Neha Patil (Editor)

Demographics of Zimbabwe

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This article is about the demographic features of the population of Zimbabwe, including population density, ethnicity, education level, health of the populace, economic status, religious affiliations and other aspects of the population.


Map of Zimbabwe


The population of Zimbabwe has grown during the 20th century in accordance with the model of a developing country with high birth rates and falling death rates, resulting in relatively high population growth rate (around 3% or above in the 1960s and early 1970s). After a spurt in the period 1980-1983 following independence, a decline in birth rates set in. Since 1991, however, there has been a jump in death rates from a low of 10 per 1000 in 1985 to a high of 25 per 1000 in 2002/2003. It has since subsided to just under 22 per 1000 (estimate for 2007) a little below the birth rate of around 27 per 1000.

The high death rate is due to the impact of AIDS, which is by far the main cause of death. This leads to a small natural increase of around 0.5%. However, outward migration rates of around 1.5% or more have been experienced for over a decade, therefore actual population changes are uncertain. Because of the high number of unaccounted emigrants, the recent increase of emigration and the death toll from AIDS, the total population might be declining to as low as 8 million according to some estimates.

Current estimates

Based on a 2010 revision of World Population Prospects, the population of Zimbabwe was estimated by the United Nations at 12,576,000 in 2010. About 38.9% comprised youths under 15, while another 56.9% grouped persons aged between 15 and 65 years. Only around 4.2% of citizens were apparently over 65.

Vital statistics

Registration of vital events in Zimbabwe is not complete. The Population Department of the United Nations prepared the following estimates.

Fertility and Births

Total Fertility Rate (TFR) (Wanted Fertility Rate) and Crude Birth Rate (CBR):

Fertility data as of 2010-2011 (DHS Program):

Ethnic groups

According to 2012 Census report, 99.7% of the population is of African origin. Of the rest of the population, the great bulk—perhaps 30,000 persons—are white Zimbabweans of European ancestry, a minority which had already diminished in size prior to independence.

The vast black majority has grown at a projected annual rate of 4.3% since 1980. Although present figures are difficult to ascertain, the white community once reproduced itself at an annual rate (under 1.5%) similar to that of most totals in developed nations. Of the two major ethnolinguistic categories, Shona speakers formed a decisive plurality and occupied the eastern two-thirds of Zimbabwe. Ndebele speakers constitute about 16%, and none of the other indigenous ethnic groups came to as much as 2% in recent decades. African speakers of nonindigenous languages included migrant workers from Malawi, Zambia, and Mozambique.

Three-quarters of white Zimbabweans are of British or British diasporan origin; at various times many emigrated from South Africa and elsewhere. After World War II, Zimbabwe (then Southern Rhodesia) received a substantial influx of emigrants from the United Kingdom—a handful previously resided in other colonies such as Pakistan and Kenya. Also represented on a much smaller scale were individuals of Afrikaner, Greek, and Portuguese origin. After Rhodesia's Unilateral Declaration of Independence in 1965, Ian Smith's administration removed technical obstacles to immigration from southern Europe.

A heavily urbanised Coloured population is descended, partially, from early unions between White Rhodesian settlers and local Black African females. Many, however, can also trace their ancestry to the Dutch/Khoisan mulatto clans of the Cape.

With the exception of a select few who were brought to Zimbabwe as railroad workers, most Asians in Zimbabwe arrived from India pursuing employment or entrepreneurship. An educated class, they have traditionally engaged in retail trade or manufacturing.


Zimbabwe has 16 official languages: Chewa, Tonga, Chibarwe, English, Kalanga, Koisan, Nambya, Ndau, Ndebele, Shangani, Shona, sign language, Sotho, Tonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa. English is also one of the official language of Zimbabwe and is widely used in administration, law and schools, though less than 2.5%, mainly the white and Coloured (mixed race) minorities, consider it their native language. The rest of the population speak Shona (70%) and Ndebele (20%), Kalanga (2%), etc. Shona has a rich oral tradition, which was incorporated into the first Shona novel, Feso by Solomon Mutswairo, published in 1956. English is spoken primarily in the cities, but less so in rural areas. Television news is broadcast in English, Shona and Ndebele though the local languages time slot falls out of prime viewing time, but radio broadcasts in English, Ndebele, Shona, Kalanga, Nambya, Venda, Suthu and Tonga. English, Ndebele and Shona are given far more airtime.


