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Diplomacy in Action

Zambia (04/01)


For the most current version of this Note, see Background Notes A-Z.


Official Name:
Republic of Zambia

Area: 752,614 sq. km. (290,585 sq. mi.); slightly larger than Texas.
Cities: Capital--Lusaka (pop. 982,000). Other cities--Kitwe (348,000), Ndola (500,000), Livingstone (83,000), Kabwe (381,000).
Terrain: Varies; mostly plateau savanna.
Climate: Generally dry and temperate.

Nationality: Noun and adjective--Zambian(s).
Population (2000): 10.2 million.
Annual growth rate: 3.1%.
Ethnic groups: More than 70 tribal groups.
Religions: Christian, indigenous beliefs, Muslim, Hindu.
Languages: English (official), about 70 local languages and dialects, including Bemba, Tonga, Nyanja, Lozi, Luvale, Ndembu (Lundu), and Kaonde.
Education: Years compulsory--7. Attendance--Less than 50% in grades 1-7. Less than 20% of primary school graduates are admitted to secondary school. Literacy--73%.
Health: Infant mortality rate--109/1,000. Life expectancy--43.5 yrs. male; 47 yrs. female.
Work force: Agriculture--60; industry and commerce--40%.

Type: Republic.
Independence: October 24, 1964.
Constitution: 1991 (as amended in 1996).
Branches: Executive--president (chief of state), 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 districts.
Flag: Green field with small vertical stripes (red, black, orange) in lower right corner and orange eagle above stripes.

GDP (1998 est.): $2.9 billion.
Annual growth rate: -2%.
Per capita GDP: $273.
Natural resources: Copper, cobalt, zinc, lead, coal, emeralds, gold, silver, uranium, hydroelectric power, fertile land.
Agriculture: Products--corn, tobacco, cotton, soybeans, groundnuts, sugarcane, livestock, and horticultural products.
Industry: Types--mining, transport, construction, foodstuffs, beverages, chemicals, textiles, fertilizers.
Trade (1998): Exports--$873 million: copper, cobalt, lead, and zinc. Major markets--Japan, Italy, France, China. Imports--$1,290 billion: crude oil, manufactured goods, machinery, transport equipment, foodstuffs. Major suppliers--South Africa, U.K., Japan, U.S., Germany. Major donors:U.K., Japan, Germany, EC, Netherlands, U.S. and the Nordic countries. After the completion of the 3-year Rights Accumulation Program (RAP) in December 1995, Zambia qualified for and embarked on an Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility (ESAF) with the International Monetary Fund. Other donors include 17 UN system organizations and at least 25 multilateral and non-governmental organizations. Under interim HIPC debt relief from the IFIs. Renewal reviewed third quarter 2001.

Zambia's population comprises more than 70 Bantu-speaking tribes. Some tribes 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.

Expatriates, mostly British (about 15,000) or 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 country is 42% urban.

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 Zaire 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. By the mid-1990s, despite limited debt relief, Zambia's per capita foreign debt remained among the highest in the world.

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 Kaunda signed legislation ending UNIP's monopoly on power. In response to growing popular demand for multiparty democracy, and after lengthy, difficult negotiations between the Kaunda government and opposition groups, Zambia enacted a new constitution in August 1991. The constitution enlarged the National Assembly from 136 members to a maximum of 158 members, establishing an electoral commission, and allowed for more than one presidential candidate who no longer had to be members 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 governor of ministerial rank.

The Supreme Court is the highest court and the court of appeal; below it are high court,
magistrate's court, and local courts.

Principal Government Officials
President--Frederick Chiluba (1991)
Vice President--Gen. Christian Tembo (1998)
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Keli Walubita (1998)
Ambassador to the United States--Atan Shansonga (2000)
Ambassador to the United Nations--Prof. Musamba Chime (2000)

Zambia maintains an embassy in the United States at 2419 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-265-9717).

The major figure in Zambian politics from 1964 to 1991 was Kenneth Kaunda, who led the fight for independence and traditionally bridged the rivalries among the country's various regions and ethnic groups. Kaunda tried to base government on his philosophy of "humanism," which condemns human exploitation and stresses 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 direction from 1964 to 1991. Before 1972, Zambia had three significant political parties--UNIP, the ANC, and the United Progressive Party (UPP). The ANC drew its strength from western and southern provinces, while the UPP found some support among Bemba-speakers in the copperbelt and northern provinces. Although not strongly supported in all areas of the country, only UNIP had a nationwide following.

