While Zambia continues to face some economic challenges, the natural beauty of the country has provided a tremendous boost to the economy through the flourishing tourism industry. The culture reveals a blend of modern day practices, tribal traditions, and vestiges of the colonial era.
The Zambian constitution provides for an executive branch of government consisting of a president, who is elected for a five-year term, and a cabinet that is chosen by him. There is also a 150-member unicameral legislature, the National Assembly, whose members are elected for five-year terms by popular vote.
Zambia established its independence in 1964 with former African National Congress official Kenneth Kaunda as its president. Kaunda managed to unite the country's many ethnic groups and ruled for 27 years until he lost the presidency to Frederick Chiluba in the first multiparty elections in 1991.
Despite promises of improved human rights and greater democracy, several years of accusations of corruption, economic problems, and general unrest followed. Chiluba won a second term in the 1996 elections and crushed an attempted coup in 1997.
The constitution prohibited Chiluba from running for a third term. However, in a hotly contested election on December 27, 2001, his chosen successor, Levy Mwanawasa, won the vote by a narrow margin. However, these election results were challenged by eleven other parties due to the many administrative irregularities that occurred during the election.
The discovery of copper, still Zambia's largest foreign exchange asset, provided the motivation for the development of the country's infrastructure under Colonial rule. Lower copper prices in the 1970s lead to poverty. The privatization of the state-owned copper mines in the early 2000s helped the economy with a badly-needed infusion of jobs and taxes, while increased diversification also helped the export sector. Lead and zinc are now also major exports, while crude oil, chemicals, and machinery are Zambia's major imports. External debt continues to hamper the country's ability to invest in its own development.
Tourism is also a fast growing area of the economy with the national parks and safaris drawing visitors from around the globe. In recognition of the value of national tourism, a strategy has been implemented with generous government incentives offered for the development of tourist facilities.
Even with the positive results rendered by the privatization of industries, diversification, and budget reform, continued progress needs to be made to put the Zambian economy on a stronger footing. Inflation and unemployment remain high. Over 70 percent of the population lives in poverty. The government's National Poverty Reduction Action Plan (NPRAP) failed to reduce that level to 50 percent by 2004. Still, the most acute challenge the nation faces is the spread of HIV/AIDS. With 15 percent of the adult population HIV positive, the disease continues to take a toll on the economy decreasing worker productivity and increasing health care costs, while over 500,000 children have been orphaned. .
Most diplomats and foreign visitors live in Lusaka, Zambia's capital, a sprawling, ever-expanding city. There are many museums, exhibits of traditional arts, and an open-air market with many varieties of African arts and crafts.
Elsewhere in the country, there are many exciting opportunities for visitors including game spotting in Zambia's South Luangwa Park, to the spectacular Victoria Falls on the Zambezi River, which divides Zambia from Zimbabwe. The facilities at the Parks and at the Falls range from rustic to full-service resorts and visitors receive a warm welcome.