Independent State of Samoa

Malo Sa'oloto Tuto'atasi o Samoa i Sisifo



Located in the South Pacific Ocean, about halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand and just east of the International Date Line. The country consists of 2 large islands—Savai'i to the west and Upolu to the east—and several smaller islands. It has a land area of 2,850 square kilometers (1,100 square miles) and a coastline of 403 kilometers (250 miles), making it slightly smaller than Rhode Island. The capital city, Apia is located on the north coast of Upolu.


The population of Samoa was estimated at 169,200 in mid-2000, an increase of 17 percent since the census of 1991. In 2000 the birth rate stood at 30.3 per 1,000 people, while the death rate was 6.4 per 1,000. With a projected annual population growth rate of only 0.6 percent between 2000 and 2010, Samoa would have 179,000 by 2010; the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) World Factbook 2001 estimated the population at 179,058 for 2001, though. The low growth rate resulted mainly from a high rate of outward-migration, which in 2000 was estimated at 17.6 per 1,000. This migration is mostly to the United States and New Zealand.

The population is predominantly of Samoan (Polynesian) ethnic origin, although about 7 percent also have European origins. Only 21 percent of the population live in an urban area, with Apia accounting for most of this. The urban growth rate is twice as high as the general growth rate, but at 1.2 percent per year still relatively low by Pacific standards.


The Asian Development Bank estimated that 30 to 40 percent of all households in Samoa fish for their own consumption and that 12 percent of households rely on fishing as their primary source of income. Many subsistence fishers may also sell some of their catch. Larger commercial fishing endeavors have developed, though, mainly resulting from the introduction of long-line tuna boats. Thus, fishing's contribution to GDP rose from 4 percent in 1995 to 8 percent in 1999, with further expansion expected. Most of the catch is processed in the canneries of American Samoa, giving Samoa a competitive advantage because of the proximity of these facilities and because they allow access to the American market.


In the past, there was relatively large-scale logging on the island of Savai'i, but logging has become small-scale and limited mostly to customary (village owned) land. Exports of timber are small as most production is for the local market. Large-scale establishment of forest plantations began in the 1970s, but most of these forests were destroyed by the cyclones of 1990 and 1991. Recent planting of high-value hardwood species such as mahogany will take about 25 years to mature, so there are few prospects of timber re-establishing itself as an important export before then.


Of the formal labor force, about 17 percent worked in industry, with about half of these working in construction and just over one-quarter in manufacturing in 1991. More recent data show that all industrial sectors together accounted for 23.7 percent of GDP in 1998. This percentage has grown through the 1990s.


Much of the manufacturing sector, mostly located in Apia, serves the purpose of import substitution . Thus, the most important industries include food processing, beer production, furniture, and construction materials. There are, however, some export-oriented industries. Notable is the production of canned coconut cream, mainly for export. Beer and cigarette factories export some of their product. A small industries center has been established at Vaitele, near Apia. The most uncommon of the new endeavors, in a Pacific sense, is the Yazaki automobile electrical wiring assembly plant, which was transferred from Melbourne in 1991. This plant exports about US$50 million in automotive parts to Australia each year, however, the benefit to Samoa may be low since wages are low and the company pays no taxes or duties .


Services accounted for 51 percent of all formal sector employment in 1991, and this proportion has probably risen since then. In 1998 all services accounted for 38.6 percent of GDP, up from 32 percent in 1992. The largest subsector of employment was social and personal services, which accounted for just over half of all employment in the services sector, with many of these being government employees.


Through the 1990s there has been a steady increase in the number of visitors to Samoa, from just over 48,000 in 1990 to about 78,000 in 1998. Only about one-third of these can be considered as tourists, however, since another third are Samoan expatriates visiting friends and relatives while another third are traveling on business. Still, tourism contributed an estimated 15.4 percent of GDP in 1997.

Samoa has considerable potential as a tourist destination. It has a strong and visible culture and many Samoans consider their country Hawai'iki (the original home of all Polynesians). On this basis the Samoa Visitors Bureau presents Samoa as "The Cradle of Polynesia" in its international promotions. The visibility of Samoan culture—epitomized by traditional open-sided houses—the many beautiful beaches, waterfalls, and other features of a "tropical paradise" and the scale and architectural variety of Samoan churches exceed normal tourist expectations of a country its size. There are several international standard hotels, mostly in Apia and elsewhere on Upolu. Smaller hotels and guesthouses have seen growing competition from village-based tourist operations. Most local accommodations include fales (leaf houses), usually on a beach, with locally cooked food on offer. These are relatively low impact ventures, though, in which most of the profits stay in the village.


Following the example of Vanuatu and Cook Islands, Samoa established an offshore banking center in 1988. About 500 banks and other companies have established themselves in Samoa, although information is not available to identify the costs and benefits of this operation to the Samoan economy. Domestic financial services are provided by Bank of Samoa (owned by ANZ Bank), Pacific Commercial Bank (a joint venture between Bank of Hawaii and Westpac) and National Bank.


The retail sector is similar to that in other Pacific countries of similar size. Apia has a number of medium-sized shops and small supermarkets that sell food imported from New Zealand and manufactures from Asia as well as local produce. Elsewhere in the country, shops stock mainly basic items necessary for everyday life. The largest market is in Apia, selling fruit, vegetables, fish, basic manufactured goods, and handicrafts. Smaller markets are found in other towns where the range of products is related to the size of the local population.


The Samoan tala has depreciated against the U.S. dollar since 1982. This may be partly attributed to the vulnerable export base of the country, but a range of other factors in the international economy are less easy to identify. In the late 1990s a strong U.S. dollar devalued most currencies of the Pacific region that most influence the Samoan tala, including the New Zealand and Australian dollars.


Samoa has no territories or colonies.


Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Profile: Samoa. London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 2001.

"Key Indicators for Developing Asian and Pacific Countries." Asian Development Bank. <>. Accessed February 2001

"Samoa 2000: Building on Recent Reforms." Asian Development Bank. Manila: ADB, 2000.

Lal, Brij V., and Kate Fortune. The Pacific Islands: An Encyclopedia. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2000.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2001. <http://> . Accessed August 2001.

United Nations Development Programme. Pacific Human Development Report 1999: Creating Opportunities. Suva: UNDP, 1999.

Vaai, Kolone. "Recent Economic Development in WesternSamoa." Pacific Economic Bulletin. Vol. 11, No. 2, 1996.

—Wardlow Friesen




Tala (WST). One tala equals 100 sene. Coins are 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 sene and 1 tala. Notes are 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 talas.


Copra, coconut oil, coconut cream, taro, fish, and kava.


Food, machines and transport equipment, manufactures, and fuels.


US$571 million (purchasing power parity, 2000 est.).


Exports: US$17 million (f.o.b., 2000). Imports: US$90 million (f.o.b., 2000).

Also read article about Samoa from Wikipedia

User Contributions:


Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic: