Definition of Youth

The National Youth Policy (2006) defines youth in Zambia as 18-25 years.


Marriageable Age

  • Opposite Sex
  • Same Sex
  • Without parental consent
  • with parental consent
  • Male
  • 21
  • --
  • XX
  • Female
  • 21
  • --
  • XX

  • No data for marriage with parental consent. Homosexual acts illegal. Source: UNSD, ILGA

Candidacy Age

Criminal Responsibility

Minimum Age
Source:  Penal Code of Zambia

Majority Age


Definitions of majority age vary by law. Customary law states that majority is achieved at puberty. Source: UN Child Rights Periodic Report (2001)

Voting Age


Situation of Young People

Literacy Rates

Both sexes (15-24) %
  • 69.43% Male (15-24) %
  • 62.13% Female (15-24) %

Net Enrolment Rate

Secondary School
Both sexes %
  • --Male %
  • -- Female %
  • Year: No data.
  • Source: UNESCO

Situation of Young People

Prevalence of HIV

Male (15-24) %
Female (15-24) %

Tobacco Use

Consumed any smokeless or smoking tobacco product at least once 30 days prior to the survey.
Both sexes (13-15) %
  • 25.70% Male (13-15) %
  • 25.60% Female (13-15) %
  • Year: 2010
  • Source: WHO

Policy & Legislation

Is there a national youth policy?
The national youth policy of Zambia from 2006, is under review. A previous one is from 1994.

The core principle of the National Youth Policy (2006) has a core principle of

“…a holistic integrated approach that ensures coverage of the most critical elements in youth development [...] through comprehensive and multi-sectoral plans for integrating youth and working with them as partners in national development.”
Objectives of the policy include mitigating the impacts of HIV/AIDS, participation in policy development & implementation, access to ICTs, respect of cultural & customary values, education, offender rehabilitation and achieving the MDGs.

As a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, Zambia is a signatory of The Commonwealth Plan of Action for Youth Empowerment (PAYE) 2006-2015.

Zambia has signed and ratified the African Youth Charter (2006).

Public Institutions

Is there a governmental authority
(ministry, department or office) that is primarily responsible for youth?
The Ministry of Youth and Sports (previously called the Ministry of Sports, Youth and Child Development) is referenced by a recent news article, but little information about the ministry can be found online. A State of the Nation Report on Young People in Zambia (2012) references the Ministry of Youth and Labour as a source of primary data collection, but no other references to this Ministry could be found.

Youth and Representation

Does the country have a national youth organisation / association (council, platform, body)?
The National Youth Development Council Act (1994) created the NYDC to:
  • Advise the Minister on youth development programmes;
  • Coordinate youth activities;
  • Assist and encourage youth development organisations and programmes;
  • Evaluate and implement youth programmes;
  • Initiate, operate and manage youth development projects;
  • Registering and monitoring youth organisations in Zambia.
A 2012 report cites that despite the National Youth Policy aiming to strengthen the council, “NYDC still lacks the recognition it deserves in the Zambia Youth Sector”.

Budget & Spending

What is the budget allocated to the governmental authority (ministry, department or office) that is primarily responsible for youth and/or youth programming?
No documentation on the budget for youth in Zambia could be found online. According to the World Bank, Zambia spent 1.35% of its GDP on education in 2008, but does not calculate what this translates to in terms of percentage of government expenditure.
Total Expenditure on Education as a Percentage of Government Spending and GDP

  • % of GDP
  • % of gov. expenditure

Source: World Bank
Gaps indicate missing data from the original data source. (Accessed May 2014).

Additional Background

From The State of the Nation Report on Young People in Zambia (2012):  
The population of Zambia stood at 9.9 million in 2000, was estimated at 13.3 million in 2010 and is projected to increase to 15.5 million by 2015, based on an annual growth rate of 2.4 percent. At this growth rate, the population is expected to double by 2030.
Young Zambians have continued to face challenges including high levels of unemployment and poverty. They have been socially, economically and politically alienated from the mainstream of national development and worse still, young people are faced with a huge burden from the HIV and AIDS epidemic and inadequate sexual reproductive services. The educational system is seen to be inadequate - it does not guarantee continued education for youth and there has not been a proper attempt to determine and understand the problems young people are actually facing.
There are gaps in institutions dealing with young people, with many organisations operating as representatives of youth but not really standing for the needs of the young people in the country. The youth sector has suffered limited cooperation, hence the failure to unite and champion a common cause for young people in the country. Youth programmes in Zambia are also affected by a number of other hindering factors, such as poor information flow from government and other stakeholders, poor access to information for young people, especially in rural settings, and limited participation in decision making by young people. This has resulted in poor coordination and networking of youth programmes. There are, however, many youth organisations that are actually on the ground championing the youth cause, advocating for better representation of young people in different positions involved in decision making. Zambia still faces a huge challenge in terms of ensuring that young people are adequately represented, so that their input is actually put across and they are decision makers themselves, because they have the potential and capability…
Young people in Zambia remain faced with visible challenges, and being in the majority in terms of numbers, the challenges faced by the country affect them more widely. This report looks at the state of young people in Zambia and puts across recommendations for the betterment of young people in the country.
  Civic Participation  
Youth participation in decision making of any nation is critical for meaningful development. Young people in Zambia have the chance of standing as Councillors and Members of Parliament and to basically contribute in any way possible in their communities. It has, however, been argued that that young people are not represented enough - they are not consulted even on issues that affect them. The National Youth Policy (2006) advocates for youth participation at all levels of public and private sector planning in political decision making bodies through close cooperation between government and non-governmental organisations. The image of young people is beginning to undergo a positive shift, but they themselves should be able to stand for what they know they can do and prove themselves.
Despite the assertions that the Zambia economy has been growing at about 6% in recent years, the reality is that many young people have no stable and sustainable ways to support themselves. In the rural settings, the majority of young people depend on agriculture. The education system does not seem to sustain young people, as many are cut out from it without the necessary skills to maintain their livelihoods. Therefore, young people have limited options to sustain themselves, and this has been cited by many researchers as the major contributing factors to risky behaviours ranging from theft to drug and alcohol abuse. Measures to empower youth include enterprise development, micro financing, resettlement schemes, and rehabilitation and youth training programmes. However there is a lack of implementation of such initiatives, and thus many young people remain without meaningful options, while those who have attained a certain level of education still wallow in the poverty that affects the rest of the population.
  Sexual and Reproductive Health  
Since the early 1980s, Zambia, along with the rest of the world, has been faced with the challenge of HIV and AIDS. The HIV/AIDS pandemic has been a devastating public health problem in Zambia and has drastically hindered the country‟s economic development. The Government of the Republic of Zambia, with support from NGOs, local and international partners, has made concerted and sustained efforts to control the spread of the disease.18 Strides have been achieved in terms of more people having access to treatment and the response having been greatly intensified. However, Zambia still has the challenge of ensuring prevention of new infections, discrimination and universal access to treatment. The 2011 World AIDS Day came up with the challenge of counting down to Zero: Zero HIV related deaths, Zero discrimination, Zero cases of Mother to Child Transmission. Apart from HIV and AIDS, young people are faced with lack of access to STI Treatment, limited sexual education and limited access to adequate health care.