Flag of Samoa

Samoa country brief

Overview

Samoa is a Polynesian Pacific country northeast of Fiji. Samoa consists of four inhabited and five uninhabited islands. The capital Apia is located on Upolu, the most populous and developed of the islands. Upolu and Savai'i, the other main island, account for 99 per cent of Samoa's 195 000 population.

In 1962, Samoa became the first Pacific island country to achieve independence.

On 29 December 2011, Samoa moved the international dateline east and skipped a day to align its time zone more closely with New Zealand and Australia.

Political overview

Samoa is a stable parliamentary democracy. Samoa's constitution and its political system take substantial account of Samoan traditions and culture.

Samoa's Head of State is His Highness Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi, who was elected by the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) in July 2012 for a second consecutive five-year term.

The NLA is elected by universal suffrage for five-year terms. All 49 seats are reserved for matai, people who have the status of chiefs in Samoa's villages. The Samoan Cabinet consists of the Prime Minister and 12 Ministers. Currently, all other Government MPs hold appointments as associate ministers, which means there are no government backbenchers. Prime Minister Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi has been in office since 23 November 1998.

In elections held on 4 March 2011, the Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP), which has governed Samoa since 1982, was returned to power. The HRPP has 37 of the 49 parliamentary seats. The opposition Tautua Samoa Party has the remaining 12 seats.

Samoa has an independent judiciary, including a specific court to resolve disputes over land and traditional titles.

Bilateral relations

Australia's relations with Samoa are strong and productive, underpinned by our aid program, defence cooperation program, the Samoa-Australia Police Partnership and people-to-people links. Australia's first representative was accredited in 1971 and a High Commission was established in Apia in 1977.

Australia is Samoa’s largest development partner. Around 70 per cent of bilateral funding is provided directly to the Government of Samoa and is managed and accounted for using Samoa’s internal systems. Samoa's governance is among the strongest in the Pacific.

Australia's development assistance to Samoa, under the Samoa–Australia Partnership for Development, focuses on supporting Samoa to reform its management of the economy, to maintain economic stability and drive private sector development, by linking aid payments to mutually agreed reform benchmarks. In support of effective governance, works will start on a new Chamber for Samoa’s Parliament. Announced by Australia’s former Governor General in 2012 on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Samoa’s independence, this project is in support of Samoa’s democratic values and institutions. Another new initiative, the Samoa Economic Infrastructure Program, will stimulate economic growth through investments to upgrade key roads and bridges, and provide a new international submarine cable to boost internet connectivity. It will also fund other essential economic infrastructure to support private sector led growth. This program will build on Australia’s current substantial support to reconstruct or rebuild infrastructure damaged by Cyclone Evan, which struck Samoa in December 2012.

Australia’s aid will also continue to support the development of Samoa’s human capital through health and education investments. In 2014-15, Australia will offer up to 43 new awards including targeted scholarships that will help meet critical workforce shortages in health and education and recognised tertiary and technical qualifications to improve opportunities for local and overseas employment. A new health program will focus on improving health outcomes for poor and vulnerable Samoans, in particular the strengthening of primary health care and preventative services, especially for non-communicable diseases. Working directly with the Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development, Australia will also support the implementation of the Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development Initiative country plan for Samoa, focussing on increasing women’s economic empowerment and reducing gender-based violence.

Agriculture

Australian Centre for International Agriculture Research (ACIAR) programs in the Pacific embrace Fiji, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Samoa, Tonga, Kiribati and Tuvalu. Agriculture, forestry and fisheries sustain many households in these countries and supply the majority of livelihoods, as well as food security. The ACIAR strategy works towards underpinning the competitiveness and security of these sectors. Women, in particular, have a central role in household food gardening, tree crop production; and marketing of horticultural, tree crop and fisheries products. To achieve sustainable change, ACIAR will help develop innovative approaches that engage, empower and invest in women. Transforming these agricultural, fisheries and forestry systems into sustainable income-generating activities through improved productivity and marketing will enhance food security and self-reliance, and reduce poverty.

For more information visit the ACIAR website

Direct Aid Program

The Direct Aid Program supports projects which directly contribute to the welfare and the income-generating capacity of poor or disadvantaged groups, or enhance the long-term productivity and sustainability of the physical environment.

