Zambia Military

Zambia is a sovereign nation located in Sub-Saharan Africa and is known for its strong military and defense. The Zambian Armed Forces is the military branch of the country and consists of three branches: Army, Air Force, and National Service. The total active personnel stands at around 11,500 with an additional reserve force of around 4,000 personnel. The country has a moderate defense budget compared to its GDP as it spends about 1.3% of its GDP on defense. Zambia imports weapons from countries such as China, Russia, South Africa, and India as well as from other African countries such as Angola and Zimbabwe. As a result of this strong military presence in the region Zambia has become an important regional player in security issues and is able to maintain peace and stability within Sub-Saharan Africa effectively. See naturegnosis to learn more about the country of Zambia.


The defense (2009) comprises about 15,000 men enlisted with 3,000 men in reserve and is organized into three brigades. The Air Force has about 20 older fighter aircraft. Semi-military security forces amount to approximately 1,400 men. The material is outdated and of Soviet origin. Defense costs rose from 1.1% to 2.2% of GDP in 1985-2007.

Zambia participates in UN peacekeeping operations with observers in the Central African Republic/Chad, Ivory Coast, Congo (Kinshasa), Liberia, Nepal and Sudan. To see related acronyms about this country, please check ABBREVIATIONFINDER where you can see that ZWB stands for Zambia.

Zambia Army

Zambia has volunteer military service. The total force numbers for Zambia’s armed forces are 15 100 active personnel, with a reserve of 3,000 personnel (2018, IISS). In addition, 1400 semi-military police forces are arriving.

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The army has a workforce of 13,500 active personnel. The equipment includes 30 tanks (20 type 59 and ten T-55), 30 light tanks of the PT-76 type, 70 light trucks, 23 storm tanks, and 33 armored personnel vehicles. In addition, the Army has medium-heavy artillery and anti-aircraft artillery.

Air Force

The Air Force has a workforce of 1,600 active personnel. The equipment includes 23 transport aircraft, 51 training aircraft (21 of which can also be used as light fighter aircraft), and 22 helicopters. In addition, the Air Force has drones and short range air defense missiles.

International operations

In 2018, Zambia participated in the UN operation in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) with an infantry battalion (942 personnel) and eight observers, and with a small number of personnel and observers in the UN operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO), in Sudan (UNAMID), and in South Sudan (UNMISS).

Defense and security

Zambia has an extremely small national army (it has only 13,500 land units) not only in relation to its population, but also in relation to the strength of the armed forces of neighboring countries. In March 2011 he was confronted with clashes and protests following the cancellation of the Barotse agreement which, since 1964, granted a special status to the Western Province, a measure that was unpleasant for the Lozi population living in the region. In 2013, an important trial for treason began, the defendants of which were 64 militants of the Barotseland secession movement: they risked the death penalty. At the end of November 2013 they were released.

Chinese investments in Zambia amid criticism and concessions

The beginning of relations between Zambia and China dates back to the construction of the Tazara railway line (acronym for Tanzania-Zambia Railway), the first and largest infrastructure project that Maoist China carried out in Africa after the war, for a total cost of over 500 million. dollars. The line, also called Uhuru Railway (which means ‘Freedom Railway’ in Swahili), connected the Zambian mining town of Kapiri Mposhi with the Tanzanian port of Dar es Salaam, with the aim of creating an alternative outlet for copper. of Zambia, which would otherwise have had to be transported through Southern Rhodesia and South Africa, controlled by segregation regimes.

Today, China’s presence is mainly concentrated in the mining and infrastructure sectors. In addition, Beijing has forgiven Lusaka’s $ 200 million debt. However, Zambia was the first African country to express strong criticism of Chinese penetration, highlighting problems that subsequently involved many of Beijing’s partners in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2006, former President Michael Sata led a tough election campaign – which he was defeated – under the banner of anti-Chinese hatred, insisting on the need to nationalize the mines. In 2007, when Chinese President Hu Jintao paid a visit to Zambia to inaugurate a major mining site, he was met with such strong protests that he was forced to shorten his stay in Lusaka. Despite growing opposition to China’s presence in the economy, Zambia continued to welcome investment from Beijing. In the context of the China-Africa forum in 2010, for example, the Lusaka government signed an agreement for the establishment of a special economic zone for Chinese companies, with a view to expanding investments.

In August 2012, a revolt broke out in Sinazongwe, in a coal mine: workers demanded at least the concession of the minimum wage against the Chinese company Collum. During the clashes, the Collum manager was killed and another manager was injured. The events of Sinazongwe date back to Michael Sata’s second year of presidency, with an anti-Chinese past, at least in terms of rhetoric. Despite the statements in 2006, once in power Sata proved extremely conciliatory towards its Beijing partners, even visiting China in 2013. The strong economic link with the Asian giant was confirmed by the recent contract for a company. China for road construction worth $ 550 million.

The abandonment of the nationalization of copper

Although copper exports today only contribute to 5% of GDP, the national economy has suffered for years from the effects of the nationalization of the country’s main resource shortly after independence. Following the rise in oil prices in 1973 and the sudden and drastic reduction in the price of copper in 1975 (copper at the time constituted 95% of Zambian export earnings), the country found itself within a few years on the verge of bankruptcy, consequently having to radically change their development plans. The stabilization and structural adjustment programs have led to the privatization of many mines and the entry into the country of foreign mining companies, including Chinese ones. Today the structure of the Zambian economy is less unbalanced.