new internationalist
issue 233 - July 1992

Country profile: Zambia

Where is Zambia? In December 1990 former Zambian President Kaunda signed the repeal of Article 4 of the Constitution. Little did he know that he was signing away his iron hold on the country he had led since independence from Britain in 1964.

For the Article's repeal meant that political parties other than his own United National Independence Party (UNIP) were legalized after 17 years of one-party rule.

With the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe, Zambians pressed for democratization. Pressure from the Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD) forced Kaunda to call an early election.

The resultant 1991 October poll saw the MMD, led by trade unionist Frederick Chiluba, win a landslide victory over UNIP. Chiluba's message during the campaign stressed the need for Zambians to work hard to resuscitate the battered economy.

And with good reason: the country's external debt of over $7 billion meant there would be no easy ride for the new government. But most Zambians were prepared to support their new rulers and the harsh economic recovery measures.

Yet when Chiluba announced his cabinet it was apparent that he had already reneged on some his campaign pledges. He has virtually ignored women MPs, relegating them to deputy cabinet portfolios. Front-runner posts are filled with Chiluba's relations and his trade unions associates.

To make matters worse, the new president fired the heads of many of the parastatal companies (semi-government organisations such as the grain marketing board) because they had been appointed during the UNIP era.

So Zambians today are not only facing daily practical hardship, such as rising prices for the staple, corn/maize, since the removal of subsidies - they are also demoralized by the overall performance of the MMD.

Women are now lobbying for fair representation in local government elections. This is especially important as they have no say in the decision-making process - even though they contribute over 60 per cent of the total national agricultural output. Some feel that the MMD may be worse for women than UNIP.

With the drought in Zambia and its neighbours, agricultural performance this year is dismal and Chiluba's government is seeking huge grain imports from the United States to supplement dwindling stocks.

Even though the Zambian people have been affected by a double tragedy of structural adjustment programmes and the drought, the government hopes international donor agencies will bail it out. But it can only succeed in the long term by taking the people with it.

For not everyone suffers of course. As agriculture minister Guy Scott pointed out, 'Zambia does have a problem of chronic rural poverty and hardship which will be felt only in certain pockets.'

Mary Namakando


LEADER: President Frederick Chiluba

ECONOMY: GNP per capita: US $390 (US $20,910).
Monetary unit: Kwacha
Main exports are copper, cobalt, zinc and lead as well as tobacco and groundnuts.
Imports include machinery, petroleum and chemicals. Copper mining is key sector and Zambia's economy is deeply affected by world market prices. Most people live and work in the northern Copperbelt towns. Food crops include maize/corn, rice, sorghum, millet, soya beans and wheat.

PEOPLE: 8.5 million, unusually for Africa nearly half live in towns.

HEALTH: Infant mortality 72 per 1,000 live births (US 8 per 1,000)

CULTURE: Most people are of Bantu origin from the Luba-Lunda empire of the Congo.
Previous colonizing power: United Kingdom. Independence 1964.
Language: English is the official language; seven other local languages recognized out of the 72 tribes.
Religion: Christian 70%, Muslim 10% and others.

Sources: State of World Population 1992; World Bank Report 1991 and information supplied by author.

Last profiled in April 1980



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INCOME DISTRIBUTION [image, unknown] [image, unknown]
Top 6% takes 32% of income; bottom 60% under 20%.

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LITERACY [image, unknown] [image, unknown] [image, unknown]
73% literate, but education standards falling as youth drop out of school.

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SELF-RELIANCE [image, unknown] [image, unknown] [image, unknown]
Small-scale industries have sprung up to supplement government effort to create jobs.

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FREEDOM [image, unknown] [image, unknown] [image, unknown] [image, unknown] [image, unknown]
No political prisoners. Media is both private and state controlled.

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POSITION OF WOMEN [image, unknown] [image, unknown]
Do most farming work. Little access to credit; no voice in decision-making.

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LIFE EXPECTANCY [image, unknown] [image, unknown]
55 years (US 76 years).
Health services getting worse.

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Politics now
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One of Africa's first new
multi-party democracies.


NI star rating

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