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 re-establish 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 half way between Hawaii and New Zealand
Geographic coordinates: 13 35 S, 172 20 W
Population: 194,320 (July 2012 est.)

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

Age structure: 0-14 years:  35.4% (male 35,233/female 33,060)

15-64 years: 59.4% (male 59,366/female 55,376)

65 years and over: 5.2% (male 4,472/female 5,654) (2011 est.)

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

Government type: parliamentary democracy
Telephones – main lines in use: 35,300 (2009)
Telephones – mobile cellular: 167,400 (2009)
Airports: 4 (2012)
Airports – with paved runways: total: 1

2,438 to 3,047 m: 1 (2012)

Military branches: no regular military forces; Samoa Police Force (2008)
Manpower available for military service: Males age 16-49: 47,906 (2010 est.)


The economy of Samoa has traditionally been dependent on development aid, family remittances from overseas, agriculture, and fishing. The country is vulnerable to devastating storms. Agriculture employs two-thirds of the labour force and furnishes 90% of exports, featuring coconut cream, coconut oil, and copra. The fish catch declined during the El Nino of 2002-03 but returned to normal by mid-2005. The manufacturing sector mainly processes agricultural products.


One factory in the Foreign Trade Zone employs 3,000 people to make automobile electrical harnesses for an assembly plant in Australia. Tourism is an expanding sector, accounting for 25% of GDP; 116,000 tourists visited the islands in 2006. 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. Observers point to the flexibility of the labour 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.

Transnational Issues: None