Zambia, unlike most of its neighbours, has managed to avoid the war and upheaval that has marked much of Africa's post-colonial history, earning itself a reputation for political stability.
The landlocked country has experienced rapid economic growth over the last decade as Africa's second largest copper producer after the DR Congo. But its over-reliance on copper has made it vulnerable to falling commodity prices.
Zambia also has one of the world's fastest growing populations with the UN projecting that its population will triple by 2050.
But economic growth and massive Chinese investment have failed to improve the lives of most Zambians, with two-thirds still living in poverty.
President: Hakainde Hichilema
Hakainde Hichilema won a landslide victory over the incumbent president, Edgar Lungu, in the August 2021 elections. He is the first president elected from the liberal opposition United Party for National Development, having stood for the post a number of times before.
Mr Lungu struggled to revive an economy hit by a slump in the price of copper, and defaulted on Zambia's international debts during the Covid-19 crisis.
His dependence on Chinese investment was controversial, and Mr Hilichema has said he will seek broader foreign investment.
President Lungu also became less tolerant of opposition and ordered the arrest of Mr Hilichema on treason charges in 2017, sparking criticism at home and abroad.
Radio is the main news source. State-run ZNBC operates alongside private stations.
The government uses financial pretexts or laws on defamation to prosecute journalists, says Reporters Without Borders.
Some key dates in Zambia's history:
1889 - Britain establishes control over Northern Rhodesia.
1960 - Independence struggle: Kenneth Kaunda launches United National Independence Party (UNIP).
1964 - Independence: Northern Rhodesia renamed Zambia, President Kaunda rules for next 27 years.
1972 - One-party state: Kaunda's UNIP becomes the only legal party until 1991.
1991 - First multi-party elections in 23 years, Frederick Chiluba's Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) wins.
1997 - Attempted coup. Former President Kaunda is arrested but later walks free.
2001 - President Chiluba steps down over opposition to his bid to run for an unconstitutional third term.
2021 - Opposition leader Hakainde Hilichema wins landslide in presidential election.