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The Republic of Zambia is a landlocked country in Southern Africa. The neighbouring countries are the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the north, Tanzania to the north-east, Malawi to the east, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Namibia to the south, and Angola to the west.

Background History

The territory of Northern Rhodesia was administered by the [British] South Africa Company from 1891 until it was taken over by the UK in 1923. During the 1920s and 1930s, advances in mining spurred development and immigration. The name was changed to Zambia upon independence in 1964. In the 1980s and 1990s, declining copper prices, economic mismanagement, and a prolonged drought hurt the economy. Elections in 1991 brought an end to one-party rule and propelled the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) to government. The subsequent vote in 1996, however, saw increasing harassment of opposition parties and abuse of state media and other resources. The election in 2001 was marked by administrative problems, with three parties filing a legal petition challenging the election of ruling party candidate Levy Mwanawasa. Mwanawasa was reelected in 2006 in an election that was deemed free and fair. Upon his death in August 2008, he was succeeded by his vice president, Rupiah Banda, who won a special presidential by-election later that year. The MMD and Banda lost to the Patriotic Front (PF) and Michael Sata in the 2011 general elections. Sata, however, presided over a period of haphazard economic management and attempted to silence opposition to PF policies. Sata died in October 2014 and was succeeded by his vice president, Guy SCOTT, who served as interim president until special elections were held in January 2015. Edgar Lungu won the presidential by-election and will complete Sata’s term, which expires in late 2016.


Country Name:

  • conventional long form: Republic of Zambia
  • conventional short form: Zambia
  • former: Northern Rhodesia


  • name: Lusaka
  • geographic coordinates: 15 25 S, 28 17 E
  • time difference: UTC+2 (7 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)


  • 11 November 1975 (from Portugal)

Government Type:

  • republic

Executive Branch:

  • chief of state: President Edgar Lungu (since 25 January 2015)
  • head of government: President Edgar Lungu (since 25 January 2015)
  • elections: president elected by popular vote for a five-year term (eligible for a second term); a special election was held on 20 January 2015 to elect a president to complete Sata's term in office; Sata died 28 October 2014 (next to be held in late 2016)

Legislative Branch:

  • structure: unicameral National Assembly

Judicial Branch:

  • structure: Supreme Court; High Court


People & Society


  • 14,638,505 (global rank: 71)
  • growth rate: 2.88% (global rank: 16)


  • noun: Zambian(s)
  • adjective: Zambian

Major Cities:

  • Lusaka (capital): 2.078 million

Ethnic Groups:

  • Bemba 21%, Tonga 13.6%, Chewa 7.4%, Lozi 5.7%, Nsenga 5.3%, Tumbuka 4.4%, Ngoni 4%, Lala 3.1%, Kaonde 2.9%, Namwanga 2.8%, Lunda (north Western) 2.6%, Mambwe 2.5%, Luvale 2.2%, Lamba 2.1%, Ushi 1.9%, Lenje 1.6%, Bisa 1.6%, Mbunda 1.2%, other 13.8%, unspecified 0.4%


  • Protestant 75.3%, Roman Catholic 20.2%, other 2.7% (includes Muslim Buddhist, Hindu, and Baha'i), none 1.8% 


  • Bembe 33.4%, Nyanja 14.7%, Tonga 11.4%, Lozi 5.5%, Chewa 4.5%, Nsenga 2.9%, Tumbuka 2.5%, Lunda (North Western) 1.9%, Kaonde 1.8%, Lala 1.8%, Lamba 1.8%, English (official) 1.7%, Luvale 1.5%, Mambwe 1.3%, Namwanga 1.2%, Lenje 1.1%, Bisa 1%, other 9.2%, unspecified 0.4%

Life Expectancy at Birth:

  • total population: 51.83 years (global rank: 217)
  • male: 50.24 years
  • female: 53.48 years

Infant Mortality:

  • total population: 66.62 deaths/1,000 live births (global rank: 17)
  • male: 72.15 deaths/1,000 live births
  • female: 60.94 deaths/1,000 live births


