About East Africa

History & Future of East Africa Community

The East African Community

Brief History of East African Community: Part I

The East Africa Community has been an unperfected dream for Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, its foremost members. Yet, even with a stalemate over complete integration, it has rolled on right with great benefits. The rift, if ever one existed and needed to be bridged, grew exponentially at the turn of the 1980’s, to what many think was an irreconcilable divergence. The open secret of the differences was not the making of any of the three nations. The East African Community was revivified in 1967 as a customs union between Kenya and Uganda, followed by the joining of Tanganyika (or Tanzania) in 1968. The economic integration was jigged in 1967, and collapsed in 1977 due to political disparities. Perhaps, the rise of General Idi Amin as president of Uganda, toppling Milton Obote in a terse military takeover, was what broke the camel’s back. Julius Nyerere, then President of Tanganyika, firmly declined any further relation with Uganda for as long as General Idi Amin was her cockswain. And correspondingly, the East African Community fell into disarray, signified by the winding down of the East African Railway and East African Airways, which were jointly run by the three states. The latter, in two shakes of a lamb’s tail, was renamed to Kenya Airways. Still and all, the three states remain friendly neighbours, with a great deal of the incentive treaties in effect. It is, all said and done, a great source of pride for the governments and citizenry to be associated with the East African Community. And nowhere perhaps are these friendly relations seen in fine bloom than at the more than 50 shared border-point with an open-policy. The same sentiment is embodies in the unfeigned East African Community Anthem: “Oh God we pray, for preservation of the East African Community; Enable us to live in peace; May we fulfill our objectives”. Then again, away from business and diplomacy: What binds the East Africa Community together is far greater than what separates it. While we do know that economic growth has been fueled by the confidence of consumers, businesses and investors in the unity of the region, the cultures, landscapes, resources, beliefs, history and ancestry of East Africa is the merciful padlock which clutches East Africa together. It seem like a strange thought for anyone to ever worry about the future prosperity of the East Africa Community.

The tiny "Rock Hotel" in Zanzibar Island, Tanzania.  Photo Courtesy.
The tiny “Rock Hotel” in Zanzibar Island, Tanzania. Image Courtesy.

The New East African Community

The new East African Community Co-operation was created in November 1999 as a regional intergovernmental organisation of six partner countries: Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda; with the headquarters in Arusha, Tanzania. “Burundi and Rwanda became members in 2007 while South Sudan gained accession in April 2016. Fortified by their historical links, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania had established strong economic cooperation by laying the groundwork for further political, economic and social integration of the EAC”. The Community has a number of semi-autonomous institutions that help it implement its endorsement, three of which became operational in July 2015. Collectively, the EAC encourages the marketing of the Community as a Single Tourist Destination while conserving and perpetuating sustainable utilization of wildlife and other tourist sites, among the twenty other sectors of collaboration.

