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Country Profile

Area: 2,831 sq km (1,093 sq miles)
Population: 182,000 (2010 IMF est.)
Capital city: Apia
People: Samoan 92.6%, Euronesian 7% and European 0.4%
Languages: Samoan, English
Religions: 98.9% Christian (35% Presbyterian, 20% Roman Catholic, 15% Methodist, 13% Mormon)

The Samoan population is approximately 77% rural, 23% urban. It is a young population with about 40% under 15 years of age and 18% aged 15-24. There has been a net annual loss of population through migration in recent years. Emigration occurs mainly to New Zealand for education or work opportunities and to American Samoa.

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Currency: Tala (WST$)
Exchange rate: 1 WST/GBP = 0.268270 (December 2011)
GDP per capita: US$3,023 (2010 est.)
Average Annual Real GDP growth: 3% (2011)
Average Inflation: 3.25% (2011-12 forecast)
Major industries: agriculture, tourism, fishing, manufacturing
Major trading partners: Australia, New Zealand, USA (including American Samoa), Fiji, Singapore, Japan

UK Trade & Investment Country Profile: Samoa (

Samoa's economy has traditionally been dependent on development assistance, family remittances from overseas, agriculture, and fishing. Official development assistance is around 15% of GDP, while remittances amount to around 25% of GDP. New Zealand is the main source of remittances, followed by Australia and the United States.

A determined programme of economic reforms initiated during the 1990s placed the Samoan economy among the fastest growing of the Pacific Islands. Economic growth over the period of 2000-2005 averaged 4%, driven by increased public investment, enhanced tourism earnings, and an increase in agricultural production.

Samoa’s economy contracted in 2009 – 2010 following the global financial crisis and the September 2009 tsunami. Post-tsunami reconstruction has stimulated growth and saw a temporary increase in remittances from Samoans working abroad. The economy returned to growth of 3% in 2011, generated by government spending, reconstruction activity, remittances and tourism as economies strengthening in source countries.

Only 12% of the total population in Samoa is engaged in formal paid employment. Two thirds of the labour force is absorbed by subsistence village agriculture, with the agricultural and fishing industries accounting for around 11% of GDP. Industry accounts for around 25% of GDP, with manufacturing dominated by a Japanese-owned company Yazaki, the largest single employer in Samoa, which produces automobile electrical systems for an assembly plant in Australia under a concessionary market-access arrangement.

Samoa is reliant on foreign imports and has a large trade deficit. Its export base is narrow, with its main sources of export income fish (60% of exports by value), garments, beer, coconut oil and cream, noni fruit products, taro, automobile parts and tourism. Agriculture employs two-thirds of the labour force and furnishes 90% of exports, while the manufacturing sector mainly processes agricultural products. Tourism is an expanding sector accounting for 25% of GDP, although the 2009 tsunami caused extensive damage to hotels and resorts. Samoa's tourism sector is now recovering.

As a result of economic and rebuilding challenges faced in the aftermath of the September 2009 tsunami, the United Nations General Assembly agreed to defer Samoa's graduation from Least Developed Country to Developing Country status until 2014.

In the 31 May 2011 Budget the government signalled the return to growth and a reduction of ST$40m per annum in concessional borrowing. Spending is to be focused on health, education, national broadband infrastructure and the Scientific Research Organisation of Samoa in order to advance to a knowledge-based economy. The government’s Strategy for the Development of Samoa 2008-2012 identifies seven key development priorities:

1. sustained macroeconomic stability;
2. private sector-led economic growth and employment creation;
3. improved education outcomes;
4. improved health outcomes;
5. community development including improved village governance;
6. improved public sector governance; and
7. environmental sustainability and disaster risk reduction.

Over the long term, Samoa's key strengths include a cohesive social structure, a flexible labour market and an improving investment environment. The Samoan Government maintains a pegged exchange rate regime and has a benchmark for international reserves at four months of import cover. The external debt is stable and inflation is low. However, Samoa's economy remains vulnerable to external shocks, particularly the vagaries of weather.

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Before first European contact in the 1720s, the Samoan Islands experienced long periods of contact with both Tongans and Fijians. As with other Pacific Island groups, intermittent European visitations followed. The first major settlements of missionaries and traders took place in the 1830s following establishment of the London Missionary Society. Samoa became a German colony in 1899 after a succession of wrangles between the UK, the USA and Germany.

New Zealand assumed control of Samoa following the outbreak of the First World War and the islands became a mandated territory of New Zealand under a League of Nations mandate. Between the wars there was a considerable agitation for the removal of foreign control over Samoan affairs. After the Second World War Samoa was administered by New Zealand as a UN trust territory, and measures were gradually introduced to prepare the islands for self-government.

