or Eastern Africa
the easterly region
the African continent
, variably defined by geography
. In the UN
scheme of geographic regions
territories constitute Eastern Africa:
- Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, and
Burundi – members of the East African Community (EAC).
Burundi and Rwanda are sometimes considered part of Central Africa
- Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and
Somalia – collectively known as the Horn of Africa
- Mozambique and Madagascar – often considered part of Southern Africa. Madagascar has close
cultural ties to Southeast Asia and
the islands of the Indian
- Malawi, Zambia, and
Zimbabwe – often included in Southern Africa, and formerly of the
- Comoros, Mauritius, and Seychelles – small island nations in the Indian Ocean
- Réunion and Mayotte – French overseas
territories also in the Indian Ocean.
is often used to specifically refer to the
area now comprising the countries of Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda,
and (in a wider sense) also Rwanda, Burundi, Somalia, Djibouti,
Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Sudan.
Egypt is also in
the northeastern portion of the continent, but it is usually
included in Northern
Geography and climate
Some parts of East Africa have been renowned for their
concentrations of wild animals, such as the "big five
" of elephant
, though populations have been declining under
increased stress in recent times, particularly the rhino and
The geography of East Africa is often stunning and scenic.
global plate tectonic forces that have created the Great Rift Valley, East Africa is the site
of Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount
Kenya, which have the two tallest peaks in Africa.
includes the world's second largest freshwater lake Lake Victoria, and the world's second deepest lake Lake
The climate of East Africa is rather atypical of equatorial
regions. Because of a combination of the region's
generally high altitude and the rain shadow of the westerly monsoon winds created by the Rwenzori
Mountains and Ethiopian Highlands, East Africa is surprisingly cool and dry for its
The lower-lying lands of northern Kenya and Greater Somalia
are indeed extremely dry.
on the coast of Somaliland and Puntland many years have no rain whatsoever.
the annual rainfall generally increases towards the south and with
altitude, being around at Mogadishu and at Mombasa on the coast, whilst inland it increases from
around at Garoowe to over at Moshi near
Unusually, most of the rain falls in
distinct wet seasons
centred around April and the other in October or November.
usually attributed to the passage of the Intertropical Convergence
Zone across the region in those months, but it may also be
analogous to the autumn monsoon rains of parts of Sri Lanka, Vietnam and the Brazilian Nordeste.
the Rwenzoris and Ethiopian highlands the rainfall pattern is more
typically tropical, with rain throughout the year near the equator
and a single wet season in most of the Ethiopian Highlands from
June to September - contracting to July and August around Asmara.
rainfall here ranges from over on the western slopes to around at
Ababa and at Asmara.
In the high mountains
rainfall can be over .
Rainfall in East Africa is influenced by El
events, which tend to increase rainfall except in the
northern and western parts of the Ethiopian and Eritrean highlands,
where they produce drought and poor Nile
Temperatures in East Africa, except on the hot and generally humid
coastal belt, are moderate, with maxima of around and minima of at
an altitude of . At altitudes of above , frosts
are common during the dry season and maxima
typically about or less.
The unique geography and apparent suitability for farming
made East Africa a target for European exploration
in the nineteenth century.
is an important part of the
economies of Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda.
According to the theory of recent African origin of
, the mainstream position held within the
scientific community, all humans originate from East Africa.
the earliest fossilized hominid remains have been found in East
Africa, including those found in Awash
Valley of Ethiopia, Koobi Fora in Kenya and
Gorge in Tanzania.
The southern part of East Africa was occupied until recent times by
, whilst in the Ethiopian
Highlands the donkey
and such crop plants as
allowed the beginning of agriculture
around 7,000 B.C. Lowland barriers
and diseases carried by the tsetse fly
however, prevented the donkey and agriculture from spreading
southwards. Only in quite recent times has agriculture spread to
the more humid regions south of the equator, through the spread of
cattle, sheep and crops such as millet
Language distributions suggest that this most likely occurred from
Sudan into modern Uganda and the African Great Lakes, since the
spoken by these
pre-Bantu farmers have their closest relatives in the middle Nile
birth of Christ, Bantu-speaking
peoples have spread agriculture from their homeland in modern
Cameroon and Nigeria across the Rwenzori Mountains into those parts of
East Africa either not reached previously by Nilo-Saharan farmers
or too wet for millet.
