- Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and South Sudan are members of the East African Community EAC. The first five are also included in the African Great Lakes region. Burundi and Rwanda are at times also considered to be part of Central Africa.
- Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, and the disputed Somaliland – collectively known as the Horn of Africa. The area is the easternmost projection of the African continent.
- Comoros, Mauritius, and Seychelles – small island nations in the Indian Ocean.
- Réunion and Mayotte – French overseas territories also in the Indian Ocean.
- Mozambique and Madagascar – often considered part of Southern Africa, on the eastern side of the sub-continent. Madagascar has close cultural ties to Southeast Asia and the islands of the Indian Ocean.
- Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe – often also included in Southern Africa, and formerly constituted the Central African Federation (also known historically as the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland).
- Sudan and South Sudan – collectively part of the Nile Valley. Situated in the northeastern and central portion of the continent, Sudan is (some times) included in Northern Africa. Also members of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) free trade area.
Geography and climate
Image of the region between Lake Victoria
(on the right) and Lakes Edward
(from north to south) showing dense vegetation (bright green) and fires (red).
Some parts of East Africa have been renowned for their concentrations of wild animals, such as the "big five
": the elephant
, black rhinoceros
, though populations have been declining under increased stress in recent times, particularly those of the rhino and elephant.
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 latitude. In fact, on the coast of Somalia, many years can go by without any rain whatsoever.
Elsewhere the annual rainfall generally increases towards the south and with altitude, being around 400 mm (16 in) at Mogadishu
and 1,200 mm (47 in) at Mombasa
on the coast, whilst inland it increases from around 130 mm (5 in) at Garoowe
to over 1,100 mm (43 in) at Moshi
near Kilimanjaro. Unusually, most of the rain falls in two
distinct wet seasons
, one centred on April and the other in October or November. This is 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
, and the Brazilian Nordeste
West of 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
. Annual rainfall here ranges from over 1,600 mm (63 in) on the western slopes to around 1,250 mm (49 in) at Addis Ababa
and 550 mm (22 in) at Asmara. In the high mountains rainfall can be over 2,500 mm (98 in).
Rainfall in East Africa is characterised by two main rainfall seasons, the long rains from March–May and the short rains from October- December. Rainfall variability is influenced by both El Niño
events and a positive Indian Ocean Dipole
. El Nino events tend to increase rainfall except in the northern and western parts of the Ethiopian and Eritrean highlands, where they produce drought and poor Nile floods
Similarly, a positive Indian Ocean Dipole result in warm sea-surface temperatures off the coast of East Africa and lead to increased rainfall over East Africa.
Temperatures in East Africa, except on the hot and generally humid coastal belt, are moderate, with maxima of around 25 °C (77 °F) and minima of 15 °C (59 °F) at an altitude of 1,500 metres (4,921 ft). At altitudes of above 2,500 metres (8,202 ft), frosts
are common during the dry season and maxima typically about 21 °C (70 °F) or less.
According to the theory of the recent African origin of modern humans
, the predominantly held belief among most archaeologists, East Africa is the area where anatomically modern humans
There are differing theories on whether there was a single exodus or several; a multiple dispersal model involves the Southern Dispersal theory.
Some researchers have suggested that North Africa
was the region of Africa from which modern humans who first trekked out of the continent.
According to both genetic and fossil evidence, it has been posited that archaic Homo sapiens
evolved into anatomically modern humans
in the Horn of Africa around 200,000 years ago and dispersed from there.
The recognition of Homo sapien idaltu
and Omo Kibish as anatomically modern humans would justify the description of contemporary humans with the subspecies name Homo sapiens sapiens
. Because of their early dating and unique physical characteristics idaltu and kibish represent the immediate ancestors of anatomically modern humans as suggested by the Out-of-Africa
In 2017 finds of modern human remains, dating to ca 300,000 years ago in Jebel Irhoud
in Morocco, suggested that modern humans arose earlier and possibly in a larger area of Africa than previously thought.
