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What Should I Know about Zambia?

Zambia is a landlocked country that borders eight other nations in southern Africa.
Once known as Northern Rhodesia, Zambia is an inland, southern African nation located between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zimbabwe.
The Zambezi River offers rafting opportunities.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 21 August 2014
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Zambia is a country in Southern Africa that was formerly called Northern Rhodesia. It's population of about 11 million people is composed primarily of the Bantu speaking tribes that migrated east and north from the Southern African Coast, particularly the Tonga people. A second wave of immigration from the 17th to the 19th century brought peoples of the Luba and Lunda tribes to reside in the area.

Because the country is landlocked, it was not immediately accessible to Europeans. In fact, unlike other African countries, Europeans did not visit Zambia until the late 18th century. Then an influx of Europeans sought to either help or exploit the population. For instance, Dr. David Livingstone visited in the hopes of ending the slave trade by converting the Zambian natives to Christianity, helping them to establish other profitable trade and attempting to introduce them to modern “civilized” methods of living. Livingstone also named and noted one of the most beautiful features in Zambia, Victoria Falls, which remains a popular tourist spot.

England, and especially English control of Zambia has exerted tremendous influence on the country. The official language of the country is English. Most Zambians are practicing Christians. Many families live in urban environments, in frequently very close quarters. There are still some subsistence farmers in small rural areas, but the cities offer promise of greater economic rewards, though it cannot be said to deliver on these promises for most people.

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Zambia did fall under British rule in the 19th century, and was not able to gain its independence from Britain until the 1960s. Many British viewed Zambia as an important acquisition, since it is rich in minerals and gems. Despite high mineral supply, especially copper, it has remained a poor country. One reason for this is the fall in the price of copper in the 1970s, and the country's dependence on transport of materials through other countries like Angola and the Republic of Congo where governments have been highly unstable. Its poverty has led to it being one of the most indebted countries in the world, with little debt forgiveness or relief in sight.

About 70% of Zambians live below the poverty line, and the problem of HIV/AIDS has reached epidemic proportions. 17% of Zambian adults are infected with the virus. Life expectancy is shockingly low, at an average of 37 years.

As of 2007, Zambia was a republic, under the leadership of President Levy Mwanawasa. No independent government has yet been able to address the issues of poverty and epidemic illness that plague the country. Especially since the country still relies on its principal export of copper, little can be done to lift the country from poverty.

It works hard to encourage its tourism trade. It offers both walking and riding safaris, views of Victoria Falls, and is considered one of the safest African countries to visit for Americans and Europeans. Access to the Zambezi River, the fourth largest river in Africa, offers numerous opportunities for white water rafting or calm river tours.

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