Photos of Samoa

Introduction

Background

The first Austronesian settlers arrived in Samoa around 1000 B.C., and early Samoans traded and intermarried with Fijian and Tongan nobility. The fa’amatai system of titles and nobility developed, which dominates Samoan politics to this day; all but two seats in the legislature are reserved for matai, or heads of families. Dutch explorer Jacob ROGGEVEEN was the first European to spot the islands in 1722. Christian missionaries arrived in the 1830s, converting most of the population. In the 1850s, Apia became a center for Pacific trading and hosted an American commercial agent and British and German consuls. In 1892, American traders convinced the Samoan king to align his country’s date with the US, moving to the east of the International Date Line.

Following the death of the Samoan king in 1841, rival families competed for his titles, devolving into civil war in 1886 with factions getting support from either Germany, the UK, or the US. All three countries sent warships to Apia in 1889, presaging a larger war, but a cyclone destroyed the ships and Malietoa LAUPEPA was installed as king. Upon LAUPEPA’s death in 1898, a second civil war over succession broke out. The war ended in 1899 and the Western powers abolished the monarchy, giving the western Samoan islands to Germany and the eastern Samoan islands to the US. The UK abandoned claims in Samoa and received former German territory in the Solomon Islands.

The Mau, a non-violent popular movement to advocate for Samoan independence, formed in 1908. New Zealand annexed Samoa in 1914 after the outbreak of World War I. Opposition to New Zealand’s rule quickly grew. In 1918, a New Zealand ship introduced the Spanish flu, infecting 90% of the population and killing more than 20%. In 1929, New Zealand police shot into a crowd of peaceful protestors, killing 11, in an event known as Black Sunday. In 1962, Samoa became the first Polynesian nation to reestablish its independence as Western Samoa but dropped the “Western” from its name in 1997. The Human Rights Protection Party has dominated politics since 1982, especially under Prime Minister Sailele TUILAEPA, who has been in power since 1998.

In the late 2000s, Samoa began making efforts to align more closely with Australia and New Zealand. In 2009, Samoa changed its driving orientation to the left side of the road, in line with other Commonwealth countries. In 2011, Samoa jumped forward one day - skipping December 30 - by moving to the west side of the International Date Line so that it was one hour ahead of New Zealand and three hours ahead of the east coast of Australia, rather than 23 and 21 hours behind, respectively.

Visit the Definitions and Notes page to view a description of each topic.

Geography

Location

Oceania, group of islands in the South Pacific Ocean, about halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand

Geographic coordinates

13 35 S, 172 20 W

Area

total: 2,831 sq km

land: 2,821 sq km

water: 10 sq km

country comparison to the world: 177

Area - comparative

slightly smaller than Rhode Island

Land boundaries

total: 0 km

Coastline

403 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm

contiguous zone: 24 nm

exclusive economic zone: 200 nm

Climate

tropical; rainy season (November to April), dry season (May to October)

Terrain

two main islands (Savaii, Upolu) and several smaller islands and uninhabited islets; narrow coastal plain with volcanic, rugged mountains in interior

Elevation

highest point: Mount Silisili 1,857 m

lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m

Natural resources

hardwood forests, fish, hydropower

Land use

agricultural land: 12.4% (2018 est.)

arable land: 2.8% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 7.8% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 1.8% (2018 est.)

forest: 60.4% (2018 est.)

other: 27.2% (2018 est.)

Irrigated land

0 sq km (2012)

Total renewable water resources

0 cubic meters (2017 est.)

Population distribution

about three-quarters of the population lives on the island of Upolu

Natural hazards

occasional cyclones; active volcanism

volcanism: Savai'I Island (1,858 m), which last erupted in 1911, is historically active

Environment - international agreements

party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Climate Change-Paris Agreement, Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands

signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

Geography - note

occupies an almost central position within Polynesia

People and Society

Nationality

noun: Samoan(s)

adjective: Samoan

Ethnic groups

Samoan 96%, Samoan/New Zealander 2%, other 1.9% (2011 est.)

note: data represent the population by country of citizenship

Languages

Samoan (Polynesian) (official) 91.1%, Samoan/English 6.7%, English (official) 0.5%, other 0.2%, unspecified 1.6% (2006 est.)

