#Mots-clés : Dernière mise à jour le 7 June 2019
Country file made by Mister Victor Kawanga – Contact : Victor KawangaHUMAN SETTLEMENTS OF ZAMBIA – e-mail : Contact Mr Kawanga


Zambia is one of the most urbanised countries in Africa south of the Sahara. It is estimated that 40-48 percent of the population of over 10 million live in urban areas, concentrated along the line of rail. Much urban expansion (urban sprawl) is unplanned and poses challenges in terms of basic urban infrastructure and service provision. The fact that these settlements were not planned has led to them not being considered for local authority services.

Local authorities in Zambia are already over-stretched in terms of resources and, according to a Ministry of Local Government and Housing [MLGH] commissioned study of 1992, are unable to maintain an adequate level of service even to those 40 percent of urban dwellers to whom services are provided. In the larger cities, over 70 percent of people live in informal settlements and peri-urban areas with inadequate access to basic services. Local authorities are too ill-equipped to manage the challenges of rapid urban growth.


Early humans inhabited present-day Zambia between one and two million years ago. Today the country is made up almost entirely of Bantu-speaking peoples. Empire builder Cecil Rhodes obtained mining concessions in 1889 from King Lewanika of the Barotse and sent settlers to the area soon thereafter. The region was ruled by the British South Africa Company, which Rhodes established, until 1924, when the British government took over the administration.

From 1953 to 1964, Northern Rhodesia was federated with Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and Nyasaland (now Malawi) in the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. On Oct. 24, 1964, Northern Rhodesia became the independent nation of Zambia.

Kenneth Kaunda, the first president, kept Zambia within the Commonwealth of Nations. The country’s economy, dependent on copper exports, was threatened when Rhodesia declared its independence from British rule in 1965 and defied UN sanctions, which Zambia supported, an action that deprived Zambia of its trade route through Rhodesia. The U.S., Britain, and Canada organized an airlift in 1966 to ship gasoline into Zambia.


Zambia is a landlocked country in the southern region of Africa. It shares international borders with the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique and Angola. The country’s terrain mostly consists of high plateaus. However, the country has several hydrographic bodies, such as Lake Tanganyika, River Zambezi and River Basin. According to the 2009 estimates, the country has a population of approximately 13 million. Zambia’s economy is highly dependent on the trade activities in Lusaka and the Copperbelt. A majority of the population resides in and around these two major financial centers. The Zambian kwacha (ZMK) is the official currency of the nation.


Zambian economy is mixed in nature with liberal policies towards private and foreign investments. It is one of the most urbanized economies of Africa. However, poverty, coupled with unemployment, is the biggest detriment for the Zambian economic profile. The nation ranks 164 out of 182 countries in the UN Human Development Index.

After 2005, Zambia has been enjoying a real GDP growth rate of above 5%. Foreign direct investment in the mineral sector is the primary reason for this inflated growth.



– Urban history

With reference to Zambia’s major cities, our urban history is quite recent compared to many countries. Historical factors gave impetus to rapid urbanisation and the country now has at least 53% of the population living in urban areas. Population growth was at 3.2% in 1990. The urban areas have played various roles in National development :

  • They have provided a forceful “pulling” factor to the rural masses, who have flocked to them in search of better lives.
  • They have been centres of both national and international trade and thus have turned into conduits, bringing much needed money into the economy.

Urban population sizes have continued to expand whilst resources have become fewer and fewer. The result is the same as in most developing nations. Urban authorities are struggling to provide services to their inhabitants. Poverty levels have increased as unplanned settlements mushroomed all over the cities. The World Bank (1994) reported that the percentage of urban people below the poverty line was 72.7% and the malnutrition rate was at 46%. Service providers have failed to provide adequate basic services such as potable water, and so ill health prevails. This has been compounded by the AIDS pandemic that continues to ravage our continent. Unemployment rates are alarmingly high and the production sector has shrunk. The poorest 25% of the poor in urban areas earned only 3.1% of all income in 1985 compared to 7.1% in 1975. It is obvious from the other indicators that the situation is worse today. “Our cities are not functioning properly”.

Cities as we all know have some sort of bodies who are charged with the management of the city. In Zambia, this role is in the hands of city councils who play the municipal role of running and governing the cities. Their management and governance roles are carried out in difficult circumstances in Zambia. The city councils are not yet autonomous and still depend on Central Government for funding in the form of grants. These grants are not enough to see the smooth running of these councils. There has been a total break down in the provision of services. Can these morphologically and functionally ailing urban areas deliver in the global economy?