In February 1972, Zambia became a one-party state, and all other political parties were banned. 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 and October 1983 in a "yes" or "no" vote on his candidacy. In the 1983 election, more than 60% of those registered participated and gave President Kaunda a 93% "yes" vote.

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. During the year, President Kaunda agreed to a referendum on the one-party state and, in the face of continued opposition, dropped the referendum and signed a constitutional amendment making Zambia a multi-party state. Zambia's first multi-party elections for parliament and the presidency since the 1960s 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 the remaining 25. However, UNIP swept the Eastern Province, gathering 19 of its seats there.

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 demands. A number of prominent supporters founded opposing parties. Relying on the MMD's overwhelming majority in parliament, President Chiluba pushed through constitutional amendments in May 1996 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. Despite the UNIP boycott, the elections took place peacefully, and five presidential and more than 600 parliamentary candidates from 11 parties participated. Afterward, however, several opposition parties and non-governmental organizations declared the elections neither free nor fair. As President Chiluba began his second term in 1997, the opposition continued to reject the results of the election amid international efforts to encourage the MMD and the opposition to resolve their differences through dialogue.

A number of political parties are gearing up for national elections in 2001. Both the MMD and UNIP are currently coping with internal factions trying to control the post of party candidate for president.

Zambia is one of Sub-Saharan Africa's most highly urbanized countries. About one-half of the country's 10.1 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. Per capita annual incomes are currently at about one-half their levels at independence, and at $273, place the country among the world's poorer nations. Social indicators continue to decline, particularly in measurements of life expectancy at birth (37 years) and maternal and infant mortality (109 per 1,000 live births). The high population growth rate of 3.1% per annum makes it difficult for per capita income to increase. 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 production) places on government resources.

The present Chiluba government came to power after democratic multiparty elections in November 1991, committed to an economic recovery program. The government has been successful in some areas such as privatization of most of the parastatals, maintenance of positive real interest rates, the elimination o9f exchange controls and endorsement of free market principles. Populist rhetoric on the 2001 election cycle, however, raises concerns over a continued liberal economy, particularly in regard to exchange controls. However, it has yet to effectively address issues such as reducing the size of the public sector, which still represents 44% of total formal employment, and improving Zambia's social sector delivery systems.

Having privatized the giant parastatal mining company Zambian Consolidated Copper Mines (ZCCM), donors resumed Balance of Payment (BOP) support. The final transfer of ZCCM's assets occurred on March 31, 2000. Although BOP payments are not the answer to Zambia's long-term debt problems, it will in the short term provide the government some breathing room to implement further economic reforms. The GRZ has, however, been spending much of its foreign exchange reserves by trying to intervene in the exchange rate mechanism. Zambia qualified for HIPC debt relief in 2000, contingent upon the country meeting certain performance criteria, and this should offer a long-term solution to Zambia's debt situation.

The Zambian economy has historically been based on the copper-mining industry. Output of copper has fallen, however, to a 1990s low of 298,000 tonnes in 1998, continuing a decades-long decline in output due to lack of investment, and more recently, low copper prices and uncertainty over privatization. The combined effect of low output and low prices reduced the mining sector's contribution to 10% of Zambia's GDP and 75% of foreign exchange earnings in 1998, compared to 17% of GDP and almost 90% of foreign exchange earnings in 1994.

Lack of BOP support has meant the Zambian government has not had resources for capital investment, and has periodically had to issue bonds or otherwise expand the money supply to try to meet its spending and debt obligations. The GRZ continued these activities even after BOP support resumed. This has helped keep interest rates at levels that are too high for local business, fueled inflation, burdened the budget with domestic debt payments, while still falling short of meeting the public payroll and other needs, such as infrastructure rehabilitation. The government was forced to draw down foreign exchange reserves sharply in 1998 to meet foreign debt obligations, putting further pressure on the kwacha and inflation. Inflation held at 32% in 2000; consequently, the kwacha lost the same value against the dollar over the same period.