Milestones of East African Community Integration

30 November 1993: 1st Summit of East African Heads of State sign Agreement establishing the Permanent Tripartite Commission for East African Co-operation in Kampala, Uganda.
14 March 1996: Secretariat of the Commission for East African Co-operation launched in Arusha, Tanzania.
28 April 1997: EAC Member States sign Tripartite Agreement on Avoidance of Double Taxation.
29 April 1997: 2nd Summit of the East African Co-operation Heads of State is held in Arusha, Tanzania; 1st East African Co-operation Development Strategy (1997-2000), East African Flag and East African Passport launched; and Permanent Tripartite Commission mandated to embark on process of upgrading EAC Agreement into Treaty.
30 April 1998: 9th Meeting of the Permanent Tripartite Commission in Arusha launches a draft Treaty for Establishment of the East African Community; approves programme for its wide publicity; EAC Memorandum of Understanding on Co-operation in Defence signed in Arusha; Tripartite Agreement on Road Transport signed in Arusha; and Inland Waterway Transport Agreement signed in Arusha.
30 November 1999: 4th Summit held in Arusha at which Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community is signed.
7 July 2000: Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community enters into force; new regional organisation, the East African Community, comes into being.
15 January 2001: 1st Summit of the East African Community is held in Arusha; signs Protocols on: Rules of Procedure for the Summit of Heads of State; Rules of Procedure for the Admission of other countries to the East African Community; and formally launches the East African Community at the Sheikh Amri Abeid Stadium in Arusha.
30 November 2001: 3rd Summit of EAC held in Arusha; EAC Heads of State inaugurate EA Legislative Assembly and EA Court of Justice.
2 March 2004: EAC Summit signs Protocol for EAC Customs Union.
1 January 2005: EAC Customs Union becomes operational.
18 June 2007: Rwanda and Burundi accede to EAC Treaty.
1 July 2007: Rwanda and Burundi become full members of the EAC.
5 June 2007: Second Assembly (EALA) sworn in.
22 October 2008: First EAC-COMESA-SADC Tripartite Summit held in Kampala, Uganda. Discusses single Free Trade Area and merger of the three regional blocs.
1 July 2009: Rwanda and Burundi join the EAC Customs Union. Official launch ceremonies held simultaneously in the two countries’ capitals on 6 July 2009.
20 November 2009: Protocol for the Establishment of the EAC Common Market signed; climax of observance of EAC 10th Anniversary celebrations; laying of foundation stone for EAC Headquarters in Arusha.
1 January 2010: EAC’s fully-fledged Customs Union takes effect following the end of a five-year transitional period.
1 July 2010: EAC Common Market Protocol enters into force, following ratification by all the five EAC Partner States.
3 December 2010: EAC Summit of Heads of State adopts the EAC Anthem.
12 June 2011: Second COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Summit held in Johannesburg, South Africa; agrees to start negotiations for a Grand Free Trade Area among the three blocs.
5 June 2012: Third Assembly (EALA) sworn in.
28 November 2012: Presidents of the EAC Partner States officially inaugurate the new EAC Headquarters in Arusha.
30 November 2013: Protocol for the Establishment of the EAC Monetary Union signed.
16 April 2016: The Republic of South Sudan joins the EAC.
5 September 2016: The Republic of South Sudan becomes a full member of the EAC
Timeline Courtesy of EAC as cited in the EAC Milestone Timeline

The East African Community Anthem

East African Anthem, performed by Cathrine Mbinya

Tourism in East African Community

The East African Tourism Block requires that all visitors entering East Africa be in possession of a valid international certificate against small pox. When leaving East Africa, a similar document is also required.  As a precautionary measure, malaria prophylactic medicine should be handy, just incase one passes through a malarial zone – although in recent years only few areas in East Africa Tourism Block as classified as malarial zone by World Health Organization. That said, East Africa Community is in point of fact as healthy as anywhere in the world.


Murchison Falls National Park in Uganda. Published by Chris Austria

East Africa Community Tourism

The better-known East Africa Community Tourism Block is comprised of three countries – Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania – which collectively cover a gross area of 1,768,768 km2 (Kenya 582,644 km2, Uganda 241,037 km2 and Tanzania 945,087 km2).  East Africa lies almost in the centre of Africa and the equator runs through both Kenya and Uganda.  On East Africa’s northern boundary lies the highland of Ethiopia (the most elevated plateau in Africa), the semi-deserts of Somalia, and the low-lying plains of the Sudan.  On the west lies the Congo.  To the south lie Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique.  On the east the coasts are lined by Indian Ocean. Zanzibar (Unguja) Island is the main island of Tanzania. To put the size of East Africa Community Tourism into perspective, it’s almost seven times the size of England, Wales and Scotland; or is nearly a quarter the size of the United States.  East Africa is globally famous for its eccentric wildlife displays and extremely vast topography which ranges from high plateaus, snow-capped mountains, deserts and of rolling scapes.  East Africa also has some of the largest lakes in the world, notably Lake Victoria, the second largest fresh water lake and Lake Tanganyika. Of the five mountains in Africa whose peaks rise over 14,000 feet, its only three permanently snow-capped are found in East Africa – Kilimanjaro (Tanzania), Kenya (Kenya) and the Ruwenzoris (on the border between Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo). They were first climbed in that order – Kilimanjaro being first in 1888, Kenya second in 1889, and the Ruwenzoris in 1906. The East Africa Community is the leading touring destination in Sub-Saharan Africa, with steady growth as a regional destination.


