Other than my two years in Thailand during the 1990s, I have spent limited time abroad. Given my goal to help 1 million people out of $1-a-day poverty, I will need to start spending considerably more time abroad, especially in developing countries. After inquiring with International Development Enterprises (IDE) about how I can get out into the field, they invited me to travel to Zambia with them in October.
I have plenty to learn about Zambia in preparation for the trip. Below is my "book report" based on the CIA World Factbook:
Zambia has existed as an independent African country since 1964. Prior to that, the country was under British rule dating back to 1891 and was called Northern Rhodesia. The country has held elections since 1991, and its 2006 elections were deemed to be free and fair. Suffrage is universal at the age of 18, and the legal system is based on English common law. English is also the official language, which 81 percent of Zambians are able to read and write. Over 70 other languages are also spoken in Zambia. Perhaps also linked to its former British rule, approximately 50 to 75 percent of Zambians are Christian. The balance are primarily Muslim or Hindu.
Seven countries neighbor landlocked Zambia: Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe. Approximately the size of Texas, 7 percent of its land is considered to be arable, and an additional 28 percent is irrigated. Zambia's seven-month rainy season spans from October to April, which suggests I'll arrive at the beginning of rainy season.
Twelve million people inhabit Zambia, including 0.1 million refugees, primarily from neighboring countries Democratic Republic of the Congo and Angola. Zambians have a median age of 17 and a life expectancy of 39 years. I'm uncertain whether infant mortality is factored into life expectancy, but 101 out of every 1000 live births result in an infant's death. Approximately 17 percent of adults live with AIDS. Diarrhea, hepatitis A, typhoid, malaria, plague, schistosomiasis, and rabies are all common infectious diseases (ID) that all contribute to Zambia's "very high" ID risk rating.
GDP per capita is $1,300 at purchasing power parity (PPP), which is about $3.50 per person per day. 85 percent of the workforce makes their living from agriculture; approximately the same percentage lives below the poverty line. Zambia is a net exporter, with Switzerland, South Africa, China, UK, and Tanzania its primary trade partners. The kwacha (ZMK), Zambia's currency, has appreciated against the US Dollar since 2003, along with just about every other currency in the world.
Similar to many other developing countries, Zambia's cell phone usage far outpaces its land-line usage. 1.7 million cell phones are in use, versus 0.1 million land lines, or a factor of approximately 17 to 1. There are approximately 0.3 million internet users and the same number of televisions.
Far less developed than Thailand, where I lived for two years, Zambia also seems to be more stable than many countries in Africa. Based on my initial research, it appears that Zambia will be a good choice for my first visit to Africa.