Zambia was known as Northern Rhodesia from 1911 to 1964. Namibia was known as German South West Africa (1885–1915) (and later South West Africa (1915–1989). Until 1964, both countries were ruled by white minorities, however, Northern Rhodesia gained independence in 1964, renaming itself Zambia. Subsequently, Zambia supported Namibian efforts towards independence from occupying South Africa. Namibia's primary liberation movement, SWAPO, was based from 1964-1975 out of Lusaka, Zambia's capital. The United Nations Institute for Namibia, which eventually became the University of Namibia, was based in Lusaka. SWAPO cadres received political and military training in the country. Upon independence in March 1990, Namibia and Zambia established diplomatic relations.
From 2004-2006, trade increased between the countries from 15.1 million USD to 17.2 million USD with a trade balance in Zambia's favor. In 2007, USAID supported increased trade relations between the two states.