Facts about Vanuatu

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Multiple waves of colonizers, each speaking a distinct language, migrated to the New Hebrides in the millennia preceding European exploration in the 18th century. This settlement pattern accounts for the complex linguistic diversity found on the archipelago to this day. The British and French, who settled the New Hebrides in the 19th century, agreed in 1906 to an Anglo-French Condominium, which administered the islands until independence in 1980, when the new name of Vanuatu was adopted

Geography of Vanuatu

Oceania, group of islands in the South Pacific Ocean, about three-quarters of the way from Hawaii to Australia
16 00 S, 167 00 E
Map references:
total: 12,200 sq km
land: 12,200 sq km
note: includes more than 80 islands
water: 0 sq km
Area comparative:
slightly larger than Connecticut
Land boundaries:
0 km
2,528 km
Maritime claims:
measured from claimed archipelagic baselines
exclusive economic zone: 200 NM
territorial sea: 12 NM
continental shelf: 200 NM or to the edge of the continental margin
contiguous zone: 24 NM
tropical; moderated by southeast trade winds
mostly mountains of volcanic origin; narrow coastal plains
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: Tabwemasana 1,877 m
Natural resources:
manganese, hardwood forests, fish
Natural hazards:
tropical cyclones or typhoons (January to April); volcanism causes minor earthquakes; tsunamis
Environment current issues:
a majority of the population does not have access to a potable and reliable supply of water; deforestation
Geography - note:
a Y-shaped chain of four main islands and 80 smaller islands; several of the islands have active volcanoes

Population of Vanuatu

215,446 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 32.6% (male 34,804/female 33,331)
15-64 years: 63.7% (male 67,919/female 65,138)
65 years and over: 3.7% (male 4,027/female 3,650)
Median age:
23 years
Growth rate:
Infant mortality:
53.8 deaths/1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 62.85 years
male: 61.34 years
female: 64.44 years
Fertility rate:
2.7 children born/woman
noun: Ni-Vanuatu (singular and plural)
adjective: Ni-Vanuatu
Ethnic groups:
indigenous Melanesian 98%, French, Vietnamese, Chinese, other Pacific Islanders
Presbyterian 36.7%, Anglican 15%, Roman Catholic 15%, indigenous beliefs 7.6%, Seventh-Day Adventist 6.2%, Church of Christ 3.8%, other 15.7% (including Jon Frum Cargo cult)
three official languages: English, French, pidgin (known as Bislama or Bichelama), plus more than 100 local languages
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 74%


Country name:
conventional long form: Republic of Vanuatu
former: New Hebrides
Government type:
parliamentary republic
Port-Vila (Efate)
Administrative divisions:
6 provinces; Malampa, Penama, Sanma, Shefa, Tafea, Torba
30 July 1980 (from France and UK)
National holiday:
Independence Day, 30 July (1980)
30 July 1980
Legal system:
unified system being created from former dual French and British systems
18 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: President Kalkot Matas KELEKELE
head of government: Prime Minister Edward NATAPEI; Deputy Prime Minister Ham LINI
cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the prime minister, responsible to Parliament
elections: president elected for a five-year term by an electoral college consisting of Parliament and the presidents of the regional councils; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or majority coalition is usually elected prime minister by Parliament from among its members
Legislative branch:
unicameral Parliament (52 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)
Judicial branch:
Supreme Court (chief justice is appointed by the president after consultation with the prime minister and the leader of the opposition, three other justices are appointed by the president on the advice of the Judicial Service Commission)


This South Pacific island economy is based primarily on small-scale agriculture, which provides a living for 65% of the population. Fishing, offshore financial services, and tourism, with more than 60,000 visitors in 2005, are other mainstays of the economy. Mineral deposits are negligible; the country has no known petroleum deposits. A small light industry sector caters to the local market. Tax revenues come mainly from import duties. Economic development is hindered by dependence on relatively few commodity exports, vulnerability to natural disasters, and long distances from main markets and between constituent islands. In response to foreign concerns, the government has promised to tighten regulation of its offshore financial center. In mid-2002 the government stepped up efforts to boost tourism through improved air connections, resort development, and cruise ship facilities. Agriculture, especially livestock farming, is a second target for growth. Australia and New Zealand are the main suppliers of tourists and foreign aid.

$897 million (2007 est.)
GDP growth rate:
GDP per capita:
GDP composition by sector:
agriculture: 26%
industry: 12%
services: 62%
Inflation rate:
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture 65%, services 30%, industry 5%
revenues: $52.6 million
expenditures: $54.3 million
Electricity production by source:
fossil fuel: 100%
food and fish freezing, wood processing, meat canning
copra, coconuts, cocoa, coffee, taro, yams, coconuts, fruits, vegetables; fish, beef
copra, beef, cocoa, timber, kava, coffee
Export partners:
Thailand 46.1%, Malaysia 19.1%, Poland 8.1%, Japan 7.6%
machinery and equipment, foodstuffs, fuels
Import partners:
Taiwan 20.2%, Australia 14.7%, Japan 13.5%, Singapore 11.9%, Poland 7.1%, NZ 5.6%, Fiji 5.3%
vatu (VUV)

SOURCES: The CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State, Area Handbook of the US Library of Congress

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