Tourism in the States of East Africa Community

1. Rwanda: The Land of a Thousand Hills

When things got bad for Rwanda in the 1990’s, the future seemed to be forlorn. Conversely, “the land of 1,000 hills” turned over a new leaf, its expansion and change of heart now an envy of many states of Africa. How the public perceives the heartfelt events that moved us to the blink of dismay is not in the equation anymore. “No one who watched or has read about it sees things the same way they did”. Or again, “Rwanda will never ever leave me. It’s in the pores of my body. My soul is in those hills, my spirit is with the spirits of all those people.” And, as Rick Warren concludes, “In all my travels, I’ve never seen a country’s population more determined to forgive, build and succeed than in Rwanda.” Today, Rwanda is looking to diversify its range of available touring resources beyond the iconic Gorilla and wildlife tourism. It has demonstrated an enviable commitment to safeguarding the existence of wildlife within her four National Parks. Withal, Rwanda has fine endless vistas, with a fresh perspective around every bend. Indeed an expedition of East Africa now warrants a trip to Rwanda.

Lake Kivu in Rwanda.  Photo Courtesy of Timbuktu Travel
Lake Kivu in Rwanda. Photo Courtesy of Timbuktu Travel

2. Tanzania: The Land of Variety

Tanzania is the land of variety.  The Northern Region of Tanzania offers East Africa’s highest mountain – 19,340 ft, Mount Kilimanjaro. The Serengeti Plains, world famous for the dazzling displays of wildlife, also contains Olduvai Gorge, one of the most salient archaeological sites in Tanzania at which the remains of prehistoric man have been unearthed, to provide links in the chain of human evolution. Outstanding in East Africa’s tourism is Tanzania’s famed 10 National Parks; which collectively cover 68,000 km2.  They vary in size from the 14,500 km2 Serengeti National Park to the stunning 318 km2 Lake Manyara National Park.  Some of her other parks include the Arusha National Park with its couthy heather fringed Momela Lakes, Mount Meru National Reserve, Ngorongoro Crater National Park, Mikumi National Park, Ruaha National Park, Tarangire National Park, Gombe Stream National Park, Mkomazi Game Reserve, Selous Game Reserve, Rungwa Game Reserve Katavi Plains Game Reserve, Ugalla River Game Reserve, Kilimanjaro Game Reserve, Rumanyika Orugunda Game Reserve, Rubondo and the Saa Nane Game Reserve; all with abounding wildlife.

Aside from her unfamiliar and absolutely magnificent horizons and landscapes, Tanzania has well over 120 different cultures, and travellers to Tanzania can be assured that in whichever direction they traverse, they will encounter a cheerful and friendly welcome from the diverse communities. Tanzania is also home to Zanzibar. Situated close to the coast of Tanzania are the two beautiful islands of Zanzibar, 1,657 km2 and Pemba, 984 km2.  Pemba lies about 64 kms east of Tanga while Zanzibar Island lies about 48 kilometres north of Dar es Salaam.  The channel which separates the two island from the mainland is only twenty metres deep in some areas. Zanzibar is one of the most popular destinations in Tanzania; second only to Mount Kilimanjaro.  Aside from its highly developed beaches, Zanzibar Island is also commonly referred to as the “Spice Island” where cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and black pepper are produced. The island, which has been occupied for over 20,000 years, also holds a captivating history.

View of the stellar Serengeti National Park.  Photo Courtesy of Trip Advisor
View of the stellar Serengeti National Park. Photo Courtesy of Trip Advisor

3. Uganda: The Pearl of Africa

While Uganda may be smallest of the countries within the earlier East African Community, it packs a great catalog of places to see.  Uganda which marches astride the equator has an unexpectedly pleasant year-round weather, thanks to its altitude, and it experiences a warm summer climate throughout the year.  Uganda, whose fabulous Lake Victoria is the source of the legendary Nile, is a country of scenic fertile valleys and epic plains.​ Among the variety of attractions in Uganda are its eye-catching National Parks. The Queen Elizabeth National Park on the western border of Uganda includes large portions of Lakes Edward and George, and the chain of crater lakes beneath the slopes of the Ruwenzori Mountains – the fabled Mountain of the Moon.  The Murchison Falls National Park, in the Northern Region of Uganda, straddles the River Nile and includes the magnificent Murchison Falls which cascades down 140 feet in a fantastic turbulence through a narrow gap of only 20 feet wide.  A trip up the Nile, to the base of the falls, is one of the unforgettable experience of Uganda. Then, there’s Toro N. Game Reserve, Kidepo Valley National Park and the Mount Elgon Park.

