Zambia is one of the strangest colonial legacies, agglomerating a huge number of ethnic groups (73, according to the official census) and languages (20, plus dialects). They all appear to get along fairly well, thanks to a long history of cohabitation, considerable movement across the nation, and comparable Bantu-family languages, and Zambia has avoided the terrible interethnic conflict that has devastated countries like Rwanda.
The Bemba are Zambia’s biggest ethnic group, although they only account for approximately 20% of the population. The Bemba are a group of people that originated in the Congo in the 16th century, and although their homelands are in the north and center of the nation, many have settled in Lusaka and the Copperbelt.
The Chewa, Ngoni, and Nsenga tribes, all of whom live in Zambia’s east, speak the Nyanja language and account for approximately 15% of the country’s population.
With 15% of the population, the Tonga, Ila, and Lenje, together known as the Bantu Botatwe (Three Peoples), are a close second. They are concentrated in the west of the country, along the Zambezi Valley, and on the plateaus to the north.
The Lozi in the far west (6% of the population) are renowned for their basketry and a low-key (non-violent) separatist movement calling for an independent Barotseland.
The Lala and Bisa (5 percent), the Kaonde (3 percent), the Mambwe and Lungu (3 percent), the Lunda (3 percent), the Lamba (2.5 percent), and the Luvale (2 percent) are among Zambia’s 57 tribes. Don’t worry: the distinctions aren’t important to visitors, and residents will gladly explain their customs if asked, especially during festivals.
White Africans of English or Afrikaner ancestry (1.2%) are also evident, especially in the more affluent sections of large cities.
Zambia seems to be located firmly in the tropics on a map, however due to its landlocked and high location, it has different seasons that run as follows:
- Dry season — From May through August, Temperatures range from 24-28°C during the day to as low as 7°C at night during the coldest season of the year. Come early in the dry season for birding or to view Vic Falls at their most spectacular, or later in the dry season when the bush has dried out for excellent game-spotting on safari.
- Hot season — September through November are the best months to visit. Temperatures soar to 38-42°C, while clouds of whirling dust make driving on dirt roads a nightmare for asthmatics. It’s an excellent time for safaris if you can stand the heat, as wildlife congregates around the few surviving drinking holes.
- Wet season — Between the months of December and April Temperatures drop to about 32°C, and there is plenty of rain – sometimes for only an hour or two, and sometimes for days. Many safari resorts shut as unpaved roads become impassable muddy horrors.
Temperatures vary depending on height; if you’re in a valley (like the Zambezi), it’ll be warmer; if you’re higher up (like Kasama), it’ll be colder.
Zambia is a landlocked nation in southern Africa with a tropical climate. It is mainly made up of vast plateaus with some hills and mountains, with river basins cutting through it. It is the world’s 39th biggest nation, slightly smaller than Chile, with 752,614 km2 (290,586 sq mi). The nation is mainly located between 8° and 18° South latitude and 22° and 34° East longitude.
Zambia is drained by two main river basins: the Zambezi/Kafue basin in the center, west, and south, which covers about three-quarters of the nation, and the Congo basin in the north, which covers approximately one-quarter of the country. The internal drainage basin of Lake Rukwa in Tanzania covers a relatively small region in the northeast.
The Kabompo, Lungwebungu, Kafue, Luangwa, and the Zambezi itself, which flows through Zambia in the west and forms its southern boundary with Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe, are just a few of the main rivers that run through the Zambezi basin. Its source is in Zambia, but it flows into Angola, where many of its tributaries originate in the central highlands of the country. Zambia’s southern border is formed by the margin of the Cuando River floodplain (not its main channel), which supplies relatively little water to the Zambezi through the Chobe River due to evaporation.
The Kafue and the Luangwa, two of the Zambezi’s longest and biggest tributaries, flow mostly in Zambia. Their confluences with the Zambezi are at Chirundu and Luangwa town, respectively, on the Zimbabwean border. The Luangwa River forms part of Zambia’s boundary with Mozambique before its confluence. The Zambezi River exits Zambia at Luangwa town and flows into Mozambique, finally entering the Mozambique Channel.
The Zambezi flows into Lake Kariba after falling approximately 100 meters (328 feet) over the 1.6 km (0.99 mi) broad Victoria Falls in the country’s south-west corner. The Zambezi valley, which runs along Zambia’s southern border, is deep and broad. It is a rift valley that runs east from Lake Kariba and is created by grabens, similar to the Luangwa, Mweru-Luapula, Mweru-wa-Ntipa, and Lake Tanganyika valleys.
Zambia’s north is mostly flat, with wide plains. The Barotse Floodplain on the Zambezi, which floods from December to June, trailing behind the yearly rainy season, is the most noteworthy in the west (typically November to April). The flood has taken over the natural environment, as well as the lives, societies, and cultures of the residents of the floodplains and other minor floodplains throughout the nation.