Religions

Protestant 54.9% (Congregationalist 29%, Methodist 12.4%, Assembly of God 6.8%, Seventh Day Adventist 4.4%, other Protestant 2.3%), Roman Catholic 18.8%, Mormon 16.9%, Worship Centre 2.8%, other Christian 3.6%, other 2.9% (includes Baha'i, Muslim), none 0.2% (2016 est.)

Age structure

0-14 years: 29.31% (male 30,825/female 28,900)

15-24 years: 19.61% (male 20,519/female 19,439)

25-54 years: 37.4% (male 39,011/female 37,200)

55-64 years: 7.5% (male 7,780/female 7,505)

65 years and over: 6.18% (male 5,513/female 7,082) (2020 est.)

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 73.3

youth dependency ratio: 64.5

elderly dependency ratio: 8.8

potential support ratio: 11.4 (2020 est.)

Median age

total: 25.6 years

male: 25.3 years

female: 26 years (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 159

Birth rate

19.32 births/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 75

Death rate

5.36 deaths/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 186

Net migration rate

-7.82 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 217

Population distribution

about three-quarters of the population lives on the island of Upolu

Urbanization

urban population: 17.7% of total population (2021)

rate of urbanization: -0.03% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

Major urban areas - population

36,000 APIA (capital) (2018)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 1.07 male(s)/female

15-24 years: 1.06 male(s)/female

25-54 years: 1.05 male(s)/female

55-64 years: 1.04 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.78 male(s)/female

total population: 1.04 male(s)/female (2020 est.)

Mother's mean age at first birth

23.6 years (2009 est.)

note: median age at first birth among women 25-29

Maternal mortality rate

43 deaths/100,000 live births (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 98

Infant mortality rate

total: 18.75 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 22.25 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 15.07 deaths/1,000 live births (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 93

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 74.92 years

male: 72.01 years

female: 77.98 years (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 131

Drinking water source

improved: urban: 100% of population

rural: 96.8% of population

total: 97.4% of population

unimproved: urban: 0% of population

rural: 3.2% of population

total: 2.6% of population (2017 est.)

Physicians density

0.35 physicians/1,000 population (2016)

Sanitation facility access

improved: urban: 98.5% of population

rural: 98.1% of population

total: 98.2% of population

unimproved: urban: 1.5% of population

rural: 1.9% of population

total: 1.8% of population (2017 est.)

Major infectious diseases

degree of risk: high (2020)

food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea

vectorborne diseases: malaria

Literacy

definition: age 15 and over can read and write

total population: 99.1%

male: 99%

female: 99.2% (2018)

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24

total: 31.9%

male: 24.6%

female: 43.4% (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 27

Environment

Environment - current issues

soil erosion, deforestation, invasive species, overfishing

Environment - international agreements

party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Climate Change-Paris Agreement, Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands

signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

Air pollutants

particulate matter emissions: 10.56 micrograms per cubic meter (2016 est.)

carbon dioxide emissions: 0.25 megatons (2016 est.)

methane emissions: 0.27 megatons (2020 est.)

Total renewable water resources

0 cubic meters (2017 est.)

Climate

tropical; rainy season (November to April), dry season (May to October)

Land use

agricultural land: 12.4% (2018 est.)

arable land: 2.8% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 7.8% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 1.8% (2018 est.)

forest: 60.4% (2018 est.)

other: 27.2% (2018 est.)

Revenue from coal

coal revenues: 0% of GDP (2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 160

Urbanization

urban population: 17.7% of total population (2021)

rate of urbanization: -0.03% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

Major infectious diseases

degree of risk: high (2020)

food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea

vectorborne diseases: malaria

Waste and recycling

municipal solid waste generated annually: 27,399 tons (2011 est.)

municipal solid waste recycled annually: 9,864 tons (2013 est.)

percent of municipal solid waste recycled: 36% (2013 est.)

