Flag of Samoa

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New Zealand occupied the German protectorate of Western Samoa at the outbreak of World War I in 1914. It continued to administer the islands as a mandate and then as a trust territory until 1962, when the islands became the first Polynesian nation to reestablish independence in the 20th century. The country dropped the "Western" from its name in 1997.


Oceania, group of islands in the South Pacific Ocean, about one-half of the way from Hawaii to New Zealand

Geographic coordinates:

13 35 S, 172 20 W


total: 2,944 sq km
water: 10 sq km
land: 2,934 sq km


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


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

Elevation extremes:

lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: Mauga Silisili (Savaii) 1,857 m

Natural resources:

hardwood forests, fish, hydropower

Land use:

arable land: 21.2%
permanent crops: 24.38%
other: 54.42% (2001)

Natural hazards:

occasional typhoons; active volcanism

Environment - current issues:

soil erosion, deforestation, invasive species, overfishing

Geography - note:

occupies an almost central position within Polynesia


177,714 (July 2004 est.)


noun: Samoan(s)
adjective: Samoan

Ethnic groups:

Samoan 92.6%, Euronesians 7% (persons of European and Polynesian blood), Europeans 0.4%


Christian 99.7% (about one-half of population associated with the London Missionary Society; includes Congregational, Roman Catholic, Methodist, Latter-Day Saints, Seventh-Day Adventist)


Samoan (Polynesian), English

Government type:

constitutional monarchy under native chief



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


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

Legal system:

based on English common law and local customs; judicial review of legislative acts with respect to fundamental rights of the citizen; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Economy - overview:

The economy of Samoa has traditionally been dependent on development aid, family remittances from overseas, and agriculture and fishing. The country is vulnerable to devastating storms. Agriculture employs two-thirds of the labor force, and furnishes 90% of exports, featuring coconut cream, coconut oil, and copra. The manufacturing sector mainly processes agricultural products. The decline of fish stocks in the area is a continuing problem. Tourism is an expanding sector, accounting for 25% of GDP; about 88,000 tourists visited the islands in 2001. The Samoan Government has called for deregulation of the financial sector, encouragement of investment, and continued fiscal discipline, meantime protecting the environment. Observers point to the flexibility of the labor market as a basic strength for future economic advances. Foreign reserves are in a relatively healthy state, the external debt is stable, and inflation is low.

Agriculture - products:

coconuts, bananas, taro, yams, coffee, cocoa


food processing, building materials, auto parts

Exports - commodities:

fish, coconut oil and cream, copra, taro, automotive parts, garments, beer

Exports - partners:

Australia 65%, Indonesia 14.6%, US 4.9% (2003 est.)

Imports - commodities:

machinery and equipment, industrial supplies, foodstuffs

Imports - partners:

New Zealand 21.2%, Fiji 19.1%, Australia 16.5%, Japan 12.7%, US 5.1%, Singapore 4.7% (2003 est.)


tala (SAT)

Telephones - main lines in use:

11,800 (2002)

Telephones - mobile cellular:

2,700 (2002)

Telephone system:

general assessment: adequate
domestic: NA
international: country code - 685; satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Pacific Ocean)


total: 790 km
paved: 332 km
unpaved: 458 km (1999 est.)

Ports and harbors:

Apia, Asau, Mulifanua, Salelologa

Merchant marine:

total: 1 ships (1,000 GRT or over) 7,091 GRT/8,127 DWT
registered in other countries: 2 (2003 est.)
by type: cargo 1
foreign-owned: Germany 1


4 (2003 est.)

Airports - with paved runways:

total: 3
2,438 to 3,047 m: 1
under 914 m: 2 (2003 est.)

Airports - with unpaved runways:

total: 1
under 914 m: 1 (2003 est.)