Developments in Zambia

Updated: 3 September 2014

Zambia's development rests in Zambian hands today. Decades of economic decline has put a severe pressure on the Zambian people. The widespread poverty persists, but the negative trend may have been broken, at least in the cities.

Zambia has got its name from the Zambezi River, which on the border with Zimbabwe suddenly plunges down a hundred meters into what the local people call The thundering smoke ( Mosi-oa-Tunya ). These are the mighty Victoria Falls, named after the British Queen in the 1800s by the explorer David Livingstone.

Zambia was long a one-party state under Kenneth Kaunda, from independence in 1964 until 1991. Today the country has a multiparty system, but the president, who is also the head of government, has extensive authority. The opposition is deeply divided. The country has over seventy ethnic groups and has no national language. The seven major languages and the old colonial language English have official status. Nearly half of the population lives along the railway line from the town of Livingstone in the south via the capital Lusaka to the so called copperbelt in the north.

Zambia has long been characterized by fragile institutions and high dependency on aid. Major energy resources have remained unused, fertile soils have been mismanaged. Zambia is a rich country with poor people.

Mainly the mining industry has shown strong economic growth in recent years, which has contributed to a reduction in the number of poor people in the cities. The agricultural sector employs the majority of working-age Zambians, but to date the sector has shown modest results. Many observers are convinced that there is large potential here, both in terms of food security and commercial production.

Zambia is one of the world's largest copper producers. Thanks to rising world market copper prices and large foreign investments in the mining sector, the country has experienced a positive economic development in recent years. The government still tries to reduce its dependence on copper: it was low copper prices along with mismanagement and corruption that led to the economic crisis in the early 2000s. One initiative is the focusing on other areas such as tourism, exploring the country's untouched nature and wildlife, and the export of cut flowers.

Growth in the mining industry has contributed to a decline in the number of urban poor, but for the vast majority of the people, the economic growth has not meant any significant improvements. Most residents still live by subsistence farming, but the country is often affected by drought. Two thirds of the population is poor.

Many orphaned by AIDS

Rapid urbanization has created unemployment, housing shortages and growing slum areas. In addition, Zambia is hard hit by HIV/AIDS, which has led to a greatly reduced life expectancy and increased infant mortality. Furthermore, there are over one million children orphaned by the disease, with tens of thousands of street children in Lusaka. HIV and AIDS -related illnesses devours about half of all healthcare costs.

Sweden contributes to Zambia's national development plan - FNDP

The plan is a comprehensive of documents for the government's efforts to accelerate growth and fight poverty. The long term goal is to create wealth and jobs in the Zambian society.

Sweden's focus areas in Zambia:

  • Energy
  • Agriculture
  • Health
  • Civil society support

Read more about Sida’s work in Zambia

Page owner: Department for Africa

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