– Cities’ roles

Cities are expected to be nodes of growth that affect the areas surrounding them by providing a market for goods if the surrounding regions are agricultural or industrial. They are also expected to provide employment to semi-skilled labourers from the hinterlands or to provide skilled labour to the industrial hinterlands. The handling and distribution of urban surplus require sophisticated urban structure of governance. The city managers must be aware of its potential. Cities must be seen as centres of growth and development and not merely centres of consumption ! Governments must deliver political stability, sound economic management and an educated workforce before trade and foreign capital can translate into sustainable growth. These necessary conditions are mostly found in the urban areas.

In Zambia, local Government provides the leadership and management for urban areas. Municipalities are faced with financial difficulties and there are three major factors that contribute to their poor financial performance :

  1. The first is the limited revenue base. In the past, municipalities relied on the rents that were paid by their many tenants. The government policy of `home ownership’ saw the sale of a major portion of the housing stock of most municipalities to sitting tenants. The council already had low rents and now the amount obtained from rents from the few houses they still own is very little.
  2. Other properties such as taverns were also sold off; Lusaka Water and Sewerage Company was formed while the responsibility for road licensing was removed from the councils, thereby reducing the revenue base even further.
  3. The third factor is population increase in urban areas.

Urban local government financing and economic development cannot be separated from the political and ideological framework of the whole country. The Zambian local government system at independence was one which did not allow the full participation of all the people in decision making and development activities. There was an attempt at independence to abolish structures that were construed as divisive and which had previously caused imbalances in development. The Government tried to establish appropriate structures for decision-making, resource mobilisation and utilisation at local levels. The formation of these new structures was made possible by the Local Government Act (Cap. 480) of 1965. Currently, the local Government act has been amended to allow local authorities to mobilise resources without seeking ministerial approval. The local government is still not totally autonomous, however, and the major hindrance is the continued reliance on grants from the central government.

Local governments face these internal forces as they strive to provide services to the public. These influences obviously affect the equitable and adequate delivery of urban services. The macro-economic policies will directly or indirectly affect local government finance. For instance, tax-free incentives have been used to woo investors; depending on which taxes the investor is exempted from paying, the local government is affected. Debt servicing also takes up a large portion of the fiscal budget, and money which could have been used to finance productive investment is diverted whilst interest rates increase, thereby contributing to inflation. Such policies will have a direct impact on urban services such as housing, health, water, education, as well as on the overall economic development of the urban areas. The political path that is being pursued by Zambia has provided the impetus for a `new’ thinking. The government has also undertaken economic reforms and the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) has been introduced in an attempt to achieve economic growth at the national level. Policy measures undertaken under SAP include liberalisation of domestic and foreign trade, exchange rates, downsizing of the public sector, privatisation and the reduction of the role of government in running business concerns. The current government believes a liberalised market economy is the best for the country’s economic growth.

Urban local authorities in Zambia still have to rely on traditional sources of finance which are rates (which have been mentioned earlier), service charges, fees/licences and grants. Rates provide the most reliable source of revenue. The problem with this source is

  • It canno= Rural Habitat =t be expanded and in some cases municipalities do not own land and can therefore not benefit from any new developments in terms of taxes.
  • The other problem with this tax base is that some developments are not expected to pay.

All the factors mentioned above are amongst the local forces acting upon urban areas in Zambia today. Urban local authorities are finding it more and more difficult to discharge their duties. The rise of unplanned settlements has been a result of local governments’ inability to provide adequate low-cost housing and these areas pose a threat to health and security. In Zambia, about 70% of the urban dwellers live in the shanties and an estimated 46% of the urban population is considered poor. These areas are congested and diseases such as cholera, malaria and tuberculosis spread easily.

The state of the Zambian City is not very encouraging. The internal forces are very strong and it is difficult for one to see an immediate solution to the problems being faced by our cities today. The inadequa= Rural Habitat =te economic bases they rely upon have rendered them structurally weak. They can not finance capital expenditure and when they borrow they fail to keep up with the stringent requirements of lending institutions. The continued deficiency of services and amenities make the cities unattractive to potential investors both from outside and from within.


Planning of human settlements in developing countries frequently reflects ideas and practices inherited from the colonial masters before independence (Tetteh, 1976). The shape of Zambia’s urban and rural areas is a mirror of the effects of varying social structures in the country.

