Lusaka (AFP) - Zambia, which holds general and presidential elections on Thursday, is a copper-rich nation in southern Africa that has been hit by falling global commodity prices.
The leading candidates are interim President Edgar Lungu of the Patriotic Front (PF), who narrowly won election in January 2015 and Hakainde Hichilema of the United Party for National Development (UPND). The last election took place after the sudden death of president Michael Sata.
Zambia, known as Northern Rhodesia under British rule, has been billed as an African success story.
But a sharp decline in copper prices and weaker exports to China, a key trading partner, along with a series of government policy reversals, have undermined international investor confidence.
Here is a brief look at the country.
- Economy: Copper is king -
Copper accounts for more than 70 percent of Zambian exports, making it the second biggest producer in Africa after the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the eighth producer in the world.
But a drop in copper prices of almost one-third from their peak in February 2011 caused the national currency, the kwacha, to fall in value against the dollar by 42 percent last year.
The International Monetary Fund estimates that inflation will spike to 22.5 percent in 2016 before dropping back to around 9.9 percent next year.
Annual economic growth that reached seven percent in 2010-2014 is forecast at 3.4 percent this year and 4.8 percent in 2017.
Zambia also faces serious energy problems, with an erratic supply of electricity due to poor rains and low water levels in the Kariba dam.
That has hurt heavy industries like copper mines and caused massive blackouts last year in eight provinces, including the capital Lusaka.
Most of the copper companies are owned by foreign, notably Chinese investors.
The country's major crops are sugar cane, maize, tobacco, peanuts and cotton.
- Stubborn poverty -
Despite its economic potential, 60 percent of Zambia's 16.2 million population live in poverty, according to the World Bank "and 42 percent are considered to be in extreme poverty".
The number of poor has risen owing to a rapidly growing population.
Per capita gross national income was $1,500 in 2015, down from $1,750 in 2013, World Bank data shows, and life expectancy stands at 61 years.
In 2014, roughly 1.15 million people were estimated to have contracted HIV/AIDS in Zambia, the ninth highest level worldwide, according to the CIA Factbook.
In addition to its own population, Zambia hosts hundreds of thousands of refugees from elsewhere in Africa.
It covers 752,614 square kilometres (291,000 square miles), making it larger than France and slightly smaller than Turkey.
- The Victoria Falls -
Zambia is the home of several animal reserves but its main tourist attraction is the Victoria Falls, one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the world.
Located on the Zambezi River, the fourth largest river in Africa, the Falls lie on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, and both countries share the flow of tourists.
Situated a dozen kilometres from the Victoria Falls, the tourist town of Livingstone was the former capital of Northern Rhodesia at the time of British colonisation.
It takes its name from David Livingstone, the first European to explore the region.