The plateau between the Zambezi and Lake Tanganyika basins in Eastern Zambia is inclined uphill to the north, and therefore rises gradually from approximately 900 m (2,953 ft) in the south to 1,200 m (3,937 ft) in the center, reaching 1,800 m (5,906 ft) near Mbala in the north. The World Wildlife Fund has classified these plateau regions in northern Zambia as part of the Central Zambezian Miombo woodlands ecoregion.
Eastern Zambia is a diverse region. The Luangwa Valley divides the plateau in a north-east-to-south-west arc, with the Lunsemfwa River’s deep valley extending west into the plateau’s core. Some parts of the valley are bordered by hills and mountains, most notably the Nyika Plateau (2,200 m or 7,218 ft) on the Malawi border, which continue into Zambia as the Mafinga Hills, which include the country’s highest peak, Mafinga Central (2,339 m or 7,674 ft).
The Muchinga Mountains, which serve as a watershed between the Zambezi and Congo drainage basins, run parallel to the Luangwa River’s wide valley and provide a stark backdrop to its northern border, although being nearly entirely below 1,700 meters (5,577 ft). Mumpu, the highest point in Zambia away from the eastern border area, is located in the western end and stands at 1,892 meters (6,207 feet). The Congo Pedicle’s boundary was established around this peak.
The Congo River’s southernmost headstream originates in Zambia and flows west through the country’s northern region, first as the Chambeshi and then, following the Bangweulu Swamps, as the Luapula, which forms part of the DRC’s border. The Luapula River runs south, then west, before turning north to reach Lake Mweru. The Kalungwishi River, which flows into the lake from the east, is another significant tributary. The Luvua River flows from Lake Mweru’s northern end to the Lualaba River (Upper Congo River).
The other main hydrographic feature in the Congo basin is Lake Tanganyika. The Kalambo River, which forms part of Zambia’s border with Tanzania, supplies water to its south-eastern end. The Kalambo Falls, Africa’s second tallest continuous waterfall, is located along this river.
Zambia has 14 habitats, divided into four vegetation types: forest, thicket, woodland, and grassland.
Zambia has a total of 12,505 species, including 63 percent animal species, 33 percent plant species, and 4% bacterial and microbe species.
Sedges, herbaceous plants, and woody plants make up an estimated 3,543 species of wild blooming plants. The greatest variety of blooming plants may be found in the country’s northern and north-western regions. Approximately 53% of blooming plants are rated and may be found all across the nation.
There are a total of 242 mammalian species, with the majority of them endemic to the woodland and grassland ecosystems. The Rhodesian giraffe and the Kafue Lechwe are two well-known indigenous Zambian animals.
There are an estimated 757 bird species in the nation, 600 of which are resident or afrotropic migrants, 470 of which breed in the country, and 100 of which are non-breeding migrants. The Zambian barbet is a well-known indigenous Zambian species.
In Zambia, there are approximately 490 known fish species belonging to 24 fish families, with Lake Tanganyika having the most diverse and endemic species.
Zambia’s population was 13,092,666 people according to the 2010 census. Zambia has 73 ethnic tribes, making it one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the world. Between 1911 to 1963, while the nation was occupied by the British, it drew immigrants from Europe and the Indian subcontinent, the latter of whom came especially as laborers. While most Europeans fled when white minority rule ended, a sizable Asian population remained.
There were 1,497 Europeans, 39 Asians, and an estimated 820,000 Africans in the first documented census, which took place on May 7, 1911. Prior to independence, black Africans were not included in all six censuses—held in 1911, 1921, 1931, 1946, 1951, and 1956. There were 65,277 Europeans, 5,450 Asians, 5,450 Coloureds, and an estimated 2,100,000 Africans in 1956, when the final census before independence was performed.
In the 2010 census, Black Africans made up 98.2 percent of the population, with the remaining 1.8 percent made up of other significant racial groupings.
Zambia is one of Sub-Saharan Africa’s most urbanized nations, with 44 percent of the population concentrated in a few metropolitan centers along key transportation corridors, while rural areas remain sparsely inhabited. As of 2007, the fertility rate was 6.2 (6.1 in 1996, 5.9 in 2001–02).
The population is made up of 73 ethnic groups, the majority of which speak Bantu. The Nyanja-Chewa, Bemba, Tonga, Tumbuka, Lunda, Luvale, Kaonde, Nkoya, and Lozi ethnolinguistic groups account for almost 90% of Zambians. Each ethnic community is located in a certain geographic location of the nation in rural regions, and many groups are tiny and unknown. In Lusaka and the Copperbelt, however, all ethnic groups are represented in considerable numbers.
Expatriates, largely British or South African, as well as some white Zambian nationals, live mostly in Lusaka and the Copperbelt in northern Zambia, where they work in mining, finance, and associated industries or are retired. In 1964, there were 70,000 Europeans in Zambia, although many have since departed.
Zambia has a modest but economically significant Asian community, with Indians and Chinese making up the majority. In Zambia, there are 13,000 Indians. Zambia has an estimated 80,000 Chinese residents. Several hundred dispossessed white farmers have fled Zimbabwe in recent years to take up farming in Zambia’s Southern region, at the invitation of the Zambian government.
