Originally published by UNCTAD on 5 October 2017
Made up of eight islands sitting halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand, the country's isolation fuels high import prices and creates challenges for Samoan entrepreneurs to access global markets and grow their businesses.
By giving exporters direct access to potential clients around the globe and allowing Samoan consumers and businesses to find the best deals for what they import, e-commerce could help the country overcome its geographical disadvantages, the report says.
"As is the case for most small island developing states and especially in the Pacific," the assessment says, "trade logistics constraints remain a key bottleneck for Samoa."
Air transport is the most expensive way to ship goods, yet because most goods Samoans buy and sell online are small parcels, Faleolo International Airport is currently the main entry and exit point. And this takes a toll on businesses' profits and consumers' wallets.
Better port facilities and increased transportation options would make e-commerce less expensive, the assessment says, adding that the lack of a postal addressing system also limits the scope of e-commerce in Samoa.
Government reforms bringing more competition and better regulation to the telecommunications sector have made mobile phones an everyday reality for most of the population. But Internet connections are still unreliable and expensive, keeping more than two thirds of the population offline.
A monthly 2GB ADSL subscription was US$43 in 2015, and a prepaid 3GB data plan for a mobile was US$40, in a country where minimum-wage workers earn just over US$2 an hour.
The government hopes that the arrival of a 1,3000-kilometre submarine cable connecting Samoa to Fiji's Southern Cross Cable will boost connectivity and affordability. But the assessment has shown that improved infrastructure alone will not make the island nation e-commerce-ready.