During the following fifteen
centuries, they slowly intensified farming and grazing over all
suitable regions of East Africa, in the process making contact with
- and Arabic
-speaking sailors on the southern
coastal areas. The latter also spread Islam
the coastal belt, but most Bantu never had contact with the new
religion and remained animists.
Arab and Portuguese eras
Portuguese were the first Europeans to explore the region of
current-day Kenya, Tanzania, and Mozambique by sea, Vasco da Gama
having visited Mombasa in 1498. Gama's voyage was successful in reaching
India and this permitted the Portuguese to trade with the
Far East directly by sea, thus challenging
older trading networks of mixed land and sea routes, such as the
spice trade routes that utilized the
Sea and camel caravans to
reach the eastern Mediterranean.
Venice had gained control over much of the trade routes
between Europe and Asia.
After traditional land routes to
India had been closed by the Ottoman
, Portugal hoped to use the sea route pioneered by Gama to
break the once Venetian trading monopoly. Portuguese rule in East
Africa focused mainly on a coastal strip centred in Mombasa. The
Portuguese presence in East Africa officially began after 1505,
when flagships under the command of Don Francisco de Almeida
, an island located in what is now
1505, having received from Manuel I
of Portugal the appointment of viceroy of the newly conquered
India, he set sail from Lisbon in command
of a large and powerful fleet, and arrived in July at Quiloa
(Kilwa), which yielded to him almost without a
A much more vigorous resistance was offered by the
of Mombasa, but the town was taken and
destroyed, and its large treasures went to strengthen the resources
of Almeida. Attacks followed on Hoja (now known as
Ungwana, located at the mouth of the Tana River), Barawa, Angoche, Pate and other
coastal towns until the western Indian Ocean was a safe haven for Portuguese commercial
interests. At other places on his way, such as the
island of Angediva, near Goa, and
Cannanore, the Portuguese built forts, and adopted measures
to secure the Portuguese supremacy.
Portugal's main goal in the east coast of Africa was take control
of the spice trade from the Arabs
. At this
stage, the Portuguese presence in East Africa served the purposes
of controlling trade within the Indian Ocean and securing the sea
routes linking Europe to Asia. Portuguese naval vessels were very
disruptive to the commerce of Portugal's enemies within the western
Indian Ocean and were able to demand high tariffs on items
transported through the sea due to their strategic control of ports
and shipping lanes. The construction of Fort Jesus in Mombasa in 1593 was meant to solidify Portuguese
hegemony in the region, but their influence was clipped by the
British, Dutch and Omani Arab incursions into the region during the 17th
The Omani Arabs posed the most direct challenge to Portuguese
influence in East Africa and besieged Portuguese fortresses, openly
attacked naval vessels and expelled the Portuguese from the Kenyan
and Tanzanian coasts by 1730. By this time the Portuguese Empire
had already lost its
interest on the spice trade sea route due to the decreasing
profitability of that business. The Arabs reclaimed much of the Indian Ocean
trade, forcing the Portuguese to retreat south where they remained
East Africa (Mozambique) as sole rulers until the 1975
independence of Mozambique.
Omani Arab colonization
of the Kenyan
and Tanzanian coasts brought the once independent city-states
under closer foreign scrutiny and
domination than was experienced during the Portuguese period. Like
their predecessors, the Omani Arabs were primarily able only to
control the coastal areas, not the interior. However, the creation
of clove plantations, intensification of
the slave trade and relocation of the
Omani capital to Zanzibar in 1839 by Seyyid Said
had the effect of consolidating the Omani power in the
Arab governance of all the major ports along the East African coast
continued until British interests aimed particularly at ending the
slave trade and creation of a wage-labour
system began to put pressure on
Omani rule. By the late nineteenth century, the slave trade on the
open seas had been completely outlawed by the British and the Omani
Arabs had little ability to resist the British navy's ability to
enforce the directive. The Omani presence continued in Zanzibar and
Pemba until the
1964 revolution, but the official Omani
Arab presence in Kenya was checked by German and British seizure of
key ports and creation of crucial trade alliances with influential
local leaders in the 1880s.