For the ardent hikers, Uganda provides magnificent opportunities for climbing expeditions. The snow capped Ruwenzori Mountains rising to 16,000 ft., offer a climbing experience which some say rivals that of the Alps in both character and steep. The main peaks of Stanley, Speke, Baker, Margarita and Alexandra are served with mountain huts. On the eastern boundary of Uganda rises the 14,000 ft., Mount Elgon, a vast extinct volcano with a base 66 kms across; and in the south of Uganda is the mountainous landscape of Kigezi. In the Kabale Region of Uganda is to be found one of the most dumbfounding landscapes in all of Africa. Kanaba Gap, 8,000 ft., above sea level, is a pearl of Uganda and a most breathtaking view.  At one’s feet a steep slope falls away into the valley and in the distance the extensive volcanic peaks with exotic names – Muhavura, Mgahinga and Sabinio, rise 13,000 ft., out of the green plains and limpid blue lakes. On the slopes of these volcanoes is the home of the rare mountain gorilla.

Kidepo Valley National Park.  Photo Courtesy of Journeys by Design
Kidepo Valley National Park. Photo Courtesy of Journeys by Design

4. Kenya: The Land of Contrast

In the East Africa Community Block, Kenya is the land of contrast.  No other nation in Africa offers such a contrast of ecology for the same area.  Kenya rises from the coast to an altitude of 5,199 ms at the summit of Mount Kenya before dropping down to Lake Victoria and Uganda.  The diversity runs from tropical beaches, savanna arid rangeland, highland plateaus, dense forests, moorlands, farmland, scrub and perched deserts which can all be experienced in a short journey of just 830 kms; Mombasa to Kisumu. Of the area of 582,646 km2 that Kenya covers, 47,674 km2 has been set aside for conservation in 29 National Parks, 27 National Reserves and 4 Wildlife Sanctuaries. It also has more than 60 Wildlife Conservancies, covering at least 15% of Kenya’s area.  2008 km2 are covered by natural and plantation forests, so the forest cover is 3.4% of her total area. Out of this, 1700 km2 represent indigenous forests, 122 km2 plantation forests, 121 km2 privately owned forests and almost 613 km2 mangrove forests. 

Kenya’s boundaries of 3,500 kilometers includes 536 kilometers of delightful coral-fringed coastline with the country offering four Marine Parks and five Marine Reserves. Its coastal assets include 83,000 hectares of coastal forests, floodplain wetlands and vast mangrove forest ecosystems, especially in Lamu where 12 species of sea-grass and 50,000 ha of coral reef is protected under 2 Marine Parks and 2 Marine Reserves.​ Kenya has a mosaic of more than forty ethnic groups, each with its own culture and language, which today exist side by side, as the result of waves of in-migration going back 4000 years: of Turkanas from Ethiopia; Kikuyu, Akamba, and Meru from West Africa; and the Maasai, Luo and Samburu from southern Sudan. By the eighth century, Arabic, Indian, Persians and even Chinese traders reached the Kenyan coast. They helped set up a string of coastal cities (for example, Mombasa and Lamu) and eventually the part-African, part-Arabic civilization, more popularly known as the Swahili.

The spectacular Amboseli National Park.  Photo Courtesy of Micato Safaris
The spectacular Amboseli National Park. Photo Courtesy of Micato Safaris

5. Burundi: Junction of Central and East Africa

The landlocked 27,834 km2 Burundi is situated at the junction of Central and East Africa. It experienced strong growth tourism in the period between 2005 and 2012 with the development of hotel facilities which almost quadrupled the accommodation capacity of the country. It leveraged on its natural beauty ranges from an incredible array of cultural heritage, stunning scenery and some of the friendliest people in the world. Burundi’s biggest highlight is the presence of Lake Tanganyika on the doorstep of Bujumbura, its largest town. This lake is home to over 700 species of fish that are found nowhere else, making it one of the world’s natural wonders. Some of its developed parks include Rusizi River National Park and Kibira National Park. With a population of 10 million and a density of 379 inhabitants per km2, Burundi is one of the densely populated countries in Africa, yet, this is well-rewarded with a great cultural passage like at Gishora Drum Sanctuary. Burundian tourism has been affected by political tensions since April 2015, although the precise scale of this impact is unknown.

