pronounced ZAM bee uh, is a country in south-central Africa. It ranks as one of the
world's largest producers of copper. Zambia exports copper to many parts of the world and
gains much income from the exports.
Zambia takes its name from the Zambezi River, which forms most of the country's southern
border. Victoria Falls, one of the world's most beautiful waterfalls, lies on the river.
The great Kariba Dam, one of the world's largest hydroelectric projects, and Kariba Lake
also are on the Zambezi River, serving both Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Zambia was formerly a British protectorate called Northern Rhodesia. From 1953 to 1963, it
formed part of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland with Nyasaland (now Malawi) and
Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). Zambia became an independent nation in 1964. Lusaka is
its capital and largest city.
Government. A president serves as head of state
and government and is the most powerful official in Zambia. The National Assembly, the
country's legislature, consists of 150 members. The president appoints a vice president
and a Cabinet to help run the day-to-day affairs of the government. The people of Zambia
elect the president and the Assembly members to five-year terms. The two largest political
parties in Zambia are the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) and the United National
Independence Party (UNIP).
The country is divided into nine provinces. Each province is administered by a minister of
People. Most Zambians are black Africans who speak Bantu languages (see BANTU). There are
more than 70 ethnic groups represented and eight major local languages spoken in Zambia.
Many people also speak English, the official language. In remote parts of the country,
village life goes on much as it has for hundreds of years. The people live in circular,
grass-roofed homes and raise food crops on the surrounding land. The development of mining
has caused thousands of Zambians to move to mining towns.
Corn is the main food. A favorite dish is nshima, a thick porridge made from corn. The
people plant their crops in November and December.
The majority of Zambians are Christians, but traditional local beliefs still have a strong
hold on the village people. However, the use of traditional medicine, and old customs such
as polygyny (marrying several wives) and bride price (paying the parents for a bride), are
slowly dying out in the towns.
Most Zambian children attend elementary school. But only a fifth of them go to high
school. Zambia's only university, the University of Zambia, was founded in 1965. Zambia
also has several trade and technical schools.
Land. Most of Zambia is flat and covered with trees and bushes. It lies on a plateau about
4,000 feet (1,200 meters) above sea level. The plateau is broken by the 7,000-foot
(2,100-meter) Muchinga Mountains in the northeast. In the south, the trees are smaller,
and there are large open areas. The Zambezi River flows south through western Zambia and
forms much of the southern border. Every year, it floods a broad, sandy plain in Western
Province in the southwest.
Because of its altitude, Zambia has a milder climate than might be expected. The hot
season lasts only from September through November. Midday temperatures then range between
80 and 100 °F (27 and 38 °C). From November through April, Zambia has a rainy season.
Violent storms flood the rivers by March. From May through August, temperatures range from
60 to 80 °F (16 to 27 °C). Northern Zambia gets about 50 inches (130 centimeters) of
rainfall a year. The south gets 20 to 30 inches (51 to 76 centimeters).
Economy. Copper accounts for more than 80 percent of Zambia's export earnings. Four large
copper mines and several smaller mines lie in an area called the copperbelt, along
Zambia's border with Congo (Kinshasa). Valuable amounts of cobalt are obtained as
by-products of copper mining. Zambia has a lead and zinc mine at Kabwe, and large coal
deposits near Kariba Lake. The production of copper products is the country's most
important manufacturing activity. Corn is the most important farm product. Other leading
crops include cassava, coffee, millet, sorghum, sugar cane, and tobacco.
Zambia has no outlet to the sea. Railroads connect the country with seaports in Angola,
Mozambique, and Tanzania. The railroad to Angola passes through Congo (Kinshasa), and the
one to Mozambique passes through Zimbabwe. The railroad to Tanzania was built in the early
1970's with millions of dollars of aid from China.
History. In 1851, the Scottish missionary David Livingstone crossed the Zambezi from the
south. He spent nearly 20 years exploring the region.
In the late 1800's, Cecil Rhodes's British South Africa Company made treaties with African
chiefs in the area. In 1897, the company named the area Northern Rhodesia to distinguish
it from the region south of the Zambezi, which it called Southern Rhodesia.
In 1924, the British government took over the administration of Northern Rhodesia and
appointed a governor. Copper had been mined in the area for hundreds of years. The
discovery of large copper ore deposits in the late 1920's brought a rush of Europeans to
the area. Ten years later, mining was an important industry.
After World War II ended in 1945, the Europeans asked Britain for greater control of the
government. Many wanted the merger of Northern Rhodesia with Southern Rhodesia. The
Africans of Northern Rhodesia opposed these demands. But in 1953, Britain formed a
federation of Northern Rhodesia, Southern Rhodesia, and Nyasaland. The Africans opposed
the federation because the European minority controlled the government in Southern
Rhodesia. Britain dissolved the federation in 1963. On Oct. 24, 1964, Northern Rhodesia
became the independent nation of Zambia. Kenneth Kaunda was elected president in 1964. He
was reelected in 1968, 1973, 1978, 1983, and 1988. In 1972, the UNIP became the only legal
political party in Zambia.
Southern Rhodesia came to be called Rhodesia after the federation was dissolved. In 1965,
Rhodesia declaredits independence in defiance of Britain. Relations between Zambia and
Rhodesia became strained because Rhodesia's white minority government refused to give the
African majority a greater voice in government.
Zambia experienced serious economic problems in the 1970's, 1980's, and 1990's. In 1973,
Rhodesia prohibited Zambia from shipping goods across its territory, eliminating one of
Zambia's main outlets to the sea. Rhodesia soon lifted the ban. But until 1978, Zambia
refused to ship goods across Rhodesia. In 1980, blacks gained control of Rhodesia's
government, and the country's name was changed to Zimbabwe. Relations then improved
between Zambia and Zimbabwe. Zambia's economy also suffered from low market prices for
copper and a reduction in copper ore reserves.
Zambia legalized opposition political parties in 1990. In the multiparty elections of
1991, Frederick Chiluba, head of the MMD, was elected president. He defeated Kaunda in the
election. Chiluba was reelected president in 1996.