Copper accounted for a large proportion of Zambia's GDP in the years following independence but a massive slump in global copper prices in 1975 hit Zambia very hard. This was largely because Copper mining was a nationalised industry and so the government suddenly found itself as one of the world's most indebted countries. With the fall of the Soviet Union, President Kaunda was forced to call democratic elections.
Kaunda was a ostensibly a gentle individual somewhat akin toTanzania’s Mwalimu Nyerere – both following vaguely defined socialist ideals, which in Kaunda’s case was termed, African Humanism. Zambia under Kaunda suffered greatly due to his regime’s support of African liberation movements fighting the minority white governments in South Africa and Rhodesia. In 1991 Kaunda lost the country’s first democratic election to Frederick Chiluba of the Movement for Multiparty Democracy. Chiluba's government, under pressure from the World Bank and IMF instigated major economic reforms over the next decade including the privatisation of national industries, including copper.
Zambia has seen steady growth since the turn of the millennium and with growth in Copper prices since 2005, has become a popular location for international investors. The Chinese have taken particular interest and in February 2007 the two countries formed a symbolic Chinese-Zambian economic partnership zone around the Chambishi copper mine. Despite a steady GDP Real Growth Rate of roughly 6.3% in recent years (15th in the world,) the countries' per capita GDP ranks 195th in the world, out of 227 countries. This is a reflection of the country's ongoing debt problems.
Current Predident Rupiah Banda has long been influential in Zambian politics, and took over the Presidency after previous President Levy Mwanawasa suffered a stroke and died whilst still in office.
Dambisa Moyo – author of the controversial book Dead Aid: Why Aid is Not Working and How There is a Better Way For Africa – is amongst Zambia’s most high profile international figures.