Zambia has an estimated 88,900 refugees and asylum seekers, according to the World Refugee Survey 2009 released by the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants. The bulk of refugees in Zambia came from the Democratic Republic of Congo (47,300 in 2007), Angola (27,100; see Angolans in Zambia), Zimbabwe (5,400), and Rwanda (see Rwandans in Zambia) (4,900).
Beginning in May 2008, the number of Zimbabweans in Zambia started to rise dramatically; the inflow was mostly made up of Zimbabweans who had previously lived in South Africa and were escaping xenophobic violence there. In Zambia, almost 60,000 refugees reside in camps, with another 50,000 blending in with the local population. To work in Zambia, refugees must apply for formal licenses, which may cost up to $500 per year.
According to the 1996 constitution, Zambia is a Christian country, although there are many other religious traditions. In many of the country’s syncretic churches, traditional religious beliefs mix well with Christian ideas. Roughly three-quarters of the population is Protestant, with about 20% of the population practicing Roman Catholicism. Catholicism, Anglicanism, Pentecostalism, the New Apostolic Church, Lutheranism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Branhamites, and a number of other Evangelical groups are among the Christian denominations.
The initial missionary colonies (Portuguese and Catholicism in the east from Mozambique) and Anglicanism (British influences) in the south developed, adjusted, and thrived. Except for a few specialized professions (such as doctors), local believers have taken up Western missionary responsibilities. Pentecostal churches grew significantly throughout the nation when Frederick Chiluba (a Pentecostal Christian) was elected President in 1991. Zambia has one of the highest per capita percentages of Seventh-day Adventists in the world, with approximately one in every 18 Zambians.
The New Apostolic Church has 11 members in Zambia. Zambia is the church’s third-largest district, behind Congo East and East Africa, with about 1,200,000 members (Nairobi).
Zambia has a Baha’i community of approximately 160,000 people, or 1.5 percent of the total population. The Baha’i community’s William Mmutle Masetlha Foundation is especially engaged in areas such as literacy and basic health care. Muslims make up around 1% of the population, the most of whom reside in metropolitan areas and have a significant economic role in the nation. The Ahmadiyya sect has a population of approximately 500 people. A tiny Jewish population, mainly Ashkenazis, exists as well.
Zambia’s yearly exports are now estimated to be between $7 billion and $8 billion. Around 68 percent of Zambians live below the internationally recognized poverty line, with rural poverty rates of around 78 percent and urban poverty rates of around 53 percent. In metropolitan regions, unemployment and underemployment are significant issues. The majority of Zambians in rural areas are subsistence farmers.
On the 2007 Global Competitiveness Index, which considers variables that influence economic development, Zambia was placed 117th out of 128 nations. Social indices, such as life expectancy at birth (about 40.9 years) and maternal mortality, continue to decrease (830 per 100,000 pregnancies). The country’s economic growth rate is insufficient to sustain fast population expansion or the economic pressure that HIV/AIDS-related problems impose.
Following a drop in worldwide copper prices in the 1970s, Zambia slipped into poverty. The communist government compensated for declining revenues by attempting numerous failed structural adjustment programs with the International Monetary Fund (SAPs). The economy suffered severely as a result of the policy of not trading via the major supply route and rail line to the sea – the region known as Rhodesia (from 1965 to 1979) and now known as Zimbabwe. Following the Kaunda dictatorship, subsequent administrations started modest reforms (starting in 1991). Until the late 1990s, the economy remained stagnant. Zambia’s economy grew for the ninth consecutive year in 2007. Inflation was 8.9% in 2010, down from 30% in 2000.
Economic reform problems such as the size of the public sector and strengthening Zambia’s social sector delivery mechanisms are currently being addressed in Zambia. There are a lot of rules and red tape in the economy, and there’s a lot of corruption. The extensive usage of facilitation fees is encouraged by the bureaucratic processes surrounding the process of acquiring licenses. Zambia had a total foreign debt of more than $6 billion when it qualified for debt relief under the Highly Indebted Poor Country Initiative (HIPC) in 2000, but only if it met specific performance requirements. Zambia had planned to achieve the HIPC completion milestone in late 2003 and benefit from significant debt relief.
The Zambian government notified the IMF and the World Bank in January 2003 that it wanted to renegotiate several of the agreed-upon performance requirements, including the privatization of the Zambia National Commercial Bank and the national telephone and power companies. Despite reaching agreements on these concerns, Zambia’s ultimate HIPC debt forgiveness was postponed from late 2003 to early 2005 at the earliest due to further overspending on public sector salaries. In order to complete the HIPC program by 2004, the government prepared an austerity budget for 2004, freezing public sector wages and raising a variety of levies. Salary increases and new hiring were not possible due to the tax rise and pay freeze in the public sector. In February 2004, this prompted a national walkout.
Zambia’s government is working on an economic diversification plan to decrease the country’s dependence on copper. By boosting agriculture, tourism, gemstone mining, and hydropower, this program aims to tap into various aspects of Zambia’s vast resource base.