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Formerly the British Colony of Northern Rhodesia, Zambia lies landlocked in southern Africa, sharing borders with Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Zambian economy was transformed in the 1920s and 1930s by the discovery of rich underground ores along a strip of land near to the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. As these deposits were opened up to large scale mining, people migrated from all across the country to the area which became known as the "Copperbelt".

When the mining of copper in the region began, Kitwe was just a small township but the rise in copper prices in the 1950s led to a rapid increase in the population. Kitwe is now the second largest city in Zambia; only the capital Lusaka, 180 miles to the south, is larger. In recent years, as the price of copper has fallen, the city has tried to develop other industries as well.

Kitwe today faces many of the same problems as other cities in southern Africa, most notably poverty, HIV and AIDS. Since the privatisation of the copper mining industry, which has taken place since the implementation of multi-party politics in Zambia, Kitwe has suffered with massive unemployment, as far fewer people are now employed in the mining industry. The development of three good hotels and a vastly improved road network has aided the city's transition to a more diverse economy.

The district of Chimwemwe, about ten kilometres from the city centre, is where the Margaret Bell School is located. Many of the people are unemployed or retired, and many of those who are working have their own small businesses, such as market stall and doing gardening work. Many of the people in live in shanty compounds, and poverty is widespread.