Zambia’s economy has traditionally been based on its mineral wealth, with copper mining being the leading industry. Many expats come to the country for jobs in this sector, or financial services. Although the economy was unstable between the 1970s and 1990s, an influx of foreign investment in mining and rising copper prices have helped it stabilize.
The country is still trying to reform its economy to make it more efficient and productive. The size and cost of the public sector is unsustainable, and social sector delivery needs vast improvements and reform. Economic regulations, red tape, and corruption are all widespread and despite improvements, 68% of Zambians live below the national poverty line, rising to 78% in rural areas.
There is an economic diversification program in place to reduce the country’s dependence on the copper industry by focusing on other resources to promote tourism, agriculture, gemstone mining, and hydro-power. This means there are job opportunities for expats in these new and growing sectors. The headquarters for the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) is also located in Lusaka, reflecting the city's growing importance as a finance hub.
In order to work in Zambia, you will need to apply for a work permit before you enter the country. If you are being recruited by a Zambian employer, they will need to apply to the chief immigration officer for your permit, and will have to prove that there are no suitably qualified Zambians that could fill the position.
Expats need to submit an application form signed by their employer, a resume, copies of all qualifications, a letter of intent, and the letter offering employment or even better the signed contract. Although it varies according to the nature of the job, work permits are usually initially issued for a maximum of two years, although they can subsequently be renewed for a maximum of five years.
For full advice and up-to-date information on the procedure of obtaining a work permit, expats are advised to contact the nearest Zambian embassy or consulate.
The tax system in Zambia is quite complicated, and there are frequent changes to the rules. Generally you’ll be liable to pay tax if you’ve been resident in Zambia for more than 183 days in a tax year, and derive income from sources in the country.
The amount of tax you pay and whether it’s due in Zambia, your home country, or both is also dependent on the type of contract you have. For example, if you’re an independent contractor, you may be eligible for certain tax advantages. It is advisable to seek specialist advice to determine the amount of tax you’re liable for, and to submit your return correctly and on time.