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Sida's work in Zambia

Democracy has backed down for several years in Zambia. However, the recent election has raised some hopes for greater democracy. Sweden´s development cooperation with the country is focused on increasing respect for human rights, improving access to health care, and promoting environmentally sustainable development.

Sida’s support to Zambia 2020

Total development assistance 500370148 SEK, Development cooperation 500370148 SEK.

Progress has been made


of teachers in the school system are trained, compared to 90 percent in 1998.¹ Proportion of children in school has gone up as well and is now 85 percent.²

Longer lifes

Life expectancy at birth has increased by 20 years since 2000, to 64 years (2019).3

More women use contraception

The proportion of women between 15 and 49 who use contraceptive methods increased from 33 to more than 48 percent between 2007 and  2020.4

Challenges remain

One of the world’s most unequal countries

Zambia is one of the world’s most unequal countries, according to the World Bank. The previous economic development has not been distributed equally, and rapid urbanisation has led to increased unemployment, growing slums and a lack of manpower in rural areas.

High levels om malnutrition

Over half of the population lives in poverty5. Statistics regarding malnutrition and stunting are worrying.6

Unequal access to health care

Access to health care is very unequal in Zambia and there is a severe shortage of medical equipment, medicine and health care personnel.

Sida's support to Zambia

Among the countries of southern Africa, Zambia has for a long time been regarded as a model of peaceful and democratic development. The country’s economy was also until it by the economic crisis in 2015 one of the continent’s most successful. The political situation then deteriorated which led to increased tensions between different society sections. The peaceful and democratic elections in August 2021 have improved the outlook for democratic development.

Human rights, democracy and gender equality

Zambia has a democratic system in place, with several political parties and elections being regularly held. However, in recent years freedom of speech and freedom of assembly have been restricted. Universities, trade unions, student movements and civil society organizations have weakened. Girls and women are particularly vulnerable.

The new president Haikainde Hichilema went to the polls for a stronger economic policy and zero tolerance for corruption. He has also declared he wants to strengthen the country’s public institutions and work for gender equality.

Combating corruption

In recent years, the level of corruption in Zambia has increased. Transparency International, known for monitoring and its campaigns against corruption, works with the country’s Anti-Corruption Commission.

About the work in Zambia at the Transparency International website

Stronger media sector

For some years now, freedom of the press has deteriorated.6 In collaboration with BBC Media Action, the organisation MISA strengthens the country’s media sector, for example, through training for journalists regarding election observation, reporting on human rights, and ethical issues. This, in turn, enables Zambian citizens to receive independent news and increases their opportunities to hold their decision-makers accountable.

Social protection for the most vulnerable

The social safety nets, such as pensions, only cover Zambians with formal employment. UNICEF, the World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) cooperate in the UN Joint Programme for Social Protection, which aims to strengthen social protection systems for the poorest and most vulnerable people.

Equal health and sexual and reproductive rights (SRHR)

Zambia has made numerous advances in the health sector. However, it continues to grapple with a heavy disease burden and a shortage of trained personnel, along with high levels of malnutrition and maternal and infant mortality. Girls and young women are particularly affected by ill health and the lack of access to care. 

Quality care for women, adolescents and children

Access to quality care varies according to gender, income, level of education, and where in the country one lives. Sida supports the efforts of the Zambian Ministry of Health to ensure better and equal access to health care. The focus is on the health and nutritional intake of women, adolescents and children in two provinces. Among other things, health care staff are trained in emergency obstetric care, adolescent health, and collection of medical data. Volunteers in rural areas are trained in SRHR and preventive maternal health, and a particularly concerted effort is made to reach out to young people.

Counselling about contraception and safe abortions

In general, people have very limited knowledge about their sexual and reproductive rights. Child marriage, teenage pregnancy, and HIV infection affect many people. About 46 percent of all Zambian women were some time subjected to violence from their intimate partner.7 Access to contraception is virtually non-existent, and many unsafe abortions are performed. Among other activities, the Marie Stopes organisation disseminates information and provides counselling concerning contraception and safe abortions. In 2018, a hotline was launched, to which people can call and obtain information and advice.

About the work in Zambia at the Marie Stopes website

Maintenance of high-tech medical equipment

Many Zambians do not receive the care they need because of  malfunctioning or unavailable medical equipment. Sida supports the Tropical Health and Education Trust, which in its first year employed 16 biomedical technicians in four provinces, who maintain and repair high-tech equipment that is vital to saving lives.

About the work in Zambia at the Tropical Health and Education Trust website

Environment, climate, sustainable energy and economic development

Zambia suffers from the effects of climate change, including droughts, floods, rising temperatures and heavy and unpredictable rainfall.8 Many Zambians live directly off agriculture,9 making them particularly vulnerable to extreme climate events and environmental pollution.

Renewable and affordable clean energy

Less than a third of the population has access to electricity – in rural areas the share is around 4 percent.10 The Sida-funded Beyond the Grid Fund for Zambia helps to provide renewable and affordable clean energy to individuals who lack access to the national grid. This reduces the impact on the climate, creates jobs, and improves the lives of people living in rural areas.

The Beyond the Grid Fund for Zambia website

Climate-smart agricultural methods

The fact that many Zambians use wood or charcoal, and that their agriculture efforts are often conducted using outdated methods leads to deforestation, soil erosion, and an increased threat to biodiversity. The organisation SNV works to develop climate-smart agricultural methods and to increase the production of biogas and sludge for use both in agriculture and as an alternative to charcoal.

About the work in Zambia at the SNV website

Collaboration between small-scale farmers and agricultural companies

The majority of Zambia’s population works in the informal sector.11 Unemployment is high, especially among young people and women. Musika is a civil society organisation that facilitates contact between small-scale farmers and companies in the agricultural sector. This makes it easier for farmers to develop their businesses and sell their products.

The Musika website

Updated: 3 September 2021