Newly classified as a lower-middle income country by the World Bank, Zambia is one of Africa’s most urbanised countries, with more than 35% of its 13.4 million people living in towns and cities.
It’s a country rich in natural resources, yet unemployment is high and millions continue to live in poverty.
Economic growth continues to be driven by the mining, construction and agriculture sectors. Zambia has achieved high and sustained growth and macroeconomic stability over the past decade. However, this growth has not translated into significant poverty reduction with 60% of the population still living below the poverty line and 42% considered to be in extreme poverty.
Zambia is rich in natural resources, and globally the country ranks seventh in the production of copper. However, poverty levels remain high and the citizens do not experience the full benefits from the mining industry. Weak legal and regulatory frameworks, lack of information, accountability and transparency in the sector are some of the factors contributing to continued poor governance of natural resources. There is also concern over the negative social and environmental impact of the extractive industries.
Zambia is one of the many developing countries struggling to create adequate employment opportunities for its people, especially in the formal economy. Unemployment is highest among young people and currently stands at 23.4%.
Gender inequality and gender-based violence
Zambia has the highest number of gender-based violence (GBV) cases in southern Africa, as a result of violent acts perpetrated mostly by men. It is estimated that at least one in every three women is battered by a close relation, and 72% of men admit to having beaten their wives and girlfriends.
Women also face severe difficulties in fully participating in various local and national development and political processes. Women are underrepresented at all levels of decision-making. Out of the 150 parliamentary seats contested in the 2011 elections, only 18 seats were won by women.
As a consequence, women, who especially in rural areas form the majority of the poor, experience exclusion and marginalisation. They have less voice, less autonomy and fewer opportunities to make choices about their lives.
HIV/AIDS and malaria
One in four outpatient cases is due to malaria, which takes a huge toll on the government’s limited health budget. Zambia’s national HIV prevalence rate is ranked 7th globally, with young women being particularly at risk.
Zambia’s high levels of poverty are widely attributed to poor agricultural yields exacerbated by erratic weather patterns and regular climatic shocks such as droughts and floods. Access to food is a challenge for many in Zambia. According to the Zambia Vulnerability Assessment Committee, the number of people at risk of food insecurity has increased from approximately 63,000 in 2012 to 209,000 in 2013.
Other key development challenges include:
pollution of groundwater sources by formal and informal mining
limited access to healthcare
insufficient education infrastructure
lack of transparency and accountability
reduced income for communities due to deforestation, industrial pollution and land degradation.
Tackling Malaria: Christian Aid and its supporters are playing a key part in the global fight to eradicate malaria. Find out what that fight looks like to local people in communities in Zambia's Western Province.
Taxes and Health: Zambia should be one of the richest nations in Africa. The Zambian government estimates that it loses around $1 billion every year because of tax dodging. Find out more through this short film.
Press release: Glencore and First Quantum are subjects of complaint to OECD.
Heathcare in Zambia: In pictures, find out more about how our partner CHAZ is supporting the government healthcare system to provide for those in need.