Chinese people in Zambia

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Chinese people in Zambia
Total population
(19,845 (2014)[1])
Regions with significant populations

In recent decades, the population of Chinese people in Zambia has rapidly increased. There were 19,845 Chinese people living in Zambia in September 2014 according to the Home Affairs ministry in data provided to respond to questions raised in parliament.[1]


There was significant temporary migration of thousands of Chinese workers when from 1970 to 1975 to Zambia to build the TAZARA Railway, the largest aid project, a rail connection between the copper mines of Zambia to the seaport of Tanzania.[2]

An explosives factory at the site of a mine in Chambishi exploded in 2005, killing over 50.[3] The incident and rapid increase in Chinese migration raised the level of discontent towards Chinese mining investors, turning the issue of Chinese investors and migration into a political issue during both the Zambian general election, 2006 and the one in 2011.[3]

During the 2006 election, Michael Sata the opposition presidential candidate lost after campaigning on rhetoric that China exploited the country and turned it into a "dumping ground."[3] Following his loss, in his stronghold of Lusaka, rioting broke out against Chinese businesses.[3] In the following election in 2011, he would again campaign against Chinese investors, lambasting them for "taking over" Zambia.


With the take off in trade relations in the 2000s, growing from $100m in 2000 to $2.8 billion in 2010, Chinese investors in Zambia include large enterprises in mining and infrastructure, but also small businesses owners in areas like retail and even agriculture. The remarkable sight of a family of Chinese chicken farmers that moved to Zambia was the subject of a profile in the BBC News program From Our Correspondent with the reporter observing: "It sounds extraordinary but these Chinese businessmen and women spotted an opportunity to make a bit of money raising chickens on small farms in Zambia.[4] They upped sticks and travelled 11,000km (7,000 miles) from their homes to do just that."[4]

Zambia is a leading exporter of copper and Chinese investment in the mining sector has been considerable. Chinese investment in mines has accompanied the migration of Chinese owners and managers and management-labor tensions have arisen between them and local workers.[5] In February 2010 a Chinese mine manager was murdered by a Zambian worker.[5]

See also


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