Period of European Imperialism
Between the 19th and 20th century, East Africa became a theatre of
competition between the major imperialistic European nations of the
time.During the period of the Scramble for Africa
, almost every
country comprising present day East Africa to varying degrees
became part of a European colonial
Portugal had first established a strong presence in southern
Mozambique and the Indian Ocean since the 15th century, while
during this period their possessions increasingly grew including
parts from the present northern Mozambique country, up to Mombasa in present day Kenya. At Lake Malawi, they finally met the recently created British
Protectorate of Nyasaland (nowadays Malawi), which
surrounded the homonymous lake on three sides, leaving the
Portuguese the control of lake's eastern coast.The British Empire set foot in the region's most
exploitable and promising lands acquiring what is today Uganda, and Kenya.
Protectorate of Uganda and the Colony of
Kenya were located in a rich farmland area mostly
appropriate for the cultivation of cash
crops like coffee and tea, as well as for animal husbandry with products
produced from cattle and goats, such as goat meat, beef and
Moreover this area had the
potential for a significant residential expansion, being suitable
for the relocation of a large number of British nationals to the
region. Prevailing climatic conditions and the
regions' geomorphology allowed the
establishment of flourishing European style settlements like
Marques and Entebbe.
the largest island of the Indian Ocean (and the fourth-largest
globally), Madagascar along with a group of smaller islands nearby,
namely Réunion and the Comoros. Madagascar – until then under British
control – became part of the French colonial empire being ceded
in exchange for the island of Zanzibar an important hub of spices
trade, off the coast of Tanganyika.
The British as well held a
number of island colonies in the region. The Seychelles an extended archipelago
and the rich farmland island of Mauritius, previously under the French sovereignty, were as such.
Empire gained control of a large area named German East Africa, comprising
present-day Rwanda, Burundi and the
mainland part of Tanzania named
In 1922, the British gained a League of Nations mandate
Tanganyika which it administered until Independence was granted to
Tanganyika in 1961. Following the Zanzibar Revolution of 1965, the
independent state of Tanganyika formed the United Republic of Tanzania
creating a union between the mainland, and the island chain of
Zanzibar. Zanzibar is now a semi-autonomous state in a union with
the mainland which is collectively and commonly referred to as
. German East Africa, though very
extensive, was not of such strategic importance as the British Crown's
colonies to the north: the
inhabitation of these lands was difficult and thus limited, mainly
due to climatic conditions and the local geomorphology.
gained control of various parts of Somalia in the
Map of British East Africa in
The southern three-fourths of Somalia became an
Meanwhile, in 1884, a narrow coastal strip of northern Somalia came
under British control (British
). This northern protectorate was just opposite
the British colony of Aden on the
these territories secured, Britain was able to serve as gatekeeper
of the sea lane
leading to British India
beginning with the purchase of the small port town of (Asseb) from a
local sultan in Eritrea, the
Italians colonized all of Eritrea.
from bases in Somalia and Eritrea, the Italians launched the
War against the Orthodox
Empire of Ethiopia.
By 1896, the war had become a total
disaster for the Italians and Ethiopia was able to retain its
independence. Ethiopia remained independent until 1936 when, after
the Second Italo-Abyssinian
, it became part of Italian
. The Italian occupation of Ethiopia ended in 1941
during World War II
as part of the
The French also staked out an East African outpost on the route to
. Starting in the
1850s, the small protectorate of Djibouti became French Somaliland in 1897.
Until recently most governments were illiberal
, and several countries were
riven with political coups, ethnic violence and oppressive
dictators. Since the end of colonialism, the region has endured the
Kenya and Tanzania have enjoyed relatively stable governments.
However politics has been turbulent at times, including the
attempted coup d’état in 1982
the 2007 election
Djibouti and the Puntland and Somaliland regions of Somalia
have also seen relative stability.
has known stable government since
independence although there are significant political and religious
tensions resulting from the political union between Tanganyika and
Zanzibar in 1964. Zanzibar is now a semi-autonomous state in the
United Republic of
. Tanzania and Uganda fought the Uganda-Tanzania War
in 1978–1979, which
led to the removal of Uganda's despotic leader Idi Amin
- United Nations Statistics Division - Standard
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comprises Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Somalia."
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the United Republic of Tanzania), East Africa covers a land
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