12 Things You Didn’t Know About the Economy of the Zambezi River

By Keren Mikva Published: June 30, 2016, 4:50 pm
Hunting safari in Zimbabwe's Zambezi region nets a massive croc. Photo: BaobabHunting.co.za

The Zambezi River is the fourth-longest river in Africa, and enormously important to the economies of countries it runs through. Zambia, Angola, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique get bountiful economic and tourist opportunities. Here are some economic aspects of the Zambezi River, and how it sustains life in the river basin.

Sources: RiverSymposium.com, NationalGeographic.com, Britannica.com, NewWorldEncyclopedia.org, WorldBank.org, Quod.Lib.UMich.edu, ZambiaToruism.com, VictoriaFalls-Guide.net, Grida.no, InternationalRivers.org

The Kariba Dam, on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe Kids.Britannica.com

The Kariba Dam, on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe
Kids.Britannica.com

The Zambezi River accounts for the hydropower capacity in Southern Africa

The two main sources of hydroelectric power on the river can be found at the Kariba Dam, providing power to Zambia and Zimbabwe, and the Cahora Bassa Dam, powering Mozambique and South Africa. There is also a smaller power station at Victoria Falls, which generates some additional power to Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Maize crops in the Zambezi River Basin in Zambia FAO.org

Maize crops in the Zambezi River Basin in Zambia
FAO.org

80% of the Zambezi-area population depends on agriculture

An estimated 32 million people live in the Zambezi river valley, the vast majority depending on agriculture for their livelihoods. Fortunately, the flood plains along the river provide fertile land for farming.

Fishermen at work on Lake Kariba Yahoo.com

Fishermen at work on Lake Kariba
Yahoo.com

Commercial fisheries make up another important aspect of the Zambezi river basin economy

Lake Malawi, which lies within the basin, offers plentiful fishing opportunities, and plays host to many commercial fisheries. The Lake Cahora Bassa is known for its kapenta fishing rigs, and large populations of cichlids, catfish, tiger fish, and yellow fish are fished heavily for food.

A tourist holds up the tiger fish he caught on the Upper Zambezi WildmanSafaris.com

A tourist holds up the tiger fish he caught on the Upper Zambezi
WildmanSafaris.com

Game fishing is popular along the Zambezi

Some companies cater fishing safari tours for those looking to fish exotic species specific to the Zambezi region, especially tiger fish, while others go out on their own to fish. Some towns leading up to the river, particularly in Zambia, have been known to levy unofficial “fish taxes” on those taking fish to other parts of the country.

Zambezi Gas at work mining coal in the river basin region SouthernEye.co.zw

Zambezi Gas at work mining coal in the river basin region
SouthernEye.co.zw

Coal mining is prevalent and controversial in the Zambezi basin

Coal mining in the Zambezi river basin, particularly in Mozambique, has long been a profitable and controversial industry. While it has largely been determined that the mining has little impact on the main streams of the Zambezi, towns along its tributaries have to deal with contaminated waters from acid mine drainage, threatening both the biodiversity of the region as well as human health.

The site of Zambezi Resources' Kangaluwi Copper Project in the Lower Zambezi National Park MiningNewsZambia.com

The site of Zambezi Resources’ Kangaluwi Copper Project in the Lower Zambezi National Park
MiningNewsZambia.com

Copper mining recently began in the Lower Zambezi National Park

The Copper belt in Northern Zambia is well known for copper production, but recently, many areas were protected from mining activities. In 2011, Australian-owned company Zambezi Resources received a 25-year license to mine for copper in the Lower Zambezi National Park.

Victoria Falls Places.co.za

Victoria Falls
Places.co.za

Victoria Falls receives over 1.5 million visitors each year

Victoria Falls, also known as Mosi-oa-Tunya, is fed by Zambezi River on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe. One of Africa’s most popular tourist destinations, the falls are considered the largest in the world, with a combined width of 1,708 meters and a height of 108 meters.

Bungee jumping off of the Victoria Falls Bridge ZambeziTours.com

Bungee jumping off of the Victoria Falls Bridge
ZambeziTours.com

Victoria Falls is the backdrop for adrenaline activities

Beyond traveling en masse to view the majestic falls, tourists are drawn to the region for adrenaline activities such as bungee jumping from the famous Victoria Falls Bridge. They can also venture out into the Devil’s Pool, a pool formed by natural rock walls directly on the edge of the towering falls that is only accessible in certain months of the year.

A boat cruise along the waters of the Upper Zambezi ExperienceZimbabwe.com

A boat cruise along the waters of the Upper Zambezi
ExperienceZimbabwe.com

The Zambezi is not fully navigable

Due to sandbars, shallowness, cataracts, and frequent extreme rapids, the Zambezi has never developed as an economically significant trade route. However, there are stretches of the 2,574-kilometer river (1,599 miles) are navigable by shallow-draft steamers, and it is often faster to canoe portions of the river rather than attempt to drive along unimproved roads nearby. The lower Zambezi’s 650 km from Cahora Bassa to the Indian Ocean is navigable, although shallow in many places during the dry season.

A man irrigates his crops in the Zambezi river basin in Angola

A man irrigates his crops in the Zambezi river basin in Angola

8 countries in Zambezi basinhave different water needs

Water-rich countries such as Angola, Mozambique, and Zambia rely less on surface water for irrigation than others that receive less rainfall, such as Namibia, which must rely on groundwater for irrigation. Zambia and Zimbabwe, the countries that hold the majority of the watershed within their borders, are the only two that share in bilateral management of the river.

Rafting down the Batoka Gorge VictoriaFalls.net

Rafting down the Batoka Gorge
VictoriaFalls.net

The Zambezi offers world-class whitewater opportunities

Below Victoria Falls, many kayakers and rafters flock to the Batoka Gorge, where the water flows swiftly through a succession of rapids, in which the river gradually drops 250 meters over the course of approximately 240 kilometers. The intense Class V rapids draw whitewater enthusiasts from all over the world.

A hunting safari in the Zambezi region in Zimbabwe nets its participants a massive crocodile BaobabHunting.co.za

A hunting safari in the Zambezi region in Zimbabwe nets its participants a massive crocodile
BaobabHunting.co.za

Hunting safaris draw tourists to the river basin

The fertile river basin around the Zambezi plays host to a vast variety of wildlife, including hippo, crocodiles, reedbuck, eland, lions, leopards, hyenas, and hundreds of bird species. While some species are protected, hunting safaris are common, with tourists traveling from all over the world to hunt exotic animals in the Zambezi region.

The Zambezi River Nature.org

The Zambezi River
Nature.org

Sign up for the AFKInsider newsletter — the most compelling business news you need to know from Africa and the African diaspora, delivered straight to your inbox.

Tags: , , , , , , ,