Historically, independence has always been something worth fighting for. The number of wars started and continuing in the world today in a bid for freedom fills our newspapers and bleeds our hearts daily. However, one country’s story of freedom is definitely worth celebrating – Zambia. The Republic has been declared Africa’s Most Peaceful Country, thanks to the complete absence of civil violence in its 51 years of peaceful independence.
On the 24th of October 1964, the Republic of Zambia gained independence from Great Britain. Kenneth Kuanda was Zambia’s inaugural president with his socialist party, United National Independence Party (UNIP). They maintained power from 1964 until 1991. At his inauguration, he said, “Ambition never comes to an end,” and his wonderful country, with all its alluring offerings to visitors, has lived by this statement ever since, always striving to improve.
The Republic of Zambia neighbours 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. It is home to the Victoria Falls, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.
For thousands of years, the Khoisan peoples lived in relative peace until the region was colonised by the Bantus in the thirteenth century. European ‘explorers‘ then made colonised Zambia in the late nineteenth century, renaming it ‘ the British protectorate of Northern Rhodesia‘, during which Zambia was governed from London with the advice of the British South Africa Company.
During the early years of independence, Zambia was a fairly prosperous nation thanks to its natural resources, copper and oil. In fact, Zambia became the world’s third largest producer of copper. But prices began to fall in the seventies the price of oil shot up in 1973 and inflation, already serious, rapidly increased. The government reacted to this by borrowing heavily from abroad and drawing on its reserves. The debts grew and became the downfall of the countries economy.
Between 2001 and 2006, late President Mwanawasa aggressively pursued fiscal discipline and ensured strict compliance with the conditions of loans set by Zambia’s creditors. This led to the cancellation of most of Zambia’s debt which stood at over $7 billion. Copper prices began to rise again, and without the debt, the country was able to invest in modernising its infrastructure thanks to investment from China and Chinese business. This turnaround led to Zambia rising from the ashes of third world poverty to being classified as a ‘lower middle-income country’. Today, the country has a population of 14,638,505 and, according to the last census, there are roughly 100,000 Chinese living in Zambia, and about 500 Chinese firms active in various sectors across its economy.
photo credit: Namuba Foundation