Solomon Islands Economy and History

By | November 1, 2021



The economy of the Solomon Islands is divided into a subsistence and a formal sector, in which less than a quarter of the employees work. With a gross national income (GNI) of (2017) US $ 1,920 per resident, the Solomon Islands are among the poorest countries in the Pacific region. As a result of the civil war-like unrest between 1998 and 2003, the economy fell sharply (minus 25%). Widespread corruption is a serious problem. Agriculture and timber industry, fishing and the processing of agricultural products determine the economic structure of the country. A slow economic recovery has set in since the end of the civil war (2017: 3.2% growth).

Foreign trade: The Solomon Islands are above all a raw material export country; The most important source of income is the export of wood. Other export goods are minerals, fish and fish products, copra, palm oil and cocoa. Mainly machines, food, fuels and consumer goods are imported. The main trading partners are China, Australia and Singapore. Foreign trade is almost balanced, but very much dependent on the development of world market prices (import value 2016: 454 million US $, export value 437 million US $).


Only 3.8% of the territory is used for agriculture. The share of agriculture in GDP is (2017) 34.3%. Traditional forms of subsistence farming play a major role. Batatas, yams, taro and vegetables are primarily used for food supply. The cultivation of coconut and oil palm plantations as well as the cultivation of cocoa are important for export. To a small extent, rice and spices are also exported.

Forestry: Tropical timber is the Solomon Islands’ most important export. The government is trying to regulate the – partly illegal – logging and thus curb the overexploitation of the rainforests. The wood is mainly processed outside of the country.

Natural resources

There are significant gold, silver and copper deposits on Guadalcanal, only a small part of which has been developed and used. Industrial gold mining was stopped in 1999 due to the civil war. Further mineral resources are on Bellona Island (phosphate), Rennell Island (bauxite) and on San Jorge (nickel). The development and extraction of the deposits by mainly Australian and Japanese mining companies came to a standstill due to the unrest.


The manufacturing industry is limited to the processing of its own raw materials (e.g. oil and rice mills, sawmills, copra and fish processing) as well as the production of simple consumer goods for the local market (tobacco products, textiles).


Tourism is of little importance due to the lack of infrastructure and as a result of the civil war. In 2015, 21,600 foreign guests (mostly Australians) visited the islands.


The largely unpaved road network is around 1,400 km long. Between the individual islands as well as a. There are regular ship connections to Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Hong Kong. The main ports are Honiara and Yandina (on one of the Russell Islands northwest of Guadalcanal). The international airport is located near the capital Honiara.


As a country located in Melanesia listed on COUNTRYAAH, the Solomon Islands were probably settled around 3,000 years ago. In 1568 Spanish sailors under Álvaro de Mendaña de Neira (* 1549, † 1595) from Peru reached this group of islands in the Pacific Ocean, which they believed to be the land of Ophir, King Solomon; In 1767 the Solomon Islands were acquired by P. Carteret, in 1768 by L.-A. de Bougainville rediscovered. European traders and missionaries had been active in the Solomon Islands since around 1830. In 1885 and 1899 (Samoa Treaty), Germany and Great Britain demarcated their domain in the area of ​​the Solomon Islands. The islands of Bougainville and Buka, ruled by Germany belonged to the German New Guinea protected area. The remaining islands became a British protectorate in 1893/99.

During the First World War, the Australian Confederation occupied the German part of the Solomon Islands, which it administered from 1920–45 as a mandate of the League of Nations. During World War II, Japanese forces conquered the Solomon Islands from March to August 1942. With their successful landing on Guadalcanal (August 7, 1942 to February 8, 1943), the American armed forces turned the war in their favor in the Pacific War. In heavy air and sea battles (defeat of the Japanese naval forces in the Solomon Islands in November 1943) and in a jump of their landing troops from island to island, the USA was able to bring the strategically important Solomon Islands under its control by 1944. In 1945 the Australian Confederation of Bougainville and Buka was granted trust territory by the UN. In 1975 these islands arrived Papua New Guinea. In 1976, the Solomon Islands received internal autonomy, and on July 7, 1978 they were given state independence.

The accusation of Papua New Guinea against the Solomon Islands of supporting the insurgent Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) led to tensions between the two states in the 1990s. A conflict (which has been accompanied by violent clashes since the end of 1998) between the long-established population of Guadalcanal and immigrants from the neighboring island of Malaita led to a coup in 2000. After the Peace Agreement of Townsville (October 15, 2000), the civil war in the Solomon Islands escalated again since 2002. In order to disarm the warring militias and restore public order, a multinational peacekeeping force consisting of military and police units under Australian leadership was called into the country in 2003, the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI). The unrest that broke out after the parliamentary elections in 2006 (directed against the Chinese minority) was also brought to an end by RAMSI. In order to curb ethnic tensions, a commission was set up in 2009 to deal with the civil war conflict. On February 6, 2013, an earthquake measuring 8.0 on the Richter scale near the Santa Cruz Islands, part of the Solomon Islands, triggered a tsunami that devastated numerous villages and claimed several lives. In the same year the RAMSI was transformed into a pure police mission. The last parliamentary elections so far took place on November 19, 2014, in which independent candidates won 32 of the 50 seats. The one supported by the Democratic Coalition for Change (DCC) Manasseh Damukana Sogavare (* 1955) was elected the new Prime Minister on December 9, 2014 with 31 out of 50 votes. He already held the office in 2000/01 and 2006/07. RAMSI’s mandate ended on June 30, 2017. Prime Minister Sogavare was overthrown on November 7, 2017 by a vote of no confidence in parliament. He was succeeded on November 15, 2017 by Rick Houenipwela (* 1958) from the Democratic Alliance Party.

Solomon Islands History