Where Samoa on the world map. Map of Samoa
Map of Samoa with cities. Where Samoa is on the world map. The main geographical facts about Samoa - population, country area, capital, official language, religions, industry and culture.
Fact File Samoa
Official name Independent State of Samoa
Form of government Constitutional monarchy with single legislative body (Legislative Assembly)
Area 2,860 sq km (1,104 sq miles)
Time zone GMT-11 hours
Projected population 2015 179,000
Population density 61.2 per sq km (158.3 per sq mile)
Life expectancy 69.8
Infant mortality (per 1,000) 30.7
Official languages Samoan, English
Literacy rate 80 %
Religions Christian 99.7% (50% associated with London Missionary Society), other 0.3%
Ethnic groups Samoan 92.6%, mixed Polynesian-European 7%, European 0.4%
Economy Agriculture 65 %, services and tourism 30%, industry 5%
GNP per capita US$ 3,500
Climate Tropical, wet season from December to April followed by a cooler dry season from May to November
Highest point Mauga Silisili 1,857 m (6,089 ft) Map reference Pages 136, 141
The Samoan islands lie in the South Pacific about midway between Hawaii and New Zealand. Consisting of the two big islands of Savai'i and Upolu, plus seven small islands and a number of islets, Samoa is a larger island group with a much greater population than American Samoa, which lies further east, but has a more uncertain economic future.
Believed to have been originally settled by Tongans around 1000 вс, the islands of Samoa were first visited by Europeans when the French explorer Louis Antoine de Bougainville arrived in 1766. A mission was established in 1835 by the London Missionary Society. In the late nineteenth century control of the islands was contested by three colonial powers—Britain, Germany, and the USA—Germany taking control for a short period from 1899. After the First World War the islands were administered by New Zealand. In 1962 Samoa regained full independence and signed a friendship treaty with New Zealand. Samoa is a society in which chiefly rank plays an important part, matai (men who head extended families) having a good deal more power, prestige, and authority than commoners. This system has delayed the introduction of full democracy. In 1991 the first direct elections under a universal franchise were held, but only matai were allowed to be candidates.
The larger islands of Samoa are volcanic, Savai'i experiencing major eruptions in 1902 and 1911. The interiors of Savai'i and Upolu are broadly similar; their mountainous central regions are densely forested and cut by a number of fast-flowing rivers. Major streams include the Sili and Faleata on Savai'i, and the Vaisigano on Upolu. Narrow coastal plains lie between the highlands and the sea; coral reefs lie offshore. Other than arable land (nineteen percent), the only natural resources are hardwood forests and fish. Yams, breadfruit, banana, and papaya are grown for food, and cocoa, taro, and coconuts (for oil, copra, and cream) are cultivated for export.
With assistance from the United Nations, fishing has also become a significant export industry. Reforestation programs have been introduced with the aim of keeping timber exports at a sustainable level. Power for industry—a Japanese automobile parts factory opened in 1991—is mainly provided by hydroelectricity.
The economy depends heavily on remittances from Samoans working overseas and on foreign aid to support a level of imports that significantly exceeds export earnings. Tourism has become the most important growth industry. Many of the more than 50,000 visitors per year come to see the house that was once lived in by the Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson. It is now the official residence of the Samoan Head of State.