President: Edgar Lungu (2015)

Land area: 285,994 sq mi (740,724 sq km); total area: 290,586 sq mi (sq km)

Population (2014 est.): 14,638,505 (growth rate: 2.88%); birth rate: 2.88/1000; infant mortality rate: 66.62/1000; life expectancy: 51.83.

Capital and largest city (2011 est.): Lusaka (capital) 1.802 million

Monetary unit: Kwacha

Republic of Zambia

Current government officials

Languages: Bembe 33.4%, Nyanja 14.7%, Tonga 11.4%, Chewa 4.5%, Lozi 5.5%, 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 9.4%, unspecified 0.4% (2010 est.)

Ethnicity/race: 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% (2010 est.)

Religions: Protestant 75.3%, Roman Catholic 20.2%, other 2.7% (includes Muslim Buddhist, Hindu, and Baha'i), none 1.8% (2010 est.)

Literacy rate: 61.4% (2007 est.)

Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2013 est.): $25.47 billion; per capita $1,800. Real growth rate: 6%. Inflation: 7.1%. Unemployment: 15% (2008 est.). Arable land: 4.52%. Agriculture: corn, sorghum, rice, peanuts, sunflower seeds, vegetables, flowers, tobacco, cotton, sugarcane, cassava (manioc, tapioca), coffee; cattle, goats, pigs, poultry, milk, eggs, hides. Labor force: 6.275 million (2013); agriculture 85%, industry 6%, services 9% (2004). Industries: copper mining and processing, emerald mining, construction, foodstuffs, beverages, chemicals, textiles, fertilizer, horticulture. Natural resources: copper, cobalt, zinc, lead, coal, emeralds, gold, silver, uranium, hydropower. Exports: $8.547 billion (2013 est.): copper/cobalt, cobalt, electricity, tobacco, flowers, cotton. Imports: $8.216 billion (2013 est.): machinery, transportation equipment, petroleum products, electricity, fertilizer; foodstuffs, clothing. Major trading partners: South Africa, China, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kuwait, South Korea, India, UAE, Egypt (2012).

Communications: Telephones: main lines in use: 82,500 (2012); mobile cellular: 10.525 million (2012). Broadcast media: State-owned Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) operates 1 TV station and is the principal local-content provider; several private TV stations are available; multi-channel subscription TV services are obtainable; ZNBC operates 3 radio networks; about 2 dozen private radio stations also broadcasting; relays of at least 2 international broadcasters are accessible in Lusaka and Kitwe (2007). Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 16,571 (2012). Internet users: 816,200 (2009).

Transportation: Railways: total: 2,922 km (2013). Highways: total: 67,671 km; paved: 9,403 km ; unpaved: 31,051 km (2013 est.). Waterways: 2,250 km, including Zambezi and Luapula rivers, Lake Tanganyika. Ports and harbors: Mpulungu. Airports: 88 (2013).

International conflicts: 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.

Major sources and definitions

Flag of Zambia

Geography | Government | History


Zambia, a landlocked country in south-central Africa, is about one-tenth larger than Texas. It is surrounded by Angola, Zaire, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Namibia. The country is mostly a plateau that rises to 8,000 ft (2,434 m) in the east.




Early humans inhabited present-day Zambia between one and two million years ago. Today the country is made up almost entirely of Bantu-speaking peoples. Empire builder Cecil Rhodes obtained mining concessions in 1889 from King Lewanika of the Barotse and sent settlers to the area soon thereafter. The region was ruled by the British South Africa Company, which Rhodes established, until 1924, when the British government took over the administration.

From 1953 to 1964, Northern Rhodesia was federated with Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and Nyasaland (now Malawi) in the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. On Oct. 24, 1964, Northern Rhodesia became the independent nation of Zambia.

Kenneth Kaunda, the first president, kept Zambia within the Commonwealth of Nations. The country's economy, dependent on copper exports, was threatened when Rhodesia declared its independence from British rule in 1965 and defied UN sanctions, which Zambia supported, an action that deprived Zambia of its trade route through Rhodesia. The U.S., Britain, and Canada organized an airlift in 1966 to ship gasoline into Zambia.

Political and Economic Turmoil

In 1972, Kaunda outlawed all opposition political parties. The world copper market collapsed in 1975. The Zambian economy was devastated—it had been the third-largest miner of copper in the world after the United States and Soviet Union. With a soaring debt and inflation rate in 1991, riots took place in Lusaka, resulting in a number of killings. Mounting domestic pressure forced Kaunda to move Zambia toward multiparty democracy. National elections on Oct. 31, 1991, brought a stunning defeat to Kaunda. The new president, Frederick Chiluba, called for sweeping economic reforms, including privatization and the establishment of a stock market. He was reelected in Nov. 1996. Chiluba declared martial law in 1997 and arrested Kaunda following a failed coup attempt. The 1999 slump in world copper prices again depressed the economy because copper provides 80% of Zambia's export earnings.

In 2001, Chiluba contemplated changing the constitution to allow him to run for another presidential term. After protests he relented and selected Levy Mwanawasa, a former vice president with whom he had fallen out, as his successor. Mwanawasa became president in Jan. 2002; opposition parties protested over alleged fraud. In June 2002, Mwanawasa, once seen as a pawn of Chiluba, accused the former president of stealing millions from the government while in office. Chiluba was arrested and charged in Feb. 2003.

Although the country faced the threat of famine in 2002, the president refused to accept any international donations of food that had been genetically modified, which Mwanawasa considered “poison.” In Aug. 2003, impeachment proceedings against the president for corruption were rejected by parliament. In April 2005, the World Bank approved a $3.8 billion debt relief package for the country.

In Sept. 2006 presidential elections, incumbent Levy Mwanawasa was reelected. President Mwanawasa suffered a stroke in June 2008 and died in Paris in September. Vice President Rupiah Banda took over as acting president and was elected president in October, defeating Michael Sata, 40.6% to 38.6%. Sata said the vote was rigged.

Presidential elections were held on Sept. 20, 2011. Michael Sata of the Patriotic Front (PF) beat incumbent Rupiah Banda of the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) with 43.3% of the vote. In parliamentary elections, the PF won 60 of 150 elected seats, the MMD 55, and the UPND 28; 8 members were appointed by the president, for a total of 158. The week after he was sworn in as president, Sata announced his cabinet: Guy Scott, vice president; Chishimba Kambwili, foreign minister; Geoffrey Mwamba, defense minister; Alexander Chikwanda, finance minister; and Kennedy Sakeni, home affairs minister.

President Sata Dies in Office

On Oct. 28, 2014, President Sata died while being treated in London for an undisclosed illness. Rumors about him being seriously ill had been going on for weeks, especially after he missed a speech at the United Nations General Assembly. Vice President Guy Scott became acting president until an election could be held. Scott was the first white president in Africa since F.W. de Klerk, the last apartheid-era president of South Africa.

While in office as president, on Nov. 3, Scott dismissed Edgar Lungu from his post as secretary general of the patriotic front. Lungu had become the presidential candidate of Sata's party, the Patriotic Front, after Sata's death. Lungu's dismissal from his post caused instant protests in Lusaka, Zambia's capital. Scott reinstated Lungu the following day.

A month later, Scott rejected calls from government officials for him to resign as acting president. In Jan. 2015, Lungu won a close election over Hakainde Hichilema to become Zambia's sixth president.

See also Encyclopedia: Zambia.
U.S. State Dept. Country Notes: Zambia


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