Government

Country name

conventional long form: Independent State of Samoa

conventional short form: Samoa

local long form: Malo Sa'oloto Tuto'atasi o Samoa

local short form: Samoa

former: Western Samoa

etymology: the meaning of Samoa is disputed; some modern explanations are that the "sa" connotes  "sacred" and "moa" indicates "center," so the name can mean "Holy Center"; alternatively, some assertions state that it can mean "place of the sacred moa bird" of Polynesian mythology; the name, however, may go back to Proto-Polynesian (PPn) times (before 1000 B.C.); a plausible PPn reconstruction has the first syllable as "sa'a" meaning "tribe or people" and "moa" meaning "deep sea or ocean" to convey the meaning "people of the deep sea"

Government type

parliamentary republic

Capital

name: Apia

geographic coordinates: 13 49 S, 171 46 W

time difference: UTC+13 (18 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

daylight saving time: +1hr, begins last Sunday in September; ends first Sunday in April

etymology: name derives from the native village around which the capital was constructed in the 1850s; the village still exists within the larger modern capital

Administrative divisions

11 districts; A'ana, Aiga-i-le-Tai, Atua, Fa'asaleleaga, Gaga'emauga, Gagaifomauga, Palauli, Satupa'itea, Tuamasaga, Va'a-o-Fonoti, Vaisigano

Independence

1 January 1962 (from New Zealand-administered UN trusteeship)

National holiday

Independence Day Celebration, 1 June (1962); note - 1 January 1962 is the date of independence from the New Zealand-administered UN trusteeship, but it is observed in June

Constitution

history: several previous (preindependence); latest 1 January 1962

amendments: proposed as an act by the Legislative Assembly; passage requires at least two-thirds majority vote by the Assembly membership in the third reading - provided at least 90 days have elapsed since the second reading, and assent of the chief of state; passage of amendments affecting constitutional articles on customary land or constitutional amendment procedures also requires at least two-thirds majority approval in a referendum; amended several times, last in 2020

Legal system

mixed legal system of English common law and customary law; judicial review of legislative acts with respect to fundamental rights of the citizen

International law organization participation

has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; accepts ICCt jurisdiction

Citizenship

citizenship by birth: no

citizenship by descent only: at least one parent must be a citizen of Samoa

dual citizenship recognized: no

residency requirement for naturalization: 5 years

Suffrage

21 years of age; universal

Executive branch

chief of state: TUIMALEALI'IFANO Va’aletoa Sualauvi II (since 21 July 2017)

head of government: Prime Minister TUILA'EPA Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi (since 23 November 1998); Deputy Prime Minister FIAME Naomi Mata’afa (since 2016)

cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the chief of state on the prime minister's advice

elections/appointments: chief of state indirectly elected by the Legislative Assembly to serve a 5-year term (2- term limit); election last held on 4 July 2017 (next to be held in 2022); following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party is usually appointed prime minister by the chief of state, approved by the Legislative Assembly

election results: TUIMALEALI'IFANO Va’aletoa Sualauvi unanimously elected by the Legislative Assembly on 5 July 2017

Legislative branch

description: unicameral Legislative Assembly or Fono (51 seats for 2021-2026 term); members from 51 single-seat constituencies directly elected by simple majority vote, with a minimum 10% representation of women in the Assembly required; members serve 5-year terms)

elections: election last held on 9 April 2021 (next election to be held in 2026)
note - head of state TUIMALEALI'IFANO Va’aletoa Sualauvi II declared 9 April 2021 election void on 4 May 2021, new elections set for 21 May 2021; on 17 May 2021, the Supreme Court invalidated the head of state's order allowing the 9 April 2021 election results to stand

election results: percent of vote by party - HRPP 55%, FAST 37%, TSP 3%, independents 5%; seats by party – initial election results - FAST 25, HRPP 25, independents 1; composition - men 46, women 5, percent of women 9.8% 
note - on 2 June 2021, the Court of Appeals declared that a sixth seat for women is required to meet the minimum 10% representation for women, but that the seat would not be filled until after all election petitions and by-elections are settled

Judicial branch

highest courts: Court of Appeal (consists of the chief justice and 2 Supreme Court judges and meets once or twice a year); Supreme Court (consists of the chief justice and several judges)

judge selection and term of office: chief justice appointed by the chief of state upon the advice of the prime minister; other Supreme Court judges appointed by the Judicial Service Commission, a 3-member body chaired by the chief justice and includes the attorney general and an appointee of the Minister of Justice; judges normally serve until retirement at age 68

subordinate courts: District Court; Magistrates' Courts; Land and Titles Courts; village fono or village chief councils

