Vanuatu Economy and Culture

By | October 26, 2021


In 2008, according to businesscarriers, Vanuatu’s GDP was US $ 573 million, while that per capita was US $ 2,442; most of the population is dedicated to subsistence agriculture (maize, yam, cassava, taro, breadfruit, vegetables and fruit), however the main economic resources are commercial agriculture (coconut palms, from which the cover, cocoa, coffee and peanuts) and tourism. Also important are fishing (thanks also to the sale of licenses), forest exploitation and breeding (cattle, pigs, goats and poultry). The primary sector contributes 14.4% to the formation of the GDP and employs just over 33% of the population. § Mining is reduced: there is a manganese mine, now in the process of being depleted, on the island of Ėfaté; gold, copper and oil have also been found in the country (extraction of which has not yet begun). § The industry is poorly developed, mainly aimed at the processing of agri-food products. The secondary participates for 8.5% of the GDP. In the 1990s the government tried to diversify the economy, focusing mainly on tourism; offshore (some anti-money laundering regulations are in place). The tertiary sector contributes 77.1% to GDP production. § Modest are the ways of communication; there are no railways and the road network is around a thousand km (1999); communications take place mainly by sea and by air (the main airport is Bauer Field on the island of Ėfaté). § Trade is developing, especially with foreign countries; the country mainly exports copra, cocoa, coffee, kava, beef and timber, while it mainly imports various petroleum and industrial products, foodstuffs, etc. The trade takes place with Thailand, India and Japan for exports, and Australia, Singapore, New Zealand, Norway, USA, Fiji, China and New Caledonia for imports; Vanuatu is still heavily dependent on international aid.


The bond with the earth, a means of livelihood and above all a symbol of their origins, is the main force that has allowed the residents of Vanuatu to keep many of their customs alive. Although there are differences between the islands of the archipelago, in general in the villages the bonds and social hierarchies are perpetuated, men still find themselves in the nakamal (home of men and fulcrum of community life) to drink kava, the most widespread and strong distillate local, and several of the ritual celebrations refer to ancestral cults, complete with legends and worship of spirits and demons. Other major celebrations, some of which are related to the seasonal cycle and harvests and others to practices such as circumcision, include the Naghol, which takes its name from the “rite-sport” of diving to the ground practiced on the island of Pentecôte (a sort of rudimentary bungee jumping), and Independence Day, celebrated on July 30th. Viva is traditional music played with wooden instruments, such as the tamtam and the flute. In the literary field, in addition to some foreign publications that describe the events and beauties of Vanuatu or collect local stories and legends, the work of Grace Mera Molisa (1946-2002), writer and political activist, one of the best authors of the whole Melanesian area. In the capital there is the French Quarter and Chinatown, with style buildings and markets with local products. Finds, documents and artifacts relating to the history and culture of the archipelago are preserved in the National Museum, which also hosts shows, exhibitions and reviews. Also in the field of cinema there are some interesting productions, mostly related to environmental and social issues, and it is here that popular appointments for the whole South Pacific area are held, such as the Tanna Film Festival; there is also no shortage of theater companies (such as the Wan Smolbag Theater). In Vanuatu there is a site declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, the Domain of Cape Roi Mata (2008).


In the artistic manifestations of Vanuatu the so-called pole-statues, of large dimensions, wooden or dug into the tree fern, and the masks, made of wood, clay and various materials, prevail. The pictorial decoration, of little relief, is applied to the pediments of the houses of worship. In the decoration of the furnishings mostly geometric motifs recur. One of the most widespread and spectacular art is that of sand-drawings, to which, in the month of May, the Malampa Sand Drawing and Arts Festival is dedicated.

Vanuatu Culture