Lusaka, the capital of Zambia, was not initially founded as the administrative center of the country. The origin of the city, which was founded in 1905, was related to the extension of the railway line from South Africa through southern Rhodesia to the Broken Hill (Kabwe) mine. During the construction of the railway line, it was decided that sidings would be established at twenty-mile intervals. This process determined the location of Lusaka.
Initially Lusaka was located in the Chilanga subdistrict of the Luangwa district, the headquarters since 1905. The headquarters remained at Chilanga until 1931, when it moved to Lusaka.
In 1913 a village management board for Lusaka was established. During World War I, the area under the jurisdiction of the Village Management Board was extended northward to include areas where considerable suburban development had taken place. The increase in European settlement in the Lusaka area necessitated the enactment of the Lusaka Township Regulations in 1922. Further extension of the administrative area was done in 1928 to the east, where another considerable white settlement had developed.
Europeans were attracted to the area because of cheap land sold by the Northern Copper Company, which did not find any minerals in the area. The township began with a farm settlement by G. B. Marrapodi, an Italian contractor who was granted extensive farm land to the north and northeast of the siding. The Dutch Reformed Church was established on one of Marrapodi’s farms. In 1912 a hotel, which became the Lusaka Hotel, was opened. The growing European and African population necessitated the establishment of an administrative body for Lusaka. By 1931 there were 1,961 Africans and 433 Europeans in Lusaka.
The economy of Lusaka was originally agriculturally based. Lusaka developed into a commercial center for the farming population of the area. Lusaka was emerging as a commercial center, as opposed to an administrative center, for the country.
The status of the region changed in July 1931 when the colonial government decided to build a new capital city in Lusaka, which was chosen for its centrality in the country following the amalgamation of northeastern and northwestern Rhodesia in 1911. Lusaka was subsequently transformed into the country’s capital. The governor and other government departments and officials relocated to Lusaka from Livingstone in 1935.
Because of the outbreak of World War II in 1939, very little was done to implement plans for the new capital in line with Professor S. D. Adshead’s report, which had been submitted in April 1931. However, after the war, Lusaka experienced an influx of European settlers. Lusaka also experienced a growing demand for industrial plots of land. These developments changed the character of Lusaka from a retail commercial center into an industrial town. The Village Management Board was replaced by the Lusaka Management Board, which undertook the expansion of Lusaka in response to the increasing European and African population.
By 1963 it was evident that Lusaka was not a settler city like cities in the south. During the federal period (1953-1963), the African population of Lusaka grew rapidly, forcing the administration to address this increase in development. Lusaka had emerged as a major employment center because of the shift of the seat of the colonial government. After the war, Lusaka had developed heavy industries and bulk storage sites.
When the federation was dissolved in 1963 and Zambia gained its independence in October 1964, Lusaka assumed a new and more powerful status, becoming the capital of Zambia. In anticipation of the coming independence in 1964, Lusaka’s infrastructure was further developed through the construction of the University of Zambia (the first phase was completed in 1965), Lusaka International Airport (completed in 1967), a new national assembly, and the Mulungushi House complex on Independence Avenue to house government departments and ministries. In addition new hotels were built to provide accommodation for the many visitors to the country whose entry port was Lusaka, especially those arriving by air. The University Teaching Hospital, the main referral hospital in the country, is located in Lusaka.
Lusaka was planned as a garden city, to facilitate agricultural activities within the city limits and in the residential areas. However, this concept was increasingly ignored or disregarded by development projects. Areas that were previously left for greenery were built up as pressure for real estate grew in the city, especially during the Second Republic. By the 1990s, Lusaka had lost much of its earlier beauty because of unplanned developments in the city.
Lusaka has hosted several important regional and world conferences. In April 1969 Lusaka hosted the East and Central Africa Summit Conference, which led to the signing of the Lusaka Manifesto on relations with Portugal, Rhodesia, and South Africa. In 1970 Lusaka hosted the Non-Aligned Conference of heads of state and government. The hosting of that conference necessitated the building of the Mulungushi International Conference Center near the National Assembly. In 1995 Lusaka hosted the peace talks between the Angolan government and UNITA, generally referred to as the Lusaka Protocol. In July 1999 Lusaka hosted peace talks between the Democratic Republic of Congo and rebel forces, which culminated in the signing of a ceasefire agreement. These significant events have earned Lusaka the moniker of Africa’s “City of Peace.” In September 1999 Lusaka hosted the eleventh ICASA world conference of AIDS.
Lusaka has grown to a vibrant city of 2 million people. The infrastructure of Lusaka continues to grow and a new shopping complex, the Manda Hill Shopping Mall, was built in 1998-1999. Because of the increase in commercial activities in the city, the business district has expanded, with some companies operating from previously exclusively residential areas.
The growth of Lusaka led to the development of Kafue Township some thirty miles to the south, which operates as Lusaka’s heavy industrial area. Kafue is home to the Kafue Nitrogen Chemicals Company and the Kafue Textiles Company.
Bizeck J. Phiri
See also: Zambia.
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Collins, J. The Myth of the Garden City. Lusaka: UNZA, Institute for Social Research (Zambian Urban Studies No.2), 1969.
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Williams, G. J., ed., Lusaka and Its Environs: A Geographical Study of a Planned Capital City in Tropical Africa. Lusaka: Zambia Geographical Association, 1986.