The country has an estimated population of 14.6 million of which 45 percent reside in urban areas, making Zambia one of the most highly urbanised countries in Africa. The main urban cities are Lusaka in the midlands, Ndola and Kitwe on the Copperbelt area and Livingstone in the south.

The country’s annual population growth rate is estimated at three percent and it is estimated that about 46% of the population, representing an active and productive workforce, are between 15 and 64 years of age.

Population Characteristics and Projections

The Zambian population has been growing rapidly for a long period of time. The population grew from only about 2.3 million persons in 1950 to 9.9 million at the time of the 2000 census. By 2009, the population may have grown further to nearly 13 million persons. This rapid population growth is, in part, due to Zambia’s high fertility rate. Zambian women have 6.2 children each, on average—one of the higher levels of fertility in Africa. Because fertility has been high for a long time, Zambia has a very young population. About 46 percent of the population is under the age of 15.

Social Development Trends

Zambia is one of the most highly urbanised countries in sub-Saharan Africa with 45% of the population concentrated in a few urban areas along the major transport corridors, while rural areas are sparsely populated. The population comprises 73 ethnic groups, most of which are Bantu-speaking.

Almost 90% of Zambians belong to the nine main ethnolinguistic groups: the Nyanja-Chewa, Bemba, Tonga, Tumbuka, Lunda, Luvale, Kaonde, Nkoya and Lozi. In the rural areas, each ethnic group is concentrated in a particular geographic region of the country and many groups are very small and not as well known. However, all the ethnic groups can be found in significant numbers in Lusaka and the Copperbelt.


Expatriate workers live mainly in Lusaka and on the Copperbelt in northern Zambia, where they are either employed in mines, financial and related activities or retired. Zambia also has a small but economically important Asian population, most of whom are Indians and Chinese. In recent years, several hundred commercial farmers have left Zimbabwe at the invitation of the Zambian government, to take up farming in the Southern province.

According to the World Refugee Survey 2008 published by the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, Zambia had a population of refugees and asylum seekers numbering approximately 113,200. The majority of refugees in the country came from the Democratic Republic of Congo (55,400 refugees from the DRC living in Zambia in 2007), Angola (40,800; Angolans in Zambia) and Rwanda (4,000).

Beginning in May 2008, the number of Zimbabweans in Zambia also began to increase significantly; the influx consisted largely of Zimbabweans formerly living in South Africa.Nearly 60,000 refugees live in camps in Zambia, while 50,000 are mixed in with the local populations. Refugees who wish to work in Zambia must apply for official permits.



Zambia is officially a Christian nation according to the 1996 constitution, but a wide variety of religious traditions exist. Traditional religious thought blends easily with Christian beliefs in many of the country’s syncretic churches. Christian denominations include: Presbyterianism, Roman Catholic, Anglican, Pentecostal, New Apostolic Church, Lutheran, Seventh-day Adventist, Jehovah’s Witnesses, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Branhamism, and a variety of Evangelical denominations. These grew, adjusted and prospered from the original missionary settlements (Portuguese and Catholicism in the east from Mozambique) and Anglicanism (English and Scottish influences) from the south. Except for some technical positions (e.g. physicians), western missionary roles have been assumed by native believers.