  • adult prevalence rate: 12.5% (2013 est.) (global rank: 7)
  • people living with AIDS: 1,110,400 (2013 est.) (global rank: 9)


  • definition: age 15 and over can read and write
  • total population: 61.4%
  • male: 71.9%
  • female: 51.8%



Overview: Zambia has had one of the world’s fastest growing economies for the past ten years, with real GDP growth averaging roughly 5.5% per annum. Privatization of government-owned copper mines in the 1990s relieved the government from covering mammoth losses generated by the industry and greatly increased copper mining output and profitability, spurring economic growth. Copper output has increased steadily since 2004, due to higher copper prices and foreign investment. Zambia's dependency on copper makes it vulnerable to depressed commodity prices, but record high copper prices and a bumper maize crop in 2010 helped Zambia rebound quickly from the world economic slowdown that began in 2008. Despite strong economic growth and its status as a lower middle-income country, widespread and extreme rural poverty and high unemployment levels remain significant problems, made worse by a high birth rate, a relatively high HIV/AIDS burden, and by market distorting agricultural policies. Economic policy inconsistency and poor budget execution in recent years has hindered the economy. Zambia has raised $1.75 billion from international investors by issuing separate sovereign bonds in September 2012 and April 2014, significantly increasing the country’s public debt as a share of GDP. On January 1, 2015, a new mining tax regime dramatically increased taxes, and may result in the loss of thousands of jobs and stifle Zambia’s ability to attract additional foreign investment.
Gross Domestic Product:
  • GDP (PPP): $61.79 billion (global rank: 100)
  • GDP per capita (PPP): $4,100 (global rank: 177)
  • real growth rate: 6.5% (global rank: 25)
  • composition by sector: agriculture: 10.8%, industry: 32.9%, services: 56.3%


  • currency: Zambia Kwacha (ZMK)
  • exchange rate (per US Dollar): 6.1


  • population below poverty line: 60.5%
  • unemployment rate: 15%

Agricultural Products:

  • corn, sorghum, rice, peanuts, sunflower seeds, vegetables, flowers, tobacco, cotton, sugarcane, cassava (manioc, tapioca), coffee; cattle, goats, pigs, poultry, milk, eggs, hides


  • copper mining and processing, emerald mining, construction, foodstuffs, beverages, chemicals, textiles, fertilizer, horticulture

Export Commodities:

  • copper/cobalt, cobalt, electricity; tobacco, flowers, cotton

Import Commodities:

  • machinery, transportation equipment, petroleum products, electricity, fertilizer, foodstuffs, clothing




  • Southern Africa, east of Angola, south of the Democratic Republic of the Congo


  • total: 752,618 sq km (global rank: 39)
  • land: 743,398 sq km
  • water: 9,220 sq km
  • comparative: slightly larger than Texas


  • tropical; modified by altitude; rainy season (October to April)

Land Use:

  • arable land: 5.11%
  • permanent crops: 0.05%
  • other: 94.84%

Natural Resources:

  • copper, cobalt, zinc, lead, coal, emeralds, gold, silver, uranium, hydropower

Current Environmental Issues:

  • air pollution and resulting acid rain in the mineral extraction and refining region; chemical runoff into watersheds; poaching seriously threatens rhinoceros, elephant, antelope, and large cat populations; deforestation; soil erosion; desertification; lack of adequate water treatment presents human health risks


Transnational Issues

  • international disputes: in 2004, Zimbabwe dropped objections to plans between Botswana and Zambia to build a bridge over the Zambezi River, thereby de facto recognizing a short, but not clearly delimited, Botswana-Zambia boundary in the river
  • refugees (country of origin): 17,652 (Democratic Republic of the Congo)
  • illicit drugs: transshipment point for moderate amounts of methaqualone, small amounts of heroin, and cocaine bound for southern Africa and possibly Europe; a poorly developed financial infrastructure coupled with a government commitment to combating money laundering make it an unattractive venue for money launderers; major consumer of cannabis

Published: Tuesday, May 05, 2015