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.


Location: Oceania, group of islands in the South Pacific Ocean, about halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand; area: total: 2,831 sq 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

Natural resources: hardwood forests, fish, hydropower

Land use: agricultural land 12.4%, arable land 2.8%; permanent crops 7.8%; permanent pasture 1.8%, forest 60.4%

Natural hazards: occasional typhoons; active volcanism (Savai’I Island (elev. 1,858 m), which last erupted in 1911, is historically active)

Environment – current issues: soil erosion, deforestation, invasive species, overfishing

International agreements: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands

People and Society

Nationality: Samoan(s)

Ethnic groups: Samoan 92.6%, Euronesians (persons of European and Polynesian blood) 7%, Europeans 0.4% (2001 census)

Languages: Samoan (Polynesian) (official), English

Religions: Protestant 57.4% (Congregationalist 31.8%, Methodist 13.7%, Assembly of God 8%, Seventh-Day Adventist 3.9%), Roman Catholic 19.4%, Mormon 15.2%, Worship Centre 1.7%, other Christian 5.5%, other 0.7%, none 0.1%, unspecified 0.1% (2011 est.)

Population: 197,773

Note: prior estimates used official net migration data by sex, but a highly unusual pattern for 1993 lead to a significant imbalance in the sex ratios (more men and fewer women) and a seeming reduction in the female population; the revised total was calculated using a 1993 number that was an average of the 1992 and 1994 migration figures (July 2015 est.)

Urbanization – urban population 19.1% of total population (2015), rate of urbanization: -0.24% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.). Major urban areas – population: APIA (capital) 37,000 (2014)

Physicians density: 0.45 physicians/1,000 population (2008)

Hospital bed density: 1 beds/1,000 population (2005)

Drinking water source improved 99% of population, unimproved total: 1% of population (2015 est.)

Sanitation facility access: improved 91.5% of population, unimproved 8.5% of population (2015 est.)


Country name: Independent State of Samoa

Government type: parliamentary democracy

Capital: Apia

Time difference UTC+13 (18 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time) +1hr, begins last Sunday in September; ends first Sunday in April

Administrative divisions: 11 districts

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; it is observed in June

Constitution: several previous (preindependence); latest 1 January 1962; amended several times, last in 2015 (2015)

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

Executive branch: chief of state: TUI ATUA Tupua Tamasese Efi (since 20 June 2007). Head of government: Prime Minister TUILA’EPA Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi (since 1998); Deputy Prime Minister FONOTOE Pierre Lauofo (since 2011), Cabinet appointed by the chief of state on the prime minister’s advice

Legislative branch: unicameral Legislative Assembly or Fono (49 seats; 47 members – traditional family chiefs or matai and 2 members – part-Samoan or non-Samoan – directly elected by simple majority vote; members serve 5-year terms)

Judicial branch: 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); 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 [Sailele Malielegaoi TUILA’EPA], Samoa Christian Party or TCP [Tuala Tiresa MALIETOA], Samoa Progressive Political Party or SPPP [Toalepaiali’i Toesulusulu S’iueva POSE II], Tautua Samoa [Leatinu’u Salole LESA]

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

National anthem: “O le Fu’a o le Sa’olotoga o Samoa” (The Banner of Freedom)


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 $780 million. Agriculture, including fishing, employs roughly two-thirds of the labor force and furnishes 90% of exports, featuring fish, coconut oil, nonu products, and taro. The manufacturing sector mainly processes agricultural products. One factory in the Foreign Trade Zone employs 1,000 people to make automobile electrical harnesses for an assembly plant in Australia, and is responsible for 65% of total exports. Industry accounts for nearly 15% of GDP while employing less than 6% of the work force. The service sector accounts for nearly three-quarters 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 late 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 in Samoa’s Upolu Island.

The Samoan Government has called for deregulation of the financial sector, encouragement of investment, and continued fiscal discipline, while at the same time protecting the environment. Foreign reserves are in a relatively healthy state and inflation is low, but the external debt is approximately 55% of GDP. Samoa became the 155th member of the WTO in May 2012, and graduated from least developed country (LDC) status in January 2014.

Agriculture – products: coconuts, nonu, bananas, taro, yams, coffee, cocoa

Industries: food processing, building materials, auto parts

Inflation rate (consumer prices): 1.4% (2015 est.), -0.4% (2014)

Exports – commodities: fish, coconut oil and cream, nonu, copra, taro, automotive parts, garments, beer

Imports – commodities: machinery and equipment, industrial supplies, foodstuffs

Currency: tala (SAT)

Energy Electricity: 120/220V

Communications Telephone system – domestic: combined fixed-line and mobile-cellular teledensity roughly 100 telephones per 100 persons; international country code – 685; satellite earth station – 1 Intelsat (Pacific Ocean) (2007)

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 (2009)

Radio broadcast stations: AM 2, FM 5, shortwave 0 (2004)

Internet country code: .ws

Internet users: percent of population 14.1% (2014 est.)

Transportation: 4 airports, 1 with paved runways, 3 with unpaved runways

Roadways: total: 2,337 km, paved 332 km

Ports and terminals: Apia

Military and Security: no regular military forces; Samoa Police Force (2008)