term of office. Civil society, opposition parties, and many members of the ruling party exerted sufficient pressure on Chiluba to force him to back away from any attempt at a third term.
Presidential, parliamentary, and local government elections were held on December 27, 2001. Eleven parties contested the elections. The elections encountered numerous administrative problems. Opposition parties alleged that serious irregularities occurred. Nevertheless, MMD presidential candidate Levy Mwanawasa, having garnered a plurality of the vote (29%), was declared the victor by a narrow margin, and he was sworn into office on January 2, 2002. Opposition parties won a majority of parliamentary seats in the December 2001 election, but subsequent by-elections gave the ruling MMD a majority in parliament.
During his first months in office, President Mwanawasa encouraged the Zambian Anticorruption Commission to aggressively pursue its mandate. In July 2002, in a speech before the Zambian National Assembly, President Mwanawasa provided details on a number of corruption allegations targeting former President Chiluba, and called for parliament to consider lifting Chiluba's immunity from prosecution.
On May 4, 2007, a British court found former president Chiluba and several others liable in a civil suit for misappropriating as much as $58 million of public resources, but the case has not yet been registered in Zambian courts and enforced. The government's Task Force on Corruption (originally established by former president Mwanawasa) has successfully prosecuted several cases of abuse of office and high-level corruption. In August 2009, and after 8 years, a Zambian magistrate acquitted Chiluba of corruption and the Government of Zambia declined to appeal the acquittal.
In February 2006 the government agreed to allow the formation of a Constituent Assembly to consider and adopt the draft constitution, subject to certain conditions. In August 2007, the Zambian parliament passed a government-sponsored law creating a National Constitutional Conference (NCC) charged with drafting a new constitution. The NCC, which is comprised of over 500 members drawn from parliament, political parties, civil society, and government, began meeting in late December 2007 and has had its mandate extended into 2010. Some members of civil society have refused to participate in the NCC, saying that its membership is too heavily stacked in the government's favor and pushing instead for the promised Constituent Assembly.
The Government of Zambia introduced very limited legislative changes to electoral procedures in mid-2006, including an electoral code of conduct and limits on politically-motivated donations and handouts. However, in parliamentary by-elections held in 2009, candidates from all parties violated the code of conduct, and the Electoral Commission of Zambia had insufficient capacity to enforce it.
President Mwanawasa died August 19, 2008 in a Paris hospital from complications of a stroke suffered June 29. In accordance with the constitution, Vice President Rupiah Banda assumed presidential powers but was required to hold elections within 90 days of Mwanawasa's death. Elections were held on October 30, 2008. Banda was declared the winner after narrowly defeating Michael Sata of the opposition Patriotic Front party by only 30,000 votes. International observers were satisfied overall with the conduct of the election and the management of the Electoral Commission of Zambia, although no voters had been registered since late 2005. Banda was sworn in on November 2, 2008 and announced new cabinet members on November 14. Banda has vowed to continue the business-friendly and corruption-fighting policies of his predecessor, but emerging corruption scandals in the Zambian Government and the acquittal of former President Chiluba have raised speculation about President Banda’s initial commitments to promote fiscal transparency and accountability and about his overall commitment to fighting corruption. Presidential and parliamentary elections are currently slated for 2011.
About two-thirds of Zambians live in poverty. Per capita annual incomes are well below their levels at independence and, at $1,500, place the country among the world's poorest nations. Social indicators continue to decline, particularly in measurements of life expectancy at birth (about 39 years) and maternal mortality (101 per 1,000 live births). The country's rate of economic growth cannot support rapid population growth or the strain which HIV/AIDS-related issues (i.e., rising medical costs, decline in worker productivity) place on government resources. Zambia is also one of Sub-Saharan Africa's most highly urbanized countries. Over one-third of the country's 12.9 million people are concentrated in a few urban zones strung along the major transportation corridors, while rural areas are underpopulated. Unemployment and underemployment are serious problems.
