The population comprises approximately 73 ethnic groups, most of which are Bantu-speaking. Almost 90% of Zambians belong to the nine main ethnolinguistic groups: the Nyanja-Chewa, Bemba, Tonga, Tumbuka, Lunda, Luvale, Kaonde, Nkoya and Lozi. In the rural areas, each ethnic group is concentrated in a particular geographic region of the country and many groups are very small and not as well known. However, all the ethnic groups can be found in significant numbers in Lusaka and the Copperbelt.
Immigrants, mostly British or South African, as well as some white Zambian citizens of British descent, live mainly in Lusaka and in the Copperbelt in northern Zambia, where they are either employed in mines, financial and related activities or retired. There were 70,000 Europeans in Zambia in 1964, but many have since left the country.
Zambia has a small but economically important Asian population, most of whom are Indians and Chinese. There are 13,000 Indians in Zambia. This minority group has a massive impact on the economy controlling the manufacturing sector. An estimated 80,000 Chinese are resident in Zambia. In recent years, several hundred dispossessed white farmers have left Zimbabwe at the invitation of the Zambian government, to take up farming in the Southern province.
Zambia also has a small minority of coloureds who hail from a mixed race African and British background. There is also a small minority of Indian coloureds resulting from relationships between mainly Indian fathers and black Zambian mothers. During colonialism, segregation separated coloureds, blacks and whites in public places including in schools, hospitals and in housing. Although majority of coloureds in Zambia are the product of British men and Zambian women who then continued to marry into other coloured families, there has been an increase of interracial relationships today due to Zambia’s growing economy bringing in other races such as Chinese and other European countries, producing a new first generation of coloured children. Coloureds are not currently recorded on the census but are considered a minority in Zambia.
According to the World Refugee Survey 2009 published by the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, Zambia had a population of refugees and asylum seekers numbering approximately 88,900. The majority of refugees in the country came from the Democratic Republic of Congo (47,300 refugees from the DRC living in Zambia in 2007), Angola (27,100; see Angolans in Zambia), Zimbabwe (5,400) and Rwanda (4,900).
Beginning in May 2008, the number of Zimbabweans in Zambia also began to increase significantly; the influx consisted largely of Zimbabweans formerly living in South Africa who were fleeing xenophobic violence there. Nearly 60,000 refugees live in camps in Zambia, while 50,000 are mixed in with the local populations. Refugees who wish to work in Zambia must apply for official permits which can cost up to $500 per year.