Zambia, an independent nation since 1964, with a stable democracy, is one of the youngest, and fastest growing, nations on earth, anticipated by UN to triple its population of 16.5 million by the year 2050. It is also one of the world’s most heavily indebted nations and has one of the highest levels of economic inequality, with an HDI ranked at 139th globally and 58% of its population below the international poverty line, especially in rural areas where 56.5% of the population resides.
Zambia, in conjunction with Zimbabwe, made up the former British colony of Rhodesia. Zambia’s first president was in office for 27 years, and allegedly attempted a coup during the term of his successor; the 3rd and 4th presidents died in office. Since 2015, the current president has served. Freedom and independence were hard-won, and the road to a stable democracy has not always been easy — but those who fought for Zambia’s freedom are honoured.
Before colonisation by the British empire, the region was made up of many independent, tribally-based states. Zambia today is highly multicultural, a fact enshrined in its constitution, with 75 tribes and 17 ethnic groups. Urban centres are moderately integrated, while rural areas remain segregated and living traditions prevail, including many annual, ancestral, and rite-of-passage ceremonies. Although the constitution identifies the country as “Christian” and its populace identifies as 75% Protestant and 20% Catholic, religious freedom is constitutionally guaranteed — and most people maintain elements of traditional belief systems.
Traditional gender roles are also largely maintained in Zambia, and the country’s Gender Inequality Index is at 125th globally. The Education Act (2011) guarantees equal education for all, but in practice, families educate sons far more than daughters; women’s labour market participation is above 78%, though it is generally low-paid work and men own the property and control supply channels; and, although 51% of the population is female, women hold less than 12% of the parliamentary seats. The Ministry of Gender and Child Development was established in 2012 and a National Gender Policy in 2014, with high aims to bring about a more equal society.
Zambia has one of the world’s youngest populations for some less-than-positive reasons. With one of the highest HIV/AIDS rates, there is a huge orphan crisis; birth rates are also high, and adolescent marriage and maternity commonplace. Life expectancy is just 59 (male) / 64 (female), placing Zambia 226th of 228 countries globally, with a 16.9 median age, 94% of the population under 54 years of age — and 46% under the age of fourteen.
Zambia, like many African countries, has a history of slave trade from early 18th through late 19th centuries — with Europeans and also Arabs acting as merchants, inciting local tribes to war in order to capture and sell others into slavery. This legacy lives on today — in the form of human trafficking. Zambia has been identified as a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children forced into labour or sexual exploitation.
Another concern in Zambia is the issue of witchcraft, or sorcery, and witch-hunting. The Witchcraft Act of Zambia (1914) has recently come under review due to a number of high-profile cases; witch-finders, though the profession is illegal, continue to practice, and the accused are often the subject of crowd vigilantism.
According to Hofstede’s 6-Dimension Model of Culture, Zambians are primarily egalitarian though somewhat hierarchical, far more collectivist than individualist, and more ‘feminine’ than ‘masculine’ — prone to cooperative governance, social welfare, and an emphasis on quality of life over a need to succeed. Despite its problems, Zambia remains vibrant, working to create a better society for all. While Zambians retain strong tribal connection and identity, a national identity has also grown — a blend of the values, norms, and traditions of 75 distinct tribes into “One Zambia, One Nation”.