Samoa

Samoa

Geographical Location of Samoa

Samoa consists of the main islands of Savai'i and Upolu, as well as seven smaller Polynesian islands. The main islands are the remains of old underwater volcanoes, rising to a height of 1858 meters above sea level. The islands are made of lava and are protected by coral reefs along the coast. Evergreen rainforests cover all the islands, and several crater lakes lead to numerous rivers and waterfalls. In the lowlands, nature is characterized by swamps and mangrove forests. Savai'i has several large barren lava areas. The climate is tropical, hot and humid all year round, with slight daily and seasonal variations. The most rain occurs from November to April, and the driest months are from May to August.

Samoa is regularly affected by powerful and destructive tropical cyclones. Due to global increases in sea temperatures, cyclones are more common today than in the past. Deforestation and agricultural intensification have also led to severe soil erosion. This results in less arable land, and eroded soil washes into the sea and destroys coral reefs. Coral destruction coupled with overfishing has led to a significant decline in fish stocks and contributed to the deterioration of the underwater environment.

Brief History of Samoa

Samoa was settled around 1500 BC. It is believed that the first settlers were seafarers from Southeast Asia. The indigenous population was engaged in agriculture and fishing, made pottery tools and had close trade relations with many neighboring islands. Around 950, part of Samoa was conquered by the powerful Tui Tonga Empire. The kingdom was ruled from the island of Tongatapu in Tonga and covered an area of over 3 million square kilometers. The kingdom extended over western and central Polynesia, as well as parts of Melanesia and Micronesia (by comparison, Scandinavia is less than 1 million square kilometers in area). After the 16th century, Samoa became the main center of the empire, and power was divided between the Samoan and Tongan royal families.

When the first Europeans arrived in Samoa in 1722, the Samoan royal family ruled only the Samoan islands. In 1899, Germany gained sovereignty over Western Samoa, and the United States received Eastern Samoa. New Zealand occupied Western Samoa in 1914 and received a mandate for the islands from the League of Nations in 1920. The islands were continually granted increased autonomy, and in 1962 Western Samoa became the first independent country in Polynesia. In 1997, Western Samoa changed its name to Samoa. Eastern Samoa remains under US control.

Society and Politics of Samoa

Samoa is a parliamentary monarchy. The head of state is the king, elected by parliament for a term of five years. Executive power belongs to the government, headed by the prime minister. The Prime Minister is determined by Parliament. Parliament consists of 49 people elected in general elections every five years. 47 members are chosen from among the local chiefs of the country, and the remaining two must not be Samoans. At least 13 members must be women. Samoa maintains close political ties with New Zealand. Among other things, New Zealand represents the country in international organizations and is responsible for the country's security.

Samoan society is heavily influenced by traditional cultural norms and rules. Most Samoans live in villages with a high degree of self-government. Villages are divided into large families, each ruled by a family head (chief). Both men and women can receive the title of leader. Each chief manages the family's land and fishing grounds, enforces laws and regulations, and can judge family members if they commit offenses. Men and women are equal under the country's laws, but traditional gender roles mean women are underrepresented in politics and working life.

Economy and Trade of Samoa

Samoa's economy is relatively underdeveloped and is largely based on fishing and subsistence farming. The industrial sector is thriving thanks to foreign investors and low taxes for export-oriented industries. Tourism has grown greatly since the 1990s, and further growth is expected in the industry.

Despite economic growth, the country is completely dependent on international aid. About a third of the country's gross domestic product comes from aid, mostly from New Zealand and Australia. Because Samoa imports a lot of food, oil and consumer goods, the country has a large trade deficit. The most important export products are fish, coconut products and taro root (root vegetable).

Samoa's location makes it vulnerable to natural disasters, and it makes its economy vulnerable. The economy was severely weakened in 2019 when a tropical cyclone hit the country. Large agricultural areas were destroyed, tourism stopped, and property damage was enormous. The economy has seen steady growth since the cyclone, but the country is still very poor and underdeveloped. Almost 27 percent of the population lives below the national poverty line. The weak economy and lack of economic development led to mass emigration to New Zealand, Australia and the United States.

Flag of Samoa
Coat of Arms of Samoa

Basic Information About Samoa

  • Full name - Independent State of Samoa
  • Capital - Apia
  • Language - Polynesian
  • Population - 200,144
  • Form of government - parliamentary republic
  • Area - 2840 km2
  • Currency - tala
  • National Day - June 1st