HIV/AIDS is the nation's greatest challenge, with 14.3% prevalence among the adult population. HIV/AIDS will continue to ravage Zambian economic, political, cultural, and social development for the foreseeable future.
Once a middle-income country, Zambia began to slide into poverty in the 1970s when copper prices declined on world markets. The socialist government made up for falling revenue by increasing borrowing. After democratic multi-party elections, the Chiluba government (1991-2001) came to power in November 1991 committed to an economic reform program. The government was successful in some areas, such as privatization of most of the parastatals, maintenance of positive real interest rates, the elimination of exchange controls, and endorsement of free market principles. Corruption grew dramatically under the Chiluba government. Zambia has yet to address effectively issues such as reducing the size of the public sector and improving Zambia's social sector delivery systems.
For 30 years, copper production declined steadily from a 1973 high of 700,000 metric tons to a 2000 low of 226,192 metric tons. The decline was the result of poor management of state-owned mines and lack of investment. With the privatization of the mines in April 2000, the downward trend in production and exports was reversed as a result of investments in plant rehabilitation, expansion, increased exploration, and high copper prices on the international market. Copper production rose to 535,000 metric tons in 2007, but slumping copper prices in late 2008 put significant pressure on the mining companies and government revenue. Zambia experienced positive economic growth for the eleventh consecutive year in 2009, with a real growth rate of 4.3% (as projected by the government). The rate of inflation dropped from 30% in 2000 to single-digit inflation of 8.9% by December 2007 due to fiscal and monetary discipline and the growth of the domestic food supply. Year-on-year inflation rose above 14% in 2009, due to rising fuel and food prices.
In April 2005, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank's International Development Association (IDA) provided Zambia significant debt service relief and debt forgiveness under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative. Zambia was the 17th country to reach the HIPC completion point and has benefited from approximately U.S. $6 billion in debt relief. In July 2005, the G-8 agreed on a proposal to cancel 100% of outstanding debt of eligible HIPC countries to the IMF, African Development Fund, and IDA. Zambia is among the beneficiaries of this additional multilateral debt relief. Zambia also completed a Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) arrangement with the IMF for the period 2008-2011. The Zambian Government is pursuing an economic diversification program to reduce the economy's reliance on the copper industry. This initiative seeks to exploit other components of Zambia's rich resource base by promoting agriculture, tourism, gemstone mining, and hydropower. The government is also seeking to create an environment that encourages entrepreneurship and private-sector led growth.
Zambia's economy has weathered the effects of the global economic crisis and a subsequent fall in world copper prices. High inflation, currency volatility, rising unemployment, and restricted access to capital dampened Zambia’s economic performance in early 2009; however, copper prices have nearly returned to more stable, profit-yielding levels.
The Zambian Defense Force (ZDF) consists of the army, the air force, and Zambian National Service (ZNS). The ZNS, while operating under the Ministry of Defense, is responsible primarily for public works projects. The ZDF is designed primarily for internal defense. The HIV/AIDS epidemic has hit the ZDF especially hard.
The ZDF has contributed to African Union and United Nations peacekeeping operations in Africa, and in 2005 became a partner in the African Contingency Operations and Training Assistance (ACOTA) program. The first iteration of ACOTA peacekeeper training took place in 2007, but subsequent training sessions have been delayed.
Zambia is a member of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), the African Union, the Southern African Development Community (SADC), and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), which is headquartered in Lusaka.
President Kaunda was a persistent and visible advocate of change in southern Africa, supporting liberation movements in Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), and South Africa. Many of these liberation organizations were based in Zambia during the 1970s and 1980s.
President Chiluba assumed a visible international role in the mid- and late 1990s. His government sponsored Angola peace talks that led to the 1994 Lusaka Protocols. Zambia provided troops to UN peacekeeping initiatives in Mozambique, Rwanda, Angola, and Sierra Leone. Zambia was the first African state to cooperate with the International Tribunal investigation of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
In 1998, Zambia took the lead in efforts to establish a cease-fire in Democratic Republic of the Congo. After the signing of a cease-fire agreement in Lusaka in July and August 1999, Zambia was active in supporting the Congolese peace effort, although activity diminished considerably after the Joint Military Commission tasked with implementing the ceasefire relocated to Kinshasa in September 2001.