East Africa is one of the earliest regions where Homo sapiens
are believed to have lived. Evidence was found in 2018, dating to about 320,000 years ago, at the Kenyan site of Olorgesailie
, of the early emergence of modern behaviors
associated with Homo sapiens
, including: long-distance trade networks (involving goods such as obsidian), the use of pigments, and the possible making of projectile points. It is observed by the authors of three 2018 studies on the site, that the evidence of these behaviors is approximately contemporary to the earliest known Homo sapiens
fossil remains from Africa (such as at Jebel Irhoud
), and they suggest that complex and modern behaviors had already begun in Africa around the time of the emergence of Homo sapiens
In September 2019, scientists reported the computerized determination, based on 260 CT scans
, of a virtual skull shape
of the last common human ancestor to modern humans
, representative of the earliest Homo sapiens
, and suggested that Homo sapiens
arose between 350,000 and 260,000 years ago through a merging of populations in South
and East Africa.
The migration route of the "Out of Africa" theory probably occurred in East Africa however through Bab el Mandeb
Today at the Bab-el-Mandeb
straits, the Red Sea is about 12 miles (20 kilometres) wide, but 50,000 years ago it was much narrower and sea levels were 70 meters lower. Though the straits were never completely closed, there may have been islands in between which could be reached using simple rafts.
The major competing hypothesis is the multiregional origin of modern humans
, which envisions a wave of Homo sapiens
migrating earlier from Africa and interbreeding with local Homo erectus
populations in multiple regions of the globe. Most multiregionalists still view Africa as a major wellspring of human genetic diversity, but allow a much greater role for hybridization.
The southern part of East Africa was occupied until recent times by Khoisan hunter-gatherers
, whereas in the Ethiopian Highlands
and such crop plants as teff
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
and crops such as millet
. Language distributions suggest that this most likely occurred from Sudan into the African Great Lakes region, since the Nilotic languages
spoken by these pre-Bantu farmers have their closest relatives in the middle Nile basin.
The Kingdom of Aksum
was a trading empire centered in Eritrea and northern Ethiopia.
It existed from approximately 100–940 AD, growing from the proto-Aksumite Iron Age
period c. 4th century BC to achieve prominence by the 1st century AD. The kingdom is mentioned in the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea
as an important market place for ivory
, which was exported throughout the ancient world. Aksum was at the time ruled by Zoskales
, who also governed the port of Adulis
The Aksumite rulers facilitated trade by minting their own Aksumite currency
. The state also established its hegemony
over the declining Kingdom of Kush
and regularly entered the politics of the kingdoms on the Arabian peninsula
, eventually extending its rule over the region with the conquest of the Himyarite Kingdom
Between 2500 and 3000 years ago, Bantu
began a millennia-long series of migrations eastward from their homeland around southern Cameroon. This Bantu expansion
introduced agriculture into much of the African Great Lakes region. During the following fifteen centuries, the Bantu slowly intensified farming and grazing over all suitable regions of East Africa, in the process making contact with Austronesian
- and Arabic
-speaking settlers on southern coastal areas. The latter also spread Islam
to the coastal belt, but most Bantu remained African Traditional Religion
Early Iron Age findings in East and Southern Africa
Over a period of many centuries, most hunting-foraging peoples were displaced and absorbed by incoming Bantu communities, as well as by later Nilotic
The Bantu expansion
was a long series of physical migrations, a diffusion of language and knowledge out into and in from neighboring populations, and a creation of new societal groups involving inter-marriage among communities and small groups moving to communities and small groups moving to new areas.
After their movements from their original homeland in West Africa
, Bantus also encountered in central east Africa peoples of Cushitic
origin. As cattle terminology in use amongst the few modern Bantu pastoralist
groups suggests, the Bantu migrants would acquire cattle
from their new Cushitic neighbors. Linguistic evidence also indicates that Bantus most likely borrowed the custom of milking cattle directly from Cushitic peoples in the area.