Find out more about the Direct Aid Program

People to people links

Samoa participates in the Seasonal Worker Program. Under the Program, seasonal horticultural workers from Pacific countries are recruited by horticultural enterprises in Australia to meet their seasonal harvest needs.

Australia and Samoa signed a Partnership for Security in August 2010 in Port Vila. Under the Defence Cooperation Program (DCP) with Samoa, Australia provided a Pacific Class Patrol Boat (PPB) to the Samoan Police Service's maritime wing in March 1988. Full-time, in-country Royal Australian Navy maritime surveillance and technical advisers provide follow-on support for the vessel and develop indigenous maritime surveillance and response capabilities. The DCP also provides in-country and Australia-based training in technical and professional skills, good governance and management. As well as maritime surveillance, the PPB is also able to provide a search and rescue capability, which was significant in the aftermath of the tsunami, when the PPB acted as a mobile response unit assessing damage and managing communications.

An increasing number of Australians are visiting Samoa each year as tourists, while the number of Samoans travelling to Australia is also increasing. There are also a range of community and institution-to-institution links. Approximately 55 800 Australians identify themselves as of Samoan ancestry.

Australia Awards

Australia is helping Samoa to build a skilled workforce through scholarships.

The Australia Awards provide opportunities for Samoans to study at tertiary institutions in Australia and the Pacific. The awards enable students to gain the skills and knowledge needed to contribute to their country’s development.

Australia Awards are offered in specialised fields such as science and engineering. These scholars are in huge demand when they return home.

A study conducted by the Lowy Institute in November 2011 found that 25 per cent of Samoa’s leaders had received a tertiary scholarship funded by Australia. This demonstrates the major contribution that Australian scholarships have made in supporting the learning opportunities and outcomes of Samoans.

Volunteers

The Australian Volunteers for International Development (AVID) program promotes economic growth and poverty reduction in the Indo-Pacific region by assisting host organisations to deliver effective and sustainable development outcomes. In 2013-14, there are 65 planned assignments under the AVID program to Samoa.

Australia’s overseas volunteer program, Australian Volunteers for International Development, has a one-stop entry point to Australian volunteering. See the AVID websitefor further information.

Economic overview

Samoa has a small and developing economy that has generally performed well in recent years.

Remittances from Samoans working abroad are a key part of the economy. New Zealand is the main source of remittances, followed by Australia and the United States. Foreign development assistance in the form of loans, grants and direct aid is an important component of the economy.

Samoa is reliant on imports and has a large trade deficit. Its indigenous exports consist mainly of fish and agriculture products, but their proportion of GDP has declined steadily in recent decades. A large proportion of the population is employed informally and works in subsistence agriculture or low-level commercial ventures.

The economy suffered badly from the 2008 global recession and the 2009 tsunami, but had stabilised and was again growing, albeit slowly, before Cyclone Evan struck in December 2012. The World Bank has estimated total damages and losses from the cyclone at $206 million – equivalent to 30 per cent of GDP – making it Samoa’s most expensive natural disaster ever. In comparison, the total costs following the 2009 tsunami were assessed at $131 million.

Trade and investment

Samoa enjoys a balance of trade surplus with Australia. Australia is the destination for automotive wire harnesses produced by Samoa's largest private sector employer, Yazaki EDS. The harnesses are imported under a concession Australia provides Samoa under the South Pacific Region Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement (SPARTECA). The current derogation expires in 2013. Australia is one of Samoa's main sources of imports after New Zealand, Singapore and the US. Australian merchandise exports to Samoa in 2012 totalled $25.97 million. Australia's imports from Samoa in the same period totalled $34.5 million.

Samoa has a number of Australian investors including Westpac and ANZ, which operate commercial banks in Samoa, and The Fosters Group which owns Samoa Breweries.

High level visits

September 2014: The Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon. Julie Bishop, and Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Senator Brett Mason, visited Apia for the United Nations Small Island Developing States conference.

May 2014: The Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Senator Brett Mason, visited Samoa.

March 2012: Then Governor-General, HE Ms Quentin Bryce visited Samoa. She was accompanied by then Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, the Hon. Richard Marles, who has visited Samoa on a number of other occasions as well.

February 2012: Then Minister for Foreign Minister Senator, the Hon. Bob Carr visited Samoa.

2008 & 2011: Prime Minister Tuilaepa visited Australia as a Guest of Government.