The state had the role of planning for both physical and economic development in urban and rural areas. The Second National Development Plan (SNDP) 1970- 1974 was merely to enforce the First National Development Plan. However, it incorporated such aims as:

  • Attaining self sufficiency
  • Expanding and diversifying industry and
  • Initiating comprehensive measures for regional development.

The weakness of these National plans was that they mainly focused on overall national development without strategies for facilitating actual development on the ground. In the circumstance, areas falling under customary laws were left out, leaving the traditional rulers to plan for their areas. Indeed, after more then 40 years of independence, there is still a general imbalance in development between rural areas and urban areas.


This Act was enacted to guide planning in the country. It is the only piece of legislation that guides spatial planning in Zambia. However, the planning process under the Act is restricted to land use planning of areas in State land only.

Part vii(4) of the Act allows for regional planning i.e. including socio-economic planning for regions. While this is so, weak institutional capacities and lack of funds has crippled the fulfilment of the Act.


Zambia is one of the most urbanised countries in sub-Saharan Africa with 35,5 percent of the population living in urban areas. Lusaka and Copperbelt provinces have the highest percentage of urban population at 82 and 81 percent respectively. Eastern Province has the lowest at 9 percent (UN DESA-Population Division, World Urban Prospects, 2007 and 2000 Census, Central Statistics Office Zambia). Unsustainable migration trends have led to high population growth in the urban areas without the accompanying improvement in infrastructure for service provision. Towns and cities have continued to attract large numbers of people from rural areas. For instance, the population growth of Lusaka, estimated at 6 percent, is twice the national average. High levels of in-migration into the cities can be attributed to a diversified economy, relatively better access to social services and employment opportunities. However, most migrants do not find the quality of life they aspire to in the cities and towns, and end up living in informal settlements in a poor urban environment lacking both adequate shelter and social services. It is estimated that more than 70 percent of the urban population of the cities live in informal settlements !


Three provisions in the Constitution have a direct bearing on land and housing rights.

  • Article 16, the property clause, follows the basic neo-Nigerian formulation in prohibiting the compulsory acquisition of property except on payment of adequate compensation. The various exceptions to this prohibition in Art. 16(2) include any law relating to abandoned, unoccupied, unutilised or undeveloped land; actions policy or policy effecting uniformity of common law and customary law; and any law providing for the conversion of titles to land from freehold to leasehold. These provisions effectively immunise land reform policies and laws from holders and people living under customary tenure.
  • Article 23 prohibits the enactment of discriminatory laws. Discrimination includes differentiation according to race, tribe, sex, and marital status. However, once again there are certain exceptions to this general prohibition, namely laws that apply customary law to people to the exclusion of other law (Art. (4)(d)) and laws that differentiate with respect to adoption, marriage, divorce, burial, devolution of property. The areas comprising customary land are described in the schedules to the Zambia (State Lands and Reserves)
  • Orders, 1928 to 1964 and the Zambia (Trust Land) Orders, 1947 to 1964 contained in Appendix 4 of the Laws of Zambia. Although the orders themselves have been repealed by Act No. 29 of 1995, the descriptions remain valid of Lands the amounts of land under the two categories are now in the ratios of about 10 percent state land and 90 percent customary land. A process is currently underway to document all the land parcels that have been converted from customary tenure to leasehold (Interview on June 8 2004 – possible to unfairly discriminate between people in the areas of customary law and family law).

National laws related to land and property rights Land and property rights in Zambia are regulated according to provisions found in various statutes, among which are the following:

  • Agricultural Lands Act (Chapter 187, Volume 12). This Act provides for the establishment of the Agricultural powers and functions. Its principal duty is to provide a legal
  • Common Leasehold Schemes Act (Chapter 208, Volume 12). Separate titles through the creation of common leasehold schemes.
  • Housing Act (Statutory and Improvement Areas)(Chapter 194, Volume 12) local government to declare illegal or informal settlements as to begin the process of regularising these settlements so that services (water, sewerage, electricity, roads and drains) can be of occupancy licences for owners of parcels of land in these settlements.
  • The Lands Act (Chapter 184, Volume 12). This Lands Act streamlines the previous land categories into two main categories: state and customary land. The Act provides for the continuation of leaseholds and leasehold tenure. It further provides for the statutory recognition of customary tenure and for the continuation of customary into leasehold tenure.