The agriculture sector represented 15% GDP in 1998. Agriculture accounted for 71% of total employment (formal and informal) for 1998. Maize (corn) is the principal cash crop as well as the staple food. Other important crops include soybean, cotton, sugar, sunflower seeds, wheat, sorghum, millet, cassava, tobacco and various vegetable and fruit crops. Floriculture is a rapid growth sector, and agricultural nontraditional exports now rival the mining industry in foreign exchange receipts. Zambia has the potential for significantly increasing its agricultural output; currently, only 20% of its arable land is cultivated. In the past, the agriculture sector suffered from low producer prices, difficulties in availability and distribution of credit and inputs, and the shortage of foreign exchange.

There are, however, positive macroeconomic signs, rooted in reforms implemented in the early and mid-1990s. Zambia's floating exchange rate and open capital markets have provided useful discipline on the government, while at the same time allowing continued diversification of Zambia's export sector, growth in the tourist industry, and procurement of inputs for growing businesses. The copperbelt has experienced a significant revival as spinoff effects from the massive capital reinvestment are experienced.

Zambia is a member of the Organization of African Unity (OAU). 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 very visible advocate of peaceful change in South

Africa, supporting liberation movements in Angola, Namibia, Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and South Africa. Many of these organizations were based in Zambia during the 1970s and 1980s.

President Chiluba has assumed a somewhat higher profile internationally in recent years. His government played a very constructive regional role sponsoring Angola peace talks that led to the 1994 Lusaka Protocols. Zambia has provided troops to UN peacekeeping initiatives in Mozambique, Rwanda, and Angola. 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 the Democratic Republic of Congo. Zambia has remained active in the Congolese peace effort since the signing of a cease-fire agreement in Lusaka in July and August 1999.

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.

Bilateral relations between Zambia and the United States improved dramatically with the 1991 election of President Chiluba on a platform of economic and political reform. The U.S. made extensive new aid commitments based on the commitment to reform. As the 1996 elections approached, that commitment to democratic development weakened when President Chiluba signed into law constitutional amendments eliminating his best known opponent from the presidential elections.

The United States has worked closely with the Zambian Government to support required conflict resolution efforts, notably in Congo and Angola.

U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)
The United States has a substantial foreign assistance program in Zambia. Through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the U.S. Government provides more than
$20 million every year in assistance to Zambia. This is being provided under USAID's new Country Strategic Plan (CSP) for the period 1998-2002, that focuses on ensuring that more Zambians benefit from the political and economic reforms ushered in with the change of government in 1991.

USAID assistance is focused in four areas and is being implemented in partnership with the Zambian Government, the Zambian private sector and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) as well as U.S. private organizations and other partners:

Increased incomes of selected rural groups;
More equitable access to quality basic education and learning, especially for girls;
Increased use of integrated child and reproductive health and HIV/AIDS interventions; and
Expanded opportunity for effective participation in democratic governance

In addition to supporting development projects, the United States has provided considerable emergency food aid during periods of drought through the World Food Program (WFP) and is a major contributor to refugee programs in Zambia through the UN High Commission for Refugees and other agencies.

Peace Corps
A country agreement inviting the Peace Corps to work in Zambia was signed by the U.S. and Zambia on September 14, 1993. The first group of volunteers was sworn in on April 7, 1994. In 2001, the Peace Corps Program in Zambia continues to provide an opportunity for increased understanding between Zambians and Americans. A total of 129 volunteers are promoting sustainable development through their activities in agricultural and natural resource management (48 volunteers) health/water sanitation (76 volunteers), education (1 volunteer), and humanitarian assistance (4 volunteers). Volunteers are working in eight of Zambia's nine provinces building local capacity to manage family fish farms, to manage and preserve wildlife resources, to implement health reforms at village level, to secure safer water supplies. Recently a Crisis Corps Program has begun to support local organizations in the fight against AIDS. Volunteers live primarily in rural villages in remote parts of the country without running water, electricity, or other amenities.

In 2002 Peace Corps will complete the consolidation of its water/sanitation project with the Community Action for Health Project. Projected resources will permit the overall program to operate at present levels for the foreseeable future.

Principal U.S. Officials
Ambassador--David B. Dunn
Deputy Chief of Mission--Robert Whitehead
Public Affairs Officer--John Louton
Political Officer--Lisa Peterson
Economic/Commercial Officer--Troy Fittrell
Consular Officer--Simone Baer
Defense Attache--Lt. Col. John Aiken
Peace Corps Director--Brian Cavanagh
USAID Mission Director--Allan Reed
Center for Disease Control--David Nelson

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).

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