Political parties and leaders

Human Rights Protection Party or HRPP [TUILA'EPA Sailele Malielegaoi]
Fa'atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi or FAST [FIAME Naomi Mata'afa]
Tautua Samoa Party or TSP [Afualo Wood Uti SALELE]

International organization participation

ACP, ADB, AOSIS, C, FAO, G-77, IBRD, ICAO, ICCt, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IPU, ITU, ITUC (NGOs), MIGA, OPCW, PIF, Sparteca, SPC, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WCO, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO

Diplomatic representation in the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Pa’olelei LUTERU (since 7 July 2021)

chancery: 800 Second Avenue, Suite 400J, New York, NY 10017

telephone: [1] (212) 599-6196 through 6197

FAX: [1] (212) 599-0797

consulate(s) general: Pago Pago (American Samoa)

Diplomatic representation from the US

chief of mission: the US Ambassador to New Zealand is accredited to Samoa

telephone: [685] 21-631 (2018)

embassy: Accident Corporation Building, 5th Floor, Matafele, Apia

mailing address: P. O. Box 3430, Matafele, Apia

FAX: [685] 22-030 (2018)

Flag description

red with a blue rectangle in the upper hoist-side quadrant bearing five white, five-pointed stars representing the Southern Cross constellation; red stands for courage, blue represents freedom, and white signifies purity

note: similar to the flag of Taiwan

National symbol(s)

Southern Cross constellation (five, five-pointed stars); national colors: red, white, blue

National anthem

name: "O le Fu'a o le Sa'olotoga o Samoa" (The Banner of Freedom)

lyrics/music: Sauni Liga KURESA

note: adopted 1962; also known as "Samoa Tula'i" (Samoa Arise)

Economy

Economic overview

The economy of Samoa has traditionally been dependent on development aid, family remittances from overseas, tourism, agriculture, and fishing. It has a nominal GDP of $844 million. Agriculture, including fishing, furnishes 90% of exports, featuring fish, coconut oil, nonu products, and taro. The manufacturing sector mainly processes agricultural products. Industry accounts for nearly 22% of GDP while employing less than 6% of the work force. The service sector accounts for nearly two-thirds of GDP and employs approximately 50% of the labor force. Tourism is an expanding sector accounting for 25% of GDP; 132,000 tourists visited the islands in 2013.

The country is vulnerable to devastating storms. In September 2009, an earthquake and the resulting tsunami severely damaged Samoa and nearby American Samoa, disrupting transportation and power generation, and resulting in about 200 deaths. In December 2012, extensive flooding and wind damage from Tropical Cyclone Evan killed four people, displaced over 6,000, and damaged or destroyed an estimated 1,500 homes on Samoa's Upolu Island.

The Samoan Government has called for deregulation of the country's financial sector, encouragement of investment, and continued fiscal discipline, while at the same time protecting the environment. Foreign reserves are relatively healthy and inflation is low, but external debt is approximately 45% of GDP. Samoa became the 155th member of the WTO in May 2012, and graduated from least developed country status in January 2014.

Real GDP growth rate

2.5% (2017 est.)

7.1% (2016 est.)

1.6% (2015 est.)

country comparison to the world: 114

Real GDP (purchasing power parity)

$1.285 billion (2019 est.)

$1.24 billion (2018 est.)

$1.267 billion (2017 est.)

note: data are in 2017 dollars

country comparison to the world: 205

GDP (official exchange rate)

$841 million (2017 est.)

Real GDP per capita

$6,521 (2019 est.)

$6,327 (2018 est.)

$6,486 (2017 est.)

note: data are in 2017 dollars

country comparison to the world: 162

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 10.4% (2017 est.)

industry: 23.6% (2017 est.)

services: 66% (2017 est.)

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: NA

government consumption: NA

investment in fixed capital: NA

investment in inventories: NA

exports of goods and services: 27.2% (2015 est.)

imports of goods and services: -50.5% (2015 est.)

Ease of Doing Business Index scores

Overall score: 62.1 (2020)

Starting a Business score: 92.6 (2020)

Trading score: 57.8 (2020)

Enforcement score: 58.6 (2020)

Agricultural products

coconuts, taro, bananas, yams, tropical fruit, pineapples, mangoes/guavas, papayas, roots/tubers nes, pork

Industries

food processing, building materials, auto parts

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 65%

industry: 6%

services: 29% (2015 est.)

