Zambia is a rich country with a poor population.
A Zambian trade unionist, a veteran of many years of struggle in the copper belt of the country, tells me that the situation is bleak. It is true that the poverty rate is high – unimaginably high, beyond the data available from the government and international agencies. The numbers oscillate between 60% of the population in poverty to 80% in poverty. That means that at least 10 million of the 16 million Zambians live in poverty.
The Global Hunger Index says that Zambia is the country with the third hungriest population. Hunger levels are alarming in the country, as well as in the Central African Republic and in Chad. About half of Zambia’s population and half of the people of the Central African Republic are undernourished.
Last year, Gregory Chileshe of Christians Against Poverty said that the hunger is a consequence of unemployment. The ‘pangs of poverty’, he said, ‘will flatten the people to inhuman conditions’.
Zambia is not a poor country – if you look at its resources. It is the eighth largest supplier of copper to the world. Last year, Zambia produced 850,000 tons of copper, 100,000 tons more than in the previous year. The price of copper remains high. There is plenty of money to be made from this precious resource. The five copper firms that dominate mining in the country have Zambian names, but are not Zambian companies. They are owned by the Canadian firm Barrick, the Canadian firm FQM, the UK firm Vedanta, the Swiss firm Glencore as well as by China’s Non-Ferrous Metals Mining Corporation. These are major mining companies that leech Zambia of its resources and – through bribery – earn the loyalty of the pliant government.
In the Copperbelt Province of Zambia, 60% of the children in grades one to four cannot read. This is information provided by Felix Ngoma, the CopperBelt Province Education Officer on January 26 of this year. In one of the areas of Africa with the richest resources, the children cannot read.