Country profile: Zambia

Map of Zambia

Zambia has moved from being a major copper producer and potentially one of the continent’s richest countries at independence in 1964 to one of the world’s poorest.A colonial legacy, mismanagement, debt and disease are said to have contributed to the country’s tribulations.

Politically, it switched from colonial government into an era of one-party rule lasting 27 years. A multi-party system emerged in the early 1990s.

OVERVIEW



OVERVIEW | FACTS | LEADERS | MEDIA

Zambia is landlocked and sparsely populated by more than 70 ethnic groups, many of them Bantu-speaking. It has some spectacular scenery, including the Victoria Falls along the Zambezi river, the Bangweulu Swamps and the Luangwa river valley.

AT-A-GLANCE
Zambian children
Politics: President Mwanawasa won a second term in 2006, months after suffering a minor stroke
Economy: Improved copper prices and investment in mining have improved prospects for export earnings
International: Thousands of refugees from the Angolan civil war have yet to return home

In the late 1960s it was the third largest copper miner, after the US and the Soviet Union. World copper prices collapsed in 1975 with devastating effects on the economy.

The World Bank has urged Zambia to develop other sources of revenue – including tourism and agriculture. Even so, copper accounts for most of Zambia’s foreign earnings and there is optimism about the future of the industry, which was privatised in the 1990s. Electronics manufacturers have fuelled demand and investment in mines has grown.

Aids is blamed for decimating the cream of Zambian professionals – including engineers and politicians – and malaria is a major problem. Millions of Zambians live below the World Bank poverty threshold of $1 a day.

Zambia hosts tens of thousands of refugees who have fled fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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