During President Mwanawasa's administration, Zambia contributed troops to support UN peacekeeping operations in southern Sudan. During his tenure as SADC Chair, President Mwanawasa brought the issue of Zimbabwe to the fore in the SADC, taking a lead role in pressuring President Mugabe for reforms in his country. Zambia's history of stability and its commitment to regional peace has made it a haven for large numbers of refugees. Currently, Zambia hosts approximately 56,000 refugees (down from a high of 203,000 in 2002), including roughly 25,300 Angolans and 21,900 Congolese. Refugees of other nationalities are primarily Rwandans, Burundians, Somalis, and Ugandans. Since 2007, 33,000 Congolese refugees have been repatriated from Zambia, and this year the Government of Zambia and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) expect to close two of the refugee camps that have housed Congolese.
The United States and Zambia enjoy cordial relations. The United States works closely with the Zambian Government to defeat the HIV/AIDS pandemic that is ravaging Zambia, to promote economic growth and development, and to bring about political reform by promoting democratic principles and responsible government. The United States is also supporting the government's efforts to root out corruption. Zambia is a beneficiary of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and in December 2009 was re-selected as eligible for a Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) compact, for which it first qualified in 2008. The U.S. Government provides a variety of additional technical assistance and support that is managed by the Department of State, in cooperation with the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Centers for Disease Control, the Department of Treasury, the Department of Defense, the Department of Justice, and the Peace Corps. The majority of U.S. assistance is provided through the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) in support of the fight against HIV/AIDS.
In addition to supporting development projects, the United States has provided considerable emergency food aid during periods of drought and flooding through the World Food Program (WFP) and is a major contributor to refugee programs in Zambia through the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and other agencies.
U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)
In 2008 USAID assistance to Zambia exceeded $210 million, including over $144 million for HIV/AIDS programs utilizing PEPFAR funding and $15 million to fight malaria. Other major programs include training and technical assistance to: promote economic growth with a focus on agriculture-related policy, trade, and production technologies; create health and educational opportunities to improve lives; and reduce the impact of HIV/AIDS through multi-sectoral responses. In addition, USAID helps build the capacity of the Government of Zambia to respond to emergency needs.
A country agreement inviting the Peace Corps to work in Zambia was signed by the United States and Zambia on September 14, 1993. The first group of volunteers was sworn in on April 7, 1994. In 2010, the Peace Corps program in Zambia continues to increase understanding between Zambians and Americans. More than 150 two-year Volunteers and as many as 15 extension and Peace Corps Response Volunteers promote sustainable development through their activities in agricultural and natural resource management, health, rural education, aquaculture, and humanitarian assistance. Volunteers are working in eight of Zambia's nine provinces building local capacity to manage family fish farms, to promote food security and positive resource management practices near forest reserves, to implement health reforms at the village level, to promote and support rural education, and to extend HIV/AIDS education and prevention efforts through full participation in PEPFAR. Volunteers live primarily in rural villages in remote parts of the country without running water, electricity, or other amenities. New trainees undertake training in local language, culture, and the relevant technical specialty for 9 weeks at a center in the Chongwe district of Lusaka province.
Principal U.S. Officials
Chargé d’Affaires--Michael Koplovsky
Public Affairs Officer--Priscilla Hernandez
Political/Economic Section Chief--Pamela Tremont
Consular Officer--Kate McGeary
Defense Attaché--Lt. Col. Derek West
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention--Lawrence Marum
USAID Mission Director--Melissa Williams
Peace Corps Director--Tom Kennedy
The U.S. Embassy in Zambia is at the corner of Independence and United Nations Avenues (P.O. Box 31617), Lusaka (tel: 260-1- 250955; fax 260-1-252225).