Country Profile

General Background

The Republic of Zambia is a landlocked sub-Saharan African country that shares common borders with countries, namely: Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo. It has a tropical climate with three distinct seasons – the cool and dry season (April to mid-August), the hot and dry season (mid-August and early November) and the wet season (November to April). The northern part of the country receives the highest rainfall.

With a total of 753,620 square kilometres (290,586 square miles), Zambia is the sixteenth largest country in Africa.


Zambia’s total population was estimated to be 13,474,959 in 2011, based on projections from the 2010 Census of Housing and Population. The population growth rate has ranged from 2.7 to 3.2 for over 40 years, and has resulted in a steady population increase from 3.5 million in 1963 to 9 million by 1990. The country is sparsely and unevenly settled with a total density of 10.3 persons per square kilometre (1990) that ranges from 45 persons per square kilometre in the more urban Copperbelt and Lusaka provinces down to 3 in North-Western Province. Zambia is one of the most urbanised countries in sub-Saharan region, with about 43% of the population living in urban areas. This population has been increasing steadily over the past years.


With its rich reserves of copper, Zambia was considered to be one of the wealthiest and most promising countries in the sub-Saharan Africa at independence in 1964. However, this situation changed drastically in the 1970s due to the decline in the world copper prices and a sharp increase in oil prices on the international market. By 1993, the per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was US $290, one of the lowest in the world. Annual growth in GDP fell from 2.4 per cent in the decade after independence to an average of 0.7 per cent over the following 15 years.

The country has always relied on copper as its main source of foreign exchange. The commodity accounted for 95 per cent of export earnings and contributed 45 per cent of Government revenue during the first ten years after independence.

Another factor that has adversely affected the economy has been natural disasters. Severe droughts in 1992 and 1994 followed by years of excessive rain and flooding exacerbated both the economy and the national food security situation. In addition, the landlocked nature of the country resulted in an increase in the cost of imports since the country has no sea port of its own.

However, from 2001, the country has recoded positive economic growth with real Gross Domestic Production (GDP) average 4.7 per cent annum. The growth has been broad-based, extending beyond the recovery of the mining sector to the non-traditional export sectors. The good performance of the economy in the recent years has been due to fiscal discipline, prudent financial management and adherence to the tenets of good governance. This shift in focus of economic management, led to the attainment of the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) completion point in 2004 which resulted in massive reduction of the country’s external debt. Given a sustained positive economic growth, Zambia attained lower Middle Income status in July, 2011, with a GNI of US $1,160 in 2011.

Political and Legal System

Zambia was a British colony until October 24, 1964, when she gained political independence. Since then, the country has undergone three major phases of governance. The First Republic, which was the post-independence era of multi-party politics, lasted up to 1971. It was followed by the “One Party Participatory Democracy” under the United National Independence Party (UNIP) until 1991. In 1991, the country reverted to multi-party political system which saw the Movement for Multi-Party Democracy (MMD) come into power up to September, 2011 when the Patriotic Front (PF) took the reins of power.

Administratively, the country is divided into ten Provinces. The government comprises the Central and Local Government systems; the latter is administered by District Councils (or Local Authorities). There are two systems of elections – the Presidential and Parliamentary Elections held every five years and the Local Government Elections. The term of office for the President is five years and one can only serve for a maximum of two terms.

Zambia has a dual legal system, Statutory and Customary law. Statutory law is based on English Common Law and is applied side by side with customary law which is derived from the Local Customs of the people. The Constitution of Zambia is the supreme law of the land.

The people of Zambia

The Zambian society is characterized by ethnic diversity with over 73 ethnic groups of which the seven major ones are Bemba, Kaonde, Lozi, Lunda, Chewa and Tonga.