16.59 million (2016); 40 per cent of people live in urban areas and 11 per cent in urban agglomerations of more than one million people; growth 2.7 per cent p.a. 1990–2013; birth rate 43 per 1,000 people (49 in 1970); life expectancy 58 years; it fell from a peak of about 52 years in the latter 1980s, due to AIDS, but began to rise again from 2003, when it was 33 years.
There are 73 indigenous ethnic groups of Bantu origin. The largest, representing about 18 per cent of the population, is the Bemba of the north-east and Copperbelt. Others include the Tonga of Southern Province, the Nyanja of Eastern Province and Lusaka, and the Lozi of the west. There are small minorities of Europeans and Asians.
English is the official language and is widely spoken. There are seven main African languages: Bemba, Kaonde, Lozi, Lunda, Luvale, Nyanja and Tonga.
Mainly Christians (denominations include Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Pentecostals, New Apostolic Church, Lutherans, Seventh Day Adventists); Christian beliefs are often blended with traditional beliefs; plus minorities of Muslims and Hindus.
Public spending on health was three per cent of GDP in 2014. The health service has suffered under cutbacks required by economic adjustment programmes. Some 63 per cent of the population uses an improved drinking water source and 43 per cent have access to adequate sanitation facilities (2012). Infant mortality was 56 per 1,000 live births in 2013. Infant mortality rates fell from 141 per 1,000 live births in 1965 to 90 in 1980, then, due to AIDS, rose to 112 in 1999 and only began to fall again in 2002.
Malaria is prevalent. There are regular outbreaks of cholera. Zambia was one of the first countries to admit the severity of the AIDS pandemic. AIDS prevention, control and management programmes are given prominence in all health programmes. In 2013, 12.5 per cent of people aged 15–49 were HIV positive.
Public spending on education was one per cent of GDP in 2012. There are seven years of compulsory education starting at the age of seven. Primary school comprises seven years and secondary five, with cycles of two and three years. Some 53 per cent of pupils complete primary school (2012). The school year starts in January.
Public universities include the University of Zambia (established in Lusaka in 1965); Copperbelt University (Kitwe, 1986); and Mulungushi University (Kabwe, 2008). There are a number of private universities, including Zambia Open University (Lusaka, 2004); and Cavendish University (Lusaka, 2004). Literacy among people aged 15–24 is 74 per cent (2010).
The daily newspapers are the state-owned Zambia Daily Mail and Times of Zambia, and independent The Post; all are published in English. Weeklies include the state-owned Sunday Times of Zambia.
Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation provides public radio and TV services in the main national languages and English; there are several private commercial and faith radio stations, mainly reaching the urban areas.
Some 27 per cent of households have TV sets (2014). There are 120 personal computers per 1,000 people (2012).
Country code 260; internet domain ‘.zm’. Most public buildings provide public phones. Mobile phone coverage is limited to urban areas, where there are also some internet cafés.
For every 1,000 people there are eight landlines, 715 mobile phone subscriptions and 154 internet users (2013).
New Year’s Day, Women’s Day (8 March), Youth Day (12 March), Labour Day (1 May), Africa Day (25 May), Heroes’ Day (first Monday in July), Unity Day (Tuesday following Heroes’ Day), Farmers’ Day (first Monday in August), Independence Day (24 October) and Christmas Day.
Religious festivals whose dates vary from year to year include Good Friday and Easter Monday.