"The Cinderella of Africa"

By Jheri St. James

Formerly Northern Rhodesia, Zambia is an independent republic in south-central Africa. With an area of 290,584 sq. mi. Zambia is bordered by Zaire on the north; Tanzania on the northeast; Malawi and Mozambique on the east; Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia on the south; and Angola on the west. Zambia has excellent national parks teeming with birds and other animals, as well as the spectacular Victoria Falls and Zambezi River. Apart from sightseeing, these places are also centers for activities ranging from canoeing to white-water rafting and bungee jumping.

Victoria Falls

Neil Stipanich was in Zambia recently and collected soil near this stupendous waterfall known as Victoria Falls. This picture he took is so immediate one feels the spray. Surely soil from a paradise that looks like this must have a peaceful history.

But no, much political dissent and turmoil has cascaded over the falls of history in Zambia, as with all of the countries in the Common Ground 191 project—Gary Simpson’s impetus for this important project. The territory of Northern Rhodesia was administered by the South Africa Company, from 1891 until it was taken over by the UK in 1923. During the 20’s and 30’s, advances in mining spurred development and immigration. The name was changed to Zambia upon reaching independence in 1964. In the 1980’s and 1990’s, declining copper prices and a prolonged drought hurt the economy. Also during the 90’s an end to one-party rule and blatant harassment of opposition parties occurred.

Neil says, “The sides of the river at Victoria Falls were covered in lush vegetation, but the only animals we saw were birds, other than the hippos that lived in the water outside our room (three-sided with one open wall that looked out on the river).

The location was rural, though Livingstone (a moderate sized city) was only five miles away. We saw mostly tourists, not much in the way of industry.”

The Lonely Planet website says, “For independent travelers Zambia is still a challenge—distances are long, and getting around takes persistence, particularly once you get off the main routes. But for many people, the challenge is the main attraction. Without a doubt, in Zambia you come pretty close to finding the ‘real’ Africa. For many years, Zambia was the Cinderella of Africa, often overlooked by tourists and forgotten by the rest of the world as disastrous politics in the 70’s and 80’s led to poverty and virtual breakdown of the country. But by the 90’s the fortunes of Zambia changed, as a massive shift on the political scene led to economic reforms and other improvements.

Sadly, Zambia struggles with HIV/AIDS, as many of its neighboring countries do. Life expectancy is only 35 years, largely because of the 1.8 million people living with this plague. There are also many environmental issues extant in Zambia: air pollution, acid rain, chemical runoffs, poaching of wild life, deforestation, soil erosion, desertification, lack of adequate water treatment.

For anyone unfamiliar with the story, Cinderella was a young girl who was treated as a servant by an evil stepmother and three mean stepsisters. Her name issued from one of her jobs, sweeping up cinders in the fireplace. But, through the intercession of a kindly fairy godmother, Cinderella ended up dressed beautifully at the Prince’s ball. After some suspense involving a glass slipper, she subsequently became the Princess, to the great chagrin of her step-relatives. Perhaps the current progress being made by Zambia is the beginning of a real Cinderella story. No glass slippers needed, but a fairy godmother wouldn’t hurt.







All images and text © Copyright 2018 Common Ground 191 - All rights reserved