Last month, I started a series called Small World that looks at sister cities throughout the world. We began in Boulder, Colorado (our hometown!) and chose Dushanbe, Tajikistan, one of Boulder’s seven sister cities, for our focus. Dushanbe has many sister cities as well, fifteen to be exact. In order to build a bridge across our “small world,” we travel from Dushanbe to Lusaka, Zambia in this edition of Small World.
Lusaka is the capital city of Zambia and is located in the south-central portion of the country. It covers nearly 70 square kilometers and is comprised of approximately 1.7 million people. It is one of the fastest developing cities in Southern Africa due to its fairly central location and proximity to two major roads and the rail system. In 1935, it was chosen to be the capital of the British colony of Northern Rhodesia; and in 1964 it was declared the capital of a newly-independent Zambia.
Zambia is a landlocked country with a tropical climate and is slightly larger in area than the state of Texas. It is a highly urbanized country with 44% of the population concentrated in its few urban areas such as Lusaka. It is considered one of the poorest nations in the world with a per capita annual income of roughly $395, which is approximately one-half of its level when they gained independence in 1964. Life expectancy for Zambians is just over 40 years, and maternal mortality rates for women are 830 per 100,000 pregnancies. Zambia is heavily reliant on the mining and agricultural industries as the country’s main commodities are copper, cobalt and tobacco.
Zambia has many protected areas inside its borders, and perhaps the most well-known is the South Luangwa National Park located northeast of Lusaka. It is the southern-most of three national parks located in the valley of the Luangwa River. It was founded as a game reserve in 1938 and became a national park in 1972. It covers over 9,000 sq km spanning two eco-regions: both of them wooded savannah and each having a dominating tree species. On the higher slopes of the valley, the Southern Miombo is predominant; while the bottom of the valley is dominated by the Mopane tree. The park is home to a variety of animal species such as elephants, wildebeest and zebra to name just a few.
While Lusaka is a very poor city (over 60% of its inhabitants are unemployed), it continues to grow as its population has tripled in the years since independence. Always looking for ways to stimulate their economy, the city and the country focus a lot of their efforts on tourism, offering wildlife safaris that include activities such as walking, birding, canoeing, horseback and mobile expeditions. Another boost to their economy has come from British and South African expatriates moving to Lusaka – roughly 70,000 of them. There are a considerable number of Chinese people living in Zambia as well, some estimates say near 80,000 live in the more populated regions.
If the number of people from abroad taking up residence continues to grow, combined with increases in tourism, this African country may make serious strides upward from the bottom echelon of the world’s poorest nations. Combined with the country’s upswing in literacy rates and focus on education, Zambia may become a leader for the rest of the African continent to follow in the foreseeable future.