The Republic of Zambia
Zambia is a landlocked country in Southern Africa with a population of approximately 12 million. The neighbouring countries are the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the north, Tanzania to the north-east, Malawi to the east, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Namibia to the south, and Angola to the west. The capital Lusaka is in the southeast of the country. The population is concentrated mainly around the capital and the Copper-belt to the northwest.
Zambia which had been inhabited by hunter-gatherers and migrating tribes for thousands of years, received sporadic visits by European explorers starting in the 18th century. The area that is modern Zambia was gradually claimed and occupied by Britain as protectorate of Northern Rhodesia towards the end of the nineteenth century.
The protectorate gained independence from Britain in 1964 with the new name of Zambia, derived from the Zambezi river which flows through the country. After independence the country moved towards a system of one party rule with Kenneth Kaunda as president. Kaunda dominated Zambian politics until multiparty elections were held in 1991.
Zambia’s economy has been traditionally dominated by the copper mining industry; however the government has recently been pursuing an economic diversification programme and building a vibrant tourist industry.
The culture of Zambia is mainly indigenous Bantu culture mixed with European influences. Prior to the establishment of modern Zambia, the indigenous people lived in independent tribes, each with their own ways of life.
Traditional culture is very visible through colourful annual Zambian traditional ceremonies. Popular traditional arts are mainly in pottery, basketry (such as Tonga baskets), stools, fabrics , mats, wooden carvings, ivory carvings, wire craft and copper crafts.
Most Zambian traditional music is based on drums (and other percussion instruments) with a lot of singing and dancing. In the urban areas foreign genres of music are popular, in particular Congolese rumba, African-American music and Jamaican reggae.
One of the results of the colonial era was the growth of urbanisation where different groups started living together in towns and cities, influencing each other and adopting some European customs.
Whilst original cultures have largely survived in the rural areas there is a process of continuous integration and evolution of that is gradually evolving to produce modern Zambia.
English is the official language but there are numerous local language including: Bemba, Kaonda, Lozi, Lunda, Luvale, Nyanja, Tonga, and about 70 other indigenous languages.
The Zambian staple diet is based on maize. It is normally eaten as a thick porridge, called Nshima, prepared from maize flour commonly known as mealie meal. This may be eaten with a variety of vegetables, beans, meat, fish or sour milk.
Zambia’s climate is mostly humid subtropical or tropical wet and dry, with small stretches of semi-arid ‘steppe’ climate in the south-west and along the Zambezi valley.
There are two main seasons, the rainy season (November to April) corresponding to summer, and the dry season (May/June to October/November), corresponding to winter. The dry season is subdivided into the cool dry season (May/June to August), and the hot dry season (September to October/November). During the cooler season from May to August the country’s altitude gives a pleasant subtropical feel. However, average monthly temperatures remain above 20°C over most of the country for eight or more months of the year.
The flora and fauna of Zambia are so diverse and numerous that short lists do not really do justice to what can be seen. However the star attractions include: elephants, giraffes, leopards, lions, cheetahs, zebras, water buffalo, hippopotami, numerous monkeys, antelope, spotted hyenas and of course wonderful lizards and other reptiles. Ornithologists have so far recorded 740 species of birds in Zambia.
Zambia High Commission in London Tel: 020 7589 6655
Population: 12.2 million (UN, 2008)
Area: 752,614 sq km (290,586 sq miles)
Major language: English (official), Bemba, Lozi, Nyanja, Tonga
Major religions: Christianity, indigenous beliefs, Hinduism, Islam
Monetary unit: 1 Kwacha = 100 ngwee
Main exports: Copper, minerals, tobacco
Internet domain: .zm
International dialling code: +260
Plug size: British 3 pin 13amp plug, South African three pin plug and European two pin unearthed can all be found.
(sources: Oxford History of the British Empire, Wikipedia, BBC)