Samoa became the first South Pacific Island country to gain independence, on 1 January 1962. Samoa joined the UN in 1976. In 1997 Samoa changed its formal name from the Independent State of Western Samoa to the Independent State of Samoa.

BBC News Country Timeline: Samoa (

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Samoa is an active member of the Pacific Islands Forum. The South Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and the Pacific regional office of the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) are located in Samoa.

Samoa is a member of the United Nations, the Commonwealth and the ACP grouping, which allows it access to European Union development funding. Samoa's international interests are mainly economic and environmental.

Samoa has no standing army and responsibility for security rests with the Samoan Police. Samoan Police have participated in UN and other international peacekeeping missions including in East Timor, Liberia and Sudan. They are also active in the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI).

UK - Samoa Bilateral Relationship

The United Kingdom has a long-standing and warm relationship with Samoa based on shared historic links. Vailima, just south of Apia, was home to Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson from 1889 until his death in 1894. His former residence has been established as a museum and is frequently visited by tourists.

The UK does not have a bilateral aid programme with Samoa, but specific bilateral projects are coordinated by the British High Commission in Wellington, New Zealand. Successive High Commissioners visited Samoa in 2009 and 2011.

The UK took an active role in responding to the 2009 tsunami, providing support on the ground and donating £100,000 to the Samoan Red Cross to repair infrastructure on Upolo’s south coast. A fundraising fair was held by the British High Commission in 2010 with proceeds going to families of tsunami victims.

The British Government has also been involved in the activities of the environmental agency SREP on Upolo and has explored the funding of several social projects. The UK is a major funder of EU development assistance, which supports water sector development and a micro-projects programme in Samoa.

Given the distance involved there is little direct trade between the UK and Samoa, although some goods and services are provided in Samoa by the subsidiaries of British firms based in the region.

The British High Commissioner to Samoa is Vicki Treadell, based in Wellington. Dr Stephen Rogers is the Honorary Consul in Apia. Samoa's High Commissioner to London is Mr Falani Chan Tung Tuala, based in Brussels and its Honorary Consul in London is Ms Prunella Scarlett, LVO.

Membership of international groups/organisations: ACP, ADB, ASOIS, Commonwealth, ESCAP, FAO, G-77, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Intelsat (non-signatory user), Interpol, IOC, IPU, ITU, ITUC, MIGA, OPCW, PIF, PTCCC, RAMSI, SPARTECA, SPC, SPREP, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WB, WCO, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO (observer).

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Located in Polynesia in the South Pacific Ocean, approximately half-way between New Zealand and Hawaii, Samoa (formerly known as Western Samoa) consists of two large islands, Upolu and Savai'i, and several smaller ones. It is a separate country from the US-administered American Samoa. It has a tropical climate with a rainy season from November to April.

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Major political parties: Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP), Samoan Democratic United Party (SDUP)
Government: Unicameral Legislative Assembly (“Fono”)
Head of State: Tuiatua Tupua Tamasese Tupuola Efi (since 2007)
Prime Minister and Foreign Minister: Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi (since 1998)

Samoa has a parliamentary democracy based on the UK-style cabinet government, modified to take account of Samoan customs. It consists of a Legislative Assembly and an Executive Council comprised of the Head of State, Prime Minister and Cabinet of Ministers. The Fono (Parliament) has 49 members: 47 members elected via universal suffrage to represent 41 constituencies, with the remaining two elected by Samoans not affiliated to a village. Samoa has a five-year parliamentary term.

His Highness Tuiatua Tupua Tamasese Tupuola Efi, a former Prime Minister of Samoa, has been the elected Head of State since the 2007 death of paramount chief Malietoa Tanumafili II, who had been appointed Head of State for life in the 1962 Constitution.

The Prime Minister is chosen by Parliament and appointed by the Head of State. Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi became Prime Minister in 1998 and has been the driving force behind many of the radical liberal economic reforms that have occurred over the past decade. Prime Minister Tuilaepa is also responsible for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Tourism, Immigration, and the Office of Attorney General.

Universal suffrage was introduced in 1991, with all Samoans aged over 21 eligible to vote. However, by convention, only tribal chiefs (Matai) may stand for election. The governing Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP) has held power since 1982, securing another landslide victory in the March 2011 recent General Election.

On 29 July 2011, by-elections were held in four seats, following successful legal challenges to some of the results of the election. The HRRP won all four seats and now has 37 of the 49 parliamentary seats. The opposition Tautua Samoa Party has the remaining 12 seats.

Samoa's record on human rights is good, although concerns remain about the restrictions on who may stand for election. Samoa formally abolished the death penalty in January 2004 and has so far ratified two of the six core Human Rights Treaties.

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Last Updated: December 2011

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