85 percent of Zimbabweans are Christian, and of that number, 61 percent regularly attend Christian churches. The largest Christian churches are Anglican, Roman Catholic, and Methodist. However like most former European colonies, Christianity is often mixed with enduring traditional beliefs. Besides Christianity, ancestral worship (Amadlozi) is the most practised non-Christian religion which involves ancestor worship and spiritual intercession. Under 1% of the population is Muslim, although many Zimbabweans are influenced by Islamic food laws.


According to the United Nations World Health Organization, the average life expectancy for men in 2006 was 37 years and for women was 34 years of age, the lowest in the world at the time. An association of doctors in Zimbabwe have made calls for President Mugabe to make moves to assist the ailing health service. Since then it has recovered, and the figures for 2010 to 2015 were 53 and 54 for men and women respectively.

Ethnic groups

  • African 99.4% (predominantly Shona; Ndebele is the second largest ethnic group)
  • Other 0.4%
  • Unspecified 0.2% (2012 est.)
  • Languages

  • Shona (official; most widely spoken), Ndebele (official, second most widely spoken), English (official; traditionally used for official business), 13 minority languages (official; includes Chewa, Chibarwe, Kalanga, Koisan, Nambya, Ndau, Shangani, sign language, Sotho, Tonga, Tswana, Venda, and Xhosa)
  • Religions

  • Protestant 75.9% (includes Apostolic 38%, Pentecostal 21.1%, other 16.8%)
  • Roman Catholic 8.4%
  • Other Christian 8.4%
  • Other 1.2% (includes Traditional, Islam)
  • None 6.1% (2011 est.)
  • Population

  • 13,182,908 (July 2013 est.)
  • Population growth rate

  • 4.357% (2012 est.)
  • Birth rate

  • 32.19 births/1,000 population (2012 est.)
  • Death rate

  • 12.38 deaths/1,000 population (2012 est.)
  • Net migration rate

  • 23.77 migrants/1,000 population (2012).There is an increasing flow of Zimbabweans into South Africa and Botswana in search of better economic opportunities.
  • Urbanization

  • urban population: 3.8% of total population (2010)
  • rate of urbanization: 3.4% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)
  • Sex ratio

    (2011 est.)

  • at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female
  • under 15 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
  • 15-64 years: 0.92 male(s)/female
  • 65 years and over: 0.70 male(s)/female
  • total population: 0.95 male(s)/female
  • Percentage of population malnourished

  • 45%
  • AIDS

  • Adult prevalence rate
  • 15.3% (2007)
  • 33.7% (2001 est.)
  • 25% (1999 estimate).
  • People living with HIV/AIDS
  • 1.3 million (2007 est.)
  • 2.3 million (2001 est.)
  • Deaths
  • 140,000 (2007 est.)
  • 200,000 (2001 est.)
  • 160,000 annually (1999 estimate).
  • Life expectancy at birth

  • (2012 est.)
  • total population** 51.82 years
  • male** 51.95 years
  • female** 51.68 years
  • (2010)
  • total population** 47.55 years
  • male** 47.98 years
  • female** 47.11 years
  • (2000)
  • total population** 37.78 years
  • male** 39.18 years
  • female** 36.34 years
  • Total fertility rate

  • Official fertility rates over the past decade were 3.6 (2002 Census), 3.8 (2006 survey also says women actually wanted on average 3.3 children) and 3.8 (2012 Census).
  • Physicians density

  • 0.16 physicians/1,000 population (2004)
  • Hospital bed density

  • 1.7 beds/1,000 population (2011)
  • Obesity - adult prevalence rate

  • 15.7% (2005)
  • Children under the age of 5 years underweight

  • 10.1% (2011)
  • Education expenditures

  • 2.5% GDP (2011)
  • Literacy

  • definition* age 15 and over can read and write English
  • total population* 90.7% (2003 est.), 85% (2000 est.)
  • male* 94.2% (2003 est.), 90% (2000 est.)
  • female* 87.2% (2003 est.), 80% (1995 est.)
  • Nationality

  • noun: Zimbabwean(s)
  • adjective: Zimbabwean
  • References

    Demographics of Zimbabwe Wikipedia

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