Zambia is a landlocked country in Southern Africa, bordered by Tanzania to the northeast, Malawi to the east, Mozambique to the southeast, Zimbabwe and Botswana to the south, a narrow strip of Namibia known as the Caprivi Strip to the southwest, Angola to the west, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the northwest.
Historically, Zambia used to be a territory of Northern Rhodesia administered by the South Africa Company before it was taken over by the United Kingdom in 1923. During the 1920s and 1930s, advances in mining spurred development and immigration, and the name was later changed to Zambia upon independence in 1964.
People & Culture
According to the official count, Zambia has 73 different tribes with a long history of peaceful coexistence and over 20 different local dialects. Amongst these tribes are the Bemba, situated in the north and center of the country. They are the largest group in Zambia taking about 20% of the population. The Chewa, Ngoni and Nsenga tribes, all found in the east of the country, share the Nyanja language. The Tonga, Ila and Lenje, known together as the Bantu Botatwe (Three Peoples), concentrated in the west of the country in the Zambezi Valley and the plateaus to the north.
Other tribes are the Lozi in the far west, the Lala and Bisa, the Kaonde, the Mambwe and Lungu, the Lunda and others. There is also a handful of White Africans of English or Afrikaner descent population particularly in the more upscale areas of the major cities.
English is the official language, but there are over 73 local dialects. The main languages are Bemba, Kaonde, Lozi, Lunda, Luvale, Nyanja and Tonga.
Around 30% of the population is Christian (Protestant and Roman Catholic), a smaller number are Muslim and Hindu, and a small minority have traditional animist beliefs.
Zambia is a vast plateau bordered by Angola to the west, the Democratic Republic of Congo to the north, Tanzania to the northeast, Malawi to the east, Mozambique to the southeast, Zimbabwe and Botswana to the south and the Caprivi Strip of Namibia to the southwest. The Zambezi River, together with Lake Kariba, forms the frontier with Zimbabwe.
Victoria Falls, at the southern end of the manmade Lake Kariba, is one of the most spectacular sights in Africa (if not the world). In the east and northeast, the country rises to a plateau 1,200m (3,937ft) high, covered by deciduous savannah, small trees, grassy plains or marshland. The magnificent Luangwa and Kafue National Parks have some of the most prolific animal populations in Africa.
Best time to visit
Although Zambia lies in the tropics, the height of the plateau ensures that the climate is seldom unpleasantly hot, except in the valleys. There are three seasons: the cool, dry winter season from May to September; the hot, dry season in October and November; and the rainy season, which is even hotter, from December to April.
Cities & Towns
The Zambian economy relies heavily on the country’s mineral wealth, particularly copper (of which Zambia is one of the world’s largest producers), and also cobalt and zinc. These account for the bulk of export earnings and provide essential raw materials for Zambia’s manufacturing industry, which accounts for over one-third of national output. Apart from raw material processing, the manufacturing sector includes vehicle assembly and oil refining as well as the production of fertilisers, textiles, construction materials and a variety of consumer products.
Despite the role played by industry (unusually high by African standards), export earnings were steadily declining throughout the 1990s, mainly as a result of persistently low commodity prices.
Agriculture produces 14% of GDP and employs 85% of the population. Maize and cattle are the main earners. Zambia’s hydroelectric projects have allowed it self-sufficiency in energy.
US$15.69 billion (2010).
Copper, cobalt, tobacco, flowers and cotton.
Machinery, transport equipment, petroleum products, fertislisers and foodstuffs.
Main trading partners:
South Africa, Switzerland, UAE, China and UK.
There are public telephones and most calls are made through a post office. Mobile phones coverage is patchy in rural areas but good around Lusaka.
There are Internet cafés in Livingstone and Lusaka.
Airmail to Western Europe takes 7 to 14 days.
Post office hours:
Mon-Fri 0800-1700, Sat 0800-1300 (closed Sunday and public holidays).
State-run radio and TV services dominate Zambia’s broadcast media. Private radio stations offer little political reporting. Libel and security laws can be used by authorities to intimidate journalists, especially those reporting on corruption. Defaming the president is a crime.
The Victoria Falls, which form a natural border between Zimbabwe and Zambia, are one of Africa’s best-known natural wonders and one of the world’s most impressive waterfalls. The falls, which was named after Queen Victoria, drop a distance of 108m (345ft), almost twice as far as the Niagara Falls at their highest. Read more
Lochinvar National Park
Go birdwatching in the exceptionally diverse Lochinvar National Park on the southern edge of the Kafue Flats, a wide floodplain of the Kafu river, famous for its large herds of lechwe, an antelope unique to the Kafue Flats.
Kasanka National Park
Find more animals in the Kasanka National Park, one of Zambia’s smaller parks, that encompasses eight lakes and four rivers, the largest being the beautiful Luwombwa. Attractive and diverse, it is home to specialised mammals, including the rare blue monkey, and birds.
Visit Kitwe, the second largest city in Zambia and a place that owes a lot of its importance to copper. See the Mindolo Dam which is 7km (4.5 miles) away and the Makwera Falls and Lake, located 9km (5.5 miles) from the city.
North Luangwa National Park
Explore one of Africa’s most spectacular surviving wilderness areas – the North Luangwa National Park (www.luangwa.net), covering 4,636 sq km (1,790 sq miles) and home to the beautiful Mwaleshi river, huge herds of buffalo and over 350 bird species.
South Luangwa National Park
Stay in a lodge in the South Luangwa National Park (www.luangwa.net) amongst elephants, hippos, lions, zebras, giraffes, antelopes, buffaloes, monkeys and wild dogs with blossoming trees and exotic flowers forming the background.
Sumbu National Park
Enjoy the sandy shorelines of Lake Tanganyika in Sumbu National Park, where there are three all-year beach resorts: Kasaba, Ndole and Nkamba bays. The park’s spectacular sunsets are not to be missed.
Watch the wildlife in the Kafue National Park, the second largest national park in the world. Noted for its beauty, the park is bisected by the Kafue River, which attracts hundreds of species of birds and offers good game fishing.
Take a canoe safari along the Zambezi River in the Lower Zambezi National Park, 100km (62 miles) downstream of the Victoria Falls. Try fishing for tiger fish, bottle-nose fish or bream.
Go white-water rafting on the Zambezi. Longer and quieter river trips usually follow the Victoria Falls-Lake Kariba itinerary, with Lake Kariba also offering the possibility to relax for a week on a luxurious houseboat.