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Wallis & Futuna Islands

Wallis Island and the Futuna Islands in the Southwest Pacific are located about two-thirds of the way from Hawaii to New Zealand. The nation is a French overseas territory with the French President the Head of State. The capital is Mata-Utu, on Wallis the most populated of the islands, which is 154 sq km and surrounded by a coral reef with a single channel. The Futuna Islands are 190 km to the SW of Wallis and comprise two volcanic islands, Futuna and Alofi, which, together with a group of small islands, have a total area of about 116 sq km.

Wallis and Futuna have 15,300 inhabitants. Most of the population is Polynesian with only 2.5% European. French and Uvean are the principal languages spoken.

The Futuna group was discovered by Dutch sailors in 1616. Wallis was discovered by the English explorer Samuel Wallis in 1767. A French missionary established a Catholic mission on Wallis in 1837 and missions soon followed on the other islands and had converted most of its population by the 1850s. Even today 99% of the population is Roman Catholic.

In 1842 the French established a protectorate, which was officially confirmed in 1887 for Wallis and in 1888 for Futuna.


As an overseas territory of France, Wallis and Futuna is administered by a Prefect (Senior Administrator) who is appointed directly by Paris. The Prefect is the head of the territory except in matters of pre-colonialism custom which are the preserve of the King of Wallis, the King of Alo, and the King of Sigave.

The Prefect is the President of the Territorial Council composed of the three kings and of three other members appointed by the Prefect with the approval of the territorial assembly. The 20 members of the assembly are elected by popular vote for a five-year term and play a limited role on local matters.

The territory is divided into three districts corresponding to the ancient kingdoms. It is represented in the French National Assembly by a Senator and a Deputy.


The majority of the population live in a subsistence economy mainly involving agriculture, handicrafts, fishing, the breeding of pigs, copra and fishing for Trochus shells. The Island’s Tochus shells are commercially exploited to make mother of pearl buttons, mother of pearl beads, pendants and other jewelry. In 2006 alone, the sole commercial export of the Wallis and Futuna Islands was 19 tons of shells valued at US$122,000.

The chief food crops are yams, taro, bananas, manioc (root plant), and arrowroot. Only a small proportion of the population (about 1500 people) are in formal employment, mainly in the public sector.

One of the main sources of income is remittances from the 20,000 Wallisians and Futunans living and working in New Caledonia. Revenues come from French Government subsidies, licensing of fishing rights to Japan and South Korea, import taxes.

The territory is heavily dependent on the financial support provided by France. Many services such as health, education, administration are directly funded by Paris.