The earliest Bantu inhabitants of the east coast of Kenya and Tanzania encountered by these later Arab and Persian settlers have been variously identified with the trading settlements of Rhapta
referenced in early Greek and Chinese writings from AD 50 to AD 500,
ultimately giving rise to the name for Tanzania
These early writings perhaps document the first wave of Bantu settlers to reach central east Africa during their migration.
Between the 14th and 15th centuries, large African Great Lakes kingdoms and states emerged, such as the Buganda
kingdoms of Uganda and Tanzania.
Arab and Portuguese eras
The Republic of 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 Turks
, Portugal hoped to use the sea route pioneered by da Gama to break the once Venetian trading monopoly. Portuguese rule in the African Great Lakes region focused mainly on a coastal strip centered around Mombasa. The Portuguese presence in the area officially began after 1505, when flagships under the command of Don Francisco de Almeida
, an island located in what is now southern Tanzania
In March 1505, having received from Manuel I of Portugal
the appointment of viceroy of the newly conquered territory in 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 struggle. A much more vigorous resistance was offered by the Moors
of Mombasa. However, 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 on the Swahili coast was to 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
and Omani Arab
incursions into the Great Lakes region during the 17th century.
The Omani Arabs posed the most direct challenge to Portuguese influence in the African Great Lakes region. They 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 in Portuguese 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 region.
Arab governance of all the major ports along the Swahili 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 Zanzibar Revolution
in 1964. However, 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
Map of British East Africa in 1911
Between the 19th and 20th century, East Africa became a theatre of competition between the major imperialistic European nations of the time. The three main colors of the African country were beige, red, and blue. The red stood for the English, blue stood for the French, and the beige stood for Germany during the period of colonialism. During the period of the Scramble for Africa
, almost every country in the larger region to varying degrees became part of a European colonial
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
), 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
. The Protectorate of Uganda
and the Colony of Kenya
were located in a rich farmland area mostly appropriate for the cultivation of cash crops
, as well as for animal husbandry with products produced from cattle and goats, such as goat meat
. 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 Nairobi
, Vila Pery
, Vila Junqueiro
, Porto Amélia
, Lourenço Marques
The German Empire
gained control of a large area named German East Africa
, comprising present-day Rwanda
and the mainland part of Tanzania
named Tanganyika. In 1922, the British gained a League of Nations mandate
over 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
by 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 Tanzania
. 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. Italy gained control of various parts of Somalia
in the 1880s. The southern three-fourths of Somalia became an Italian protectorate
Meanwhile, in 1884, a narrow coastal strip of Somaliland came under British control (British Somaliland
). This Somaliland protectorate was just opposite the British colony of Aden
on the Arabian Peninsula
. With these territories secured, Britain was able to serve as gatekeeper of the sea lane
leading to British India
. In 1890, beginning with the purchase of the small port town of (Asseb
) from a local sultan in Eritrea
, the Italians colonized all of Eritrea.
This section needs expansion
. You can help by adding to it
. (April 2019)
Eastern Africa had an estimated population of 260 million in 2000. This was projected to reach 890 million by 2050, with an average growth rate of 2.5% per annum. The 2000 population is expected to quintuple over the course of the 21st century, to 1.6 billion as of 2100 (UN estimates as of 2017).
, there is an estimated population of 102 million as of 2016.
Science and technology
Until recently, several East African countries were riven with political coups, ethnic violence and oppressive dictators. Since the end of colonialism, the region has endured the following conflicts:
Northern East Africa (Horn of Africa)
Southern East Africa (Southeast Africa)
Outside Southeast Africa with Southeast African participation
has know n 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
Countries, capitals and largest cities
According to the CIA, as of 2017, the countries in the eastern Africa region have a total population of around 537.9 million inhabitants.
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Last edited on 9 May 2021, at 17:11
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