Budget

revenues: 237.3 million (2017 est.)

expenditures: 276.8 million (2017 est.)

Public debt

49.1% of GDP (2017 est.)

52.6% of GDP (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 103

Fiscal year

June 1 - May 31

Current account balance

-$19 million (2017 est.)

-$37 million (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 72

Exports - partners

American Samoa 21%, United States 13%, New Zealand 12%, Australia 10%, Tokelau 6%, Taiwan 5% (2019)

Exports - commodities

refined petroleum, fish, fruit juice, coconut oil, beer (2019)

Imports

$89.29 billion (2018 est.)

$312.6 million (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 50

Imports - partners

New Zealand 22%, China 16%, Singapore 13%, United States 10%, Australia 9%, South Korea 8%, Fiji 5% (2019)

Imports - commodities

refined petroleum, iron products, poultry meats, cars, insulated wiring (2019)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold

$133 million (31 December 2017 est.)

$122.5 million (31 December 2015 est.)

country comparison to the world: 180

Debt - external

$447.2 million (31 December 2013 est.)

country comparison to the world: 179

Exchange rates

tala (SAT) per US dollar -

2.54712 (2020 est.)

2.65534 (2019 est.)

2.57069 (2018 est.)

2.5609 (2014 est.)

2.3318 (2013 est.)

Energy

Electricity access

electrification - total population: 100% (2020)

Communications

Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 8,770

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 4.33 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 193

Telephones - mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 128,776

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 63.58 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 190

Telecommunication systems

general assessment:

development of infrastructure is hampered by geography of remote islands, vulnerable to devastating storms; telecom sector has been inhibited by lack of international connectivity; most households have at least one mobile phone; businesses in the capital area have access to broadband and Wi-Fi; rural islands have some access to Internet and Wi-Fi; liberalized regulatory infrastructure and competition in the mobile market increased coverage and reduced cost; access to submarine cables improved Internet data rates and reliability; Australian companies countering Chinese companies in the acquisition of Pacific operations; importer of broadcasting equipment from USA (2020)

(2020)

domestic: fixed-line 4 per 100 and mobile-cellular teledensity 64 telephones per 100 persons (2019)

international: country code - 685; landing points for the Tui-Samo, Manatua, SAS, and Southern Cross NEXT submarine cables providing connectivity to Samoa, Fiji, Wallis & Futuna, Cook Islands, Niue, French Polynesia, American Samoa, Australia, New Zealand, Kiribati, Los Angeles (US), and Tokelau; satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Pacific Ocean) (2019)

note: the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a significant impact on production and supply chains globally; since 2020, some aspects of the telecom sector have experienced downturn, particularly in mobile device production; many network operators delayed upgrades to infrastructure; progress towards 5G implementation was postponed or slowed in some countries; consumer spending on telecom services and devices was affected by large-scale job losses and the consequent restriction on disposable incomes; the crucial nature of telecom services as a tool for work and school from home became evident, and received some support from governments

Broadcast media

state-owned TV station privatized in 2008; 4 privately owned television broadcast stations; about a half-dozen privately owned radio stations and one state-owned radio station; TV and radio broadcasts of several stations from American Samoa are available (2019)

Internet users

total: 67,662

percent of population: 33.61% (July 2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 190

Broadband - fixed subscriptions

total: 1,692

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 1 (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 187

Transportation

National air transport system

number of registered air carriers: 1 (2020)

inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers: 4

annual passenger traffic on registered air carriers: 137,770 (2018)

Airports - with paved runways

total: 1 (2019)

2,438 to 3,047 m: 1

Airports - with unpaved runways

total: 3 (2013)

under 914 m: 3 (2013)

Merchant marine

total: 12

by type: general cargo 4, oil tanker 1, other 7 (2020)

country comparison to the world: 152

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Apia

Military and Security

Military and security forces

no regular military forces; Samoa Police Force

Military - note

Samoa has no formal defense structure or regular armed forces; informal defense ties exist with NZ, which is required to consider any Samoan request for assistance under the 1962 Treaty of Friendship

Transnational Issues