A new report by the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR), a catholic think-tank, has raised alarm over the high cost of housing in medium density areas across Zambia, especially in the capital city, Lusaka. This situation is making decent housing unaffordable to the majority of Zambians, forcing the poor to reside in poorly constructed houses with inadequate space to decently accommodate all family members.

The JCTR through its Satellite Homes Research, a qualitative survey of living conditions in high density areas of Lusaka, has over time revealed that this right is ignored. “While it is irrefutable that housing is a basic need, the adequacy of it is perceived to be a luxury and often ignored,” said Miniva Chibuye, coordinator of the JCTR Social Conditions programme. The right to adequate housing has specifically been enunciated under article 25(1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and codified in other major international agreements. The Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights provides, in part, that “Parties to the present Covenant recognise the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions.”


Shelter, forms one of the most basic human rights that every national must enjoy and it is from that background that the leadership acknowledges the need to provide good and affordable housing that should benefit all, regardless of status in society. A recent article by the IRIN, via All Africa news, highlights the growing Zambian housing crisis. The article describes operations by the PF Government to eliminate illegal housing developments.

According to the article, “In September 2012 about 100 middle-class houses were pulled down in Lusaka. Over 50 houses were demolished in the Zamtan shanty area of Kitwe, Copperbelt Province, and in Eastern Province, about 100 houses in a forest reserve of the provincial capital, Chipata, have been identified for destruction.” The PF Government responded to outrage of the destruction by saying, ”….constructing houses on private land and in undesignated areas should not blame the government for having their structures pulled down.” The housing shortage throughout Zambia, and particularly in Lusaka, cannot be ignored any longer. There is a huge shortage of housing for the middle class, as rents in the urban centres can be staggering. How can the average Zambian afford decent housing? This is what has led to this problem.

The solution is obviously not to construct illegal housing, but it should be a priority of the PF government to identify a solution on this issue that works for everyone. More affordable housing needs to become available, and this need will only continue to grow.



Poverty, illiteracy, HIV/AIDS, unemployment and other dismal conditions are widespread and severe in various settlements and the condition of human resource is dismal. The inadequate economic opportunities facing the residents are insufficient to meet their daily needs. In recognition of this situation, and the constraints facing the majority of residents and in line with Government’s programme of empowering citizens, Human Settlements of Zambia has been championing the cause to support to mitigate some of the dismal conditions in settlements. This strategy is part of the overall strategy of poverty reduction among Zambians in general for vulnerable groups such as the

  • Joungpeople
  • Old people
  • Women


Social and economic aspects


Zambia’s property values in the country have virtually doubled in the past six months, but “the world of real estate in Zambia is very different to that in South Africa ,” says Janet Irwin, owner of the Homenet Hollywood office in Zambia.

“Dealing in real estate was banned here during Kenneth Kaunda’s 25-year regime. Indeed, we only opened our agency doors when President Chiluba came into power. It is thus a very young industry and land can generally only be bought on a 99-year leasehold basis, excluding property in game parks or tourist areas where leases are restricted to around 14 years.” “And for a foreigner to own land you either have to establish a company with a Zambian partner as the major shareholder or come in as an investor with a minimum of US$50 000.” However, large companies investing in commercial ventures in Zambia and representatives of NGOs, embassies and the UN predominantly rent any accommodation they need, giving rise to a strong rental market. “And this creates opportunities for SA investors. High rentals ensure that they get a good return, about 8 percent on residential property and between 12 and 15 percent on commercial property,” says Irwin “In addition, we are now overcoming another snag; the lack of any mortgage availability in Zambia. Barclays has now launched a home loan scheme based on the Zambian kwacha (with 1 million kwacha being roughly equal to R2000), at interest of about 28 percent.”

Residential property prices in Zambia start at around US$250k. A decent four-bedroom home with a pool in a good area will, however, cost some US$350k, and bring in a rental of around US$2000 to US$2500 a month. Sectional title units are not yet available individually and investors would currently have to buy whole complexes.



– Slums

Unplanned settlements have become an integral part of urban development and are home to over 70 percent of the urban population. Urban growth is mainly being absorbed into informal settlements. The settlements are generally characterised by inadequate shelter, lack of services and inadequate waste management.

Lack of essential infrastructure and services make the residents of unplanned urban settlements vulnerable to ill health, particularly because of inadequate access to clean water and safe sanitation facilities. The quality of environmental conditions in the settlements degenerates progressively with an increasing population. Secure tenure must be provided for residents of regularised unplanned settlements in order to facilitate development and the urban upgrading processes.

