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: Edgar Lungu
Edgar Lungu became the sixth president of Zambia in January 2015 after winning a narrow election victory to replace former leader Michael Sata, who died in office.
He gained a new term in August 2016.
A former justice and defence minister from the ruling Patriotic Front, Mr Lungu's toughest challenge has been to turn around a slowing economy hit by a slump in copper prices, the country's biggest export.
A trained lawyer, he has worked in both the state and private sectors.
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.
2001-08 - Third President Levy Mwanawasa serves two terms, dies in office.
2011-14 - Fifth President Michael Sata, dies in office.
2015 - Sixth President Edgar Lungu elected.