Samoa country brief
Samoa is a Polynesian country northeast of Fiji. Samoa consists of four inhabited and a number of smaller, 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 192,000 population.
In 1962, Samoa became the first Pacific island country to achieve independence.
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 Tuimalealiifano Vaaletoa Sualauvi II, sworn in on 21 July 2017.
A 49-member National Legislative Assembly is elected by universal suffrage for five-year terms, with all seats reserved for matai – people who have chiefly status in Samoa's villages.
The Samoan Cabinet consists of the Prime Minister and 12 Ministers. Prime Minister Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi has been in office since 23 November 1998, and is Samoa’s longest serving Prime Minister.
At Samoa's most recent election on 4 March 2016, the Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP), which has governed Samoa since 1982, was returned to power under Prime Minister Tuilaepa. The HRPP won 46 of the 49 parliamentary seats. The opposition Tautua Samoa Party won two seats, and one seat was won by an independent candidate. The next elections are scheduled to occur in April 2021. Electoral boundary changes in 2020 mean that the number of parliamentary seats will increase to 51.
The 2016 election was Samoa's first enacting a constitutional reform reserving five seats, or 10 per cent, for women electoral candidates. If fewer than five existing seats are won by women, additional seats are added to be held by women candidates with the highest number of outright votes. This reform legislation was passed in 2013 and was the first introduced in a Pacific Island country.
Four women candidates were successful in the March election, and a fifth was appointed under the reform legislation, bringing the total number of MPs to 50.
Samoa has an independent judiciary and a separate court to resolve disputes over land and traditional titles.
Samoa participates in Australia's Seasonal Worker Programme and the Pacific Labour Scheme, which help Australian employers access short-term labour in rural and regional areas to meet their seasonal harvest needs and enable workers to support their families and communities in Samoa. As at 7 October 2020, there are 541 Samoan workers in Australia: 361 in the Seasonal Worker Programme and 180 in the Pacific Labour Scheme.
For more information visit the Australian Government Seasonal Worker Programme
Australia and Samoa enjoy a strong security partnership. In 2009, the Australian Federal Police and the Samoa Police Service (SPS) signed the Samoa-Australia Policing Partnership (SAPP), to enhance the performance and responsiveness of the SPS. The AFP currently has three members deployed to Samoa, including one member supporting the Pacific Transnational Crime Coordination Centre in Apia.
The Australian Defence Force also supports Samoa’s maritime security through the Pacific Maritime Security Program (PMSP). Under the Program, Samoa received a new Guardian-class Patrol Boat, the Nafanua II, on 16 August 2019.
The 2016 census recorded approximately 76,000 Australians identifying themselves as of Samoan ancestry. There are a number of high-profile Australians with Samoan heritage who compete as professional athletes, especially in rugby and rugby league. Due to the large Samoan diaspora in Australia there are significant church and community organisation links.
New Colombo Plan
To date, the New Colombo Plan has awarded over 500 scholarships and mobility grants for Australian students to undertake study and work-based learning activities in Samoa. In the 2019 funding round, 1 scholarship and 54 mobility grants were awarded under the Plan.
Find out more information about the New Colombo Plan
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 region. 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, health, education and engineering. Graduates are in high demand when they return home.
There are currently 136 Samoan students completing undergraduate, postgraduate and vocational courses in Australia, Fiji, Vanuatu and via online distance education. Since 1996, more than 300 Samoan Australia Award alumni have graduated with relevant qualifications to address human resource gaps in the workforce.
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.
Find out more information about the Australia Awards
Samoa’s economy had enjoyed years of sustained growth, but experienced significant impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, especially due to the suspension of international tourism. Key domestic sectors are services, tourism and agriculture.
Remittances from Samoans working abroad are a key part of the economy. New Zealand, Australia and the United States are the main source of remittances. Foreign development assistance in the form of loans, grants and direct aid is an important component of the economy. Approximately 60 per cent of the population is employed informally and work in subsistence agriculture or local commercial ventures.
Trade and investment
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 in recent decades.
Australia is Samoa’s fourth largest merchandise export destination. In 2018-19, Australia imported goods from Samoa worth around $6 million. Australia is Samoa’s fifth largest source of merchandise imports. In 2018-19, Australian merchandise exports to Samoa totalled $34.6 million (included meat, milk, cream, whey and yoghurt).
The ANZ Bank has a commercial bank in Samoa.
High level visits
- September 2019: Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi visited Sydney as a Guest of Government, including to watch a rugby match between Manu Samoa and the Wallabies.
- August 2019: Deputy Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata’afa visited Perth to formally receive Samoa’s new Guardian-class Patrol Boat under the Pacific Maritime Security Program.
- November 2018: Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi visited Brisbane en route to the APEC meeting in Port Moresby.
- August 2018: Minister for Foreign Affairs the Hon Julie Bishop MP and the Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Senator the Hon. Concetta Fierravanti-Wells visited Apia.
- September 2017: The Prime Minister, the Hon. Malcolm Turnbull MP, and the Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Senator the Hon. Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, attended the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders' Meeting in Apia, Samoa.
- July 2017: The former Governor-General, the Hon. Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC (Ret'd), visited Samoa on a bilateral visit.