The means of securing land tenure must be simplified, to become affordable and locally manageable. The existing legislation must be reviewed and harmonised in order to free it from inappropriate planning standards, and to encourage private sector participation in housing delivery schemes. Corruption in land allocation must be tackled as a matter of urgency. A peri-urban upgrading strategy based on sustainable service provision must be developed and implemented.

– Various Housing Problems

The majority of citizens face mounting economic problems characterised by lack of/and or low incomes, limited employment opportunities, high levels of malnutrition, widowhood, orphan hood, child and female-headed households, illiteracy, ill-health, poor living and health conditions, discrimination in decision-making and resource control and allocation and poor housing, inadequate safe water supply, poor sanitation.

Within this group, inequalities exist in form of increasing burden of workload and poverty on women than men, violence against women and girls and inequalities in decision-making at household level.


The Housing problem in Zambia today would have potential of developing into a social catastrophe so big and with long lasting negative implications if Government paid only lip service and stood with arms akimbo doing nothing about it. Luckily, Government through its line ministry, the ministry of Local Government and Housing and appropriate agencies have shown great commitment in ensuring that they mitigate the problem through timely interventions.

Cultural aspects – Religious – Symbolic

Environmental aspects

According to Environment and Development publication by Sage Publications, Finance for Low Income Housing, Vol. 19 No. 2 (ISBN: 0956-2478), October 2007; Pp. 486.

The situation of the poor is characterised by a combination of features related to the settlements in which they live (lack of infrastructure and services, unsafe physical environments, often high levels of overcrowding and living in an illegal settlement), an incapacity to flourish in the cash economy, and the denial of legal and political rights. All too often, people squat in dangerous locations such as unstable hillsides or flood plains because this is the only undeveloped land within their reach. The price they have to pay for plots or for housing is much increased by the absence of any policy that supports the availability of legal, serviced land for housing.

Faced with these high costs, poor quality services and often the risk of eviction, the poor need to work collectively both to improve infrastructure and services that they can afford and to pressure the state into some form of redistribution and support. This rising number of vulnerability in land ownership, land availability coupled with evictions and demolitions that accompany such require some interventions and legal protection. For how does one explain leaving a particular family in the cold?

Bibliography & Sitography




  • HUMAN SETTLEMENTS OF ZAMBIA – HUZA The overall development objective being pursued by HUZA is the improvement of the dismal living and human conditions and participatory governance in development processes from a rural perspective. This is being done through the following programmes/projects: Environment and ecological issues education- Environment and natural resource preservation, management and development including advocacy for safer environmental impact practices (EIAs) and climate change dynamics ; Public health ; Self help housing and squatter upgrading ; Women in development through training and income-generating activities ; Youth and women’s training in life saving skills and practices ; Health and nutrition education and population issues ; Self-help water projects-provision of water boreholes ; Self-help urban basic infrastructure [health centres, skills training centres] construction and maintenance through community self-help initiatives ; Sanitation management and promotion of improved pit latrines ; Pre-school and adult education ; Leadership and local capacity building (for Resident Development Committees (RDCs) for human resource and development ; Good urban governance ; Provision of free legal advice and aid to victims of displacement, house demolitions, property, land tenure, tenancy and settlements ; Community based mainstreaming of Educational for All (EFA) goals through support to orphans and vulnerable children. Contact by mail
  • ZAMBIAN HOMELESS PEOPLE’S FEDERATION = the federation has created collaborative partnerships with the Zambian government which have led to urban poor communities receiving technical support on housing and infrastructure development. Presently, the federation is currently turning its attention towards sanitation issues as it searches for viable sanitation solutions for the urban poor. Website
  • HABITAT FOR HUMANITY ZAMBIA = from 1984, the association is working. On Habitat’s conventional building program, HFH Zambia focuses on building the capacity of communities that have demonstrated a need to better their housing conditions. This model encompasses full new houses, renovations and rehabilitations. The homeowners contribute sweat equity and building materials in order to reduce the loan amount. Social cohesion is promoted through the affiliate program. Most of the program’s houses are built using burnt bricks and corrugated iron roofing sheets. The houses are simple but high quality, with separate sleeping, cooking and living areas. The design is such that homeowners have the option of extending the house in the future. In addition to its conventional building program, under the Vulnerable Group Housing (VGH) program HFH Zambia provides appropriate, subsidized housing solutions to vulnerable groups in Zambia and it specifically concentrates on orphaned and vulnerable children (OVC) and their caregivers. WebsiteContact them.