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Samoa

Flag of Samoa

Samoa country brief

Overview

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 201,000 population.

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

Image of National Carillon in Canberra lit up in blue and red
Australia lit up its National Carillon in Canberra in the colours of the Samoan flag to mark its 60th anniversary of Independence. Credit: DFAT.

Political overview

Samoa's rebuilt Parliament House stands as a symbol of Australia's deep and enduring engagement with the Government of Samoa. Photo: DFAT/Tarx Morrison

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

Samoa's Head of State His Highness Tuimalealiifano Vaaletoa Sualauvi II was sworn in on 21 July 2017.

The 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 Prime Minister is the Hon Fiame Naomi Mata'afa following an election on 9 April 2021. Fiame is the first female Prime Minister of Samoa.

The 2016 election was the first time Samoa enacted a constitutional reform reserving 10 percent of seats for women electoral candidates. If fewer than 10 percent of existing seats are won by women, additional seats are added to be held by women candidates with the highest number of votes. This reform legislation was passed in 2013 and was the first introduced in a Pacific island country.

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

People-to-people links

Labour Mobility

Samoa participates in the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility Scheme which helps Australian employers access short-term labour in rural and regional areas to meet their seasonal harvest needs and enables Samoan workers to support their families and communities in Samoa. Pacific labour mobility also helps create strong links between people, business, and communities, fostering deeper connections between Australia and Samoa.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Pacific and Timor-Leste workers have been the lifeblood of many businesses, meeting critical worker shortages in regional and rural Australia. Throughout the pandemic, remittances have also provided a vital lifeline to families and communities in Pacific countries and Timor-Leste.

As at 31 July 2022 there were 4,194 Samoan workers in Australia under the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility scheme.

For more information visit Pacific Australia Labour Mobility scheme website.

Group photo of Samoan workers all in high-visibility clothing.
Samoan workers employed by a poultry business in Griffith, NSW. Credit: PALM.

Security cooperation

Australia and Samoa enjoy a strong security partnership. In 2009, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) 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). On 2 June 2022, Prime Minister the Hon Fiame Naomi Mata’afa and Foreign Minister Penny Wong announced Australia would provide Samoa a Guardian Class Patrol Boat through the PMSP.

Diaspora

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 netball, 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 600 scholarships and mobility grants for Australian students to undertake study and work-based learning activities in Samoa.

Find out more information about the New Colombo Plan

Australia Awards

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

Since 2007, more than 500 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

Economic overview

Samoa's economy has been heavily impacted by COVID-19, 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

Australia is a significant export destination and source of imports for Samoa. Major exports to Samoa include ships, boats, medical equipment, meat, milk, cream, whey and yoghurt. Major imports include electrical and telecommunications equipment.

Find out more information about Australia’s trade and investment with Samoa.

ANZ Bank has a commercial bank in Samoa.

High level visits

COVID-19 border closures have limited opportunities for high level visits during 2020-22.

  • July 2022: Minister for Natural Resources and Environment and Minister for Tourism Toeolesulusulu Cedric Pose Salesa Schuster travelled to Sydney to attend the Sydney Energy Forum and Canberra for a bilateral visit.   
  • June 2022: Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong travelled to Apia for a bilateral visit.
  • September 2019: then Prime Minister Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi visited Sydney as a Guest of Government, including to watch a rugby match between Manu Samoa and the Wallabies.
  • August 2019: then 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: then Prime Minister Tuilaepa visited Brisbane en route to the APEC meeting in Port Moresby.
  • August 2018: then Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop and then Minister for International Development and the Pacific Concetta Fierravanti-Wells visited Apia.
  • September 2017: then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, and then Minister for International Development and the Pacific Fierravanti-Wells, attended the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders' Meeting in Apia, Samoa.
  • July 2017: then Governor-General, the Hon. Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC (Ret'd), visited Samoa on a bilateral visit
Photo of Penny Wong and Fiame Naomi Mata’afa sitting on a couch engaged in discussion.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Senator the Hon Penny Wong held bilateral talks with Prime Minister the Hon Fiame Naomi Mata’afa during her visit to Samoa on 2-3 June 2022. Credit: DFAT.

Development Assistance

More information on development assistance to Samoa

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