View of the Karera Fall in Rutana Province.  Photo Courtesy
View of the Karera Fall in Burundi’s Rutana Province. Photo Courtesy

6. South Sudan: The Unexplored Frontier

After dithering its tourism for decades, with more than one spate of warfare and cessation of hostilities, South Sudan hopes its current wave of calm and unsung touring resources will engender a sobriquet of its unique natural wonders, often sold short. South Sudan, and the extensive Sudan, is other-worldly and remains unknown to much of the world. However, with a damaging political climate and oft headline tags like the ‘long-serving ruler Omar al-Bashir’, ‘military and pro-democracy movement’ and ‘mass protests and killings’, its ruinous history has settled nothing in the wanderlust of many a travellers, the changes counting as hopeful occurrences. Top on the mind, the latest unrest in Sudan can be traced back to December of 2018, when then President Bashir’s government imposed emergency austerity measures to try to stave off economic collapse. Not far in everyone’s impression of South Sudan was the messy separation in 2011 from Sudan, wrapping up their decades of strife and discord, which rendered much stagnation in development of infrastructure in both halves of Sudan – Africa’s largest nation. Thus was born Africa’s newest state, with a land surface area of 644,329 km2, bearing mainly patches of broad forests, swamps, and grasslands.

South Sudan lies at the heart of tropics, not too far north of the equator, yet, the climate over much of the area experience two different climates; equatorial and tropical climates. This is because of the country’s savannah, the Congo Forest, the East African montane forests and the Acacia bush land in the north. As a traveller to South Sudan, you’d be wise to prepare your eyeballs for a spectacle of varied landscapes, especially its plains and mountain ranges. Today, South Sudan, whose stunning Sudd Swamp is considered among the world’s largest freshwater wetlands, expanding over 130,000 km2 within the Nile basin, is still largely untouched by the tourist. The Sudd is, of course, the outlet of the White Nile, the main tributary of the Nile River, as it takes one final bow before the treacherous journey north to Egypt across the deserts. The White Nile passes through the country before it forms the Sudd Swamp (locally as Bahr al Jabal) in the mid-northern region. Among the other variety of attraction include the Imatong Mountains in the southern area, not far west of Kidepo Valley National Park shared with Uganda. It contains South Sudan’s highest point: Mt. Kinyeti at 10,456 ft. (3,187 m). The underdeveloped Badingilo National Park and Boma National Park lie 150 kms north and northeast of Imatong Mountains, passing through Juba, its capital city, are unique in great landscapes and exotic wildlife.

Boma National Park in South Sudan. Image Courtesy
Boma National Park in South Sudan. Image Courtesy

Brief History of East African Community: Part II

The base idea of the “the East African common market” was mooted in the late 19th century, over half a century before any of its state gained independence, to have a centralized government system that would cater for the common good of the member states; Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. The first luminary behind the aim of an East African Community would be Frederick John Dealtry Lugard, 1st Baron Lugard (or more proper Frederick Lugard) who served at the time as the Secretary for the Colonies in England. As the British Empire sought to establish new markets and sources of materials in Africa, Lugard considered the outcome of a federation of Eastern Africa would bring more good than harm for all the interests. This idea was not a difficult task because the three East African states had been of primary interest as an object of integration policy to the British for over a century. The practicability of the idea of a link-up did not, however, make headway up until 1926, with the development of an official system for common agreements. Hence, a legally binding cooperation bound the relations between the states of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. Predictably, the 1920’s had become a headache for policy makers, as they sought to answer the vexed question of a suitable system. The travails and complexity in enforcing the system included the uncomfortable issue of opposing sides of those favouring settler interest and those in favour of the Africans. “The underlying discussion was divided among: Those who favoured the settlers and saw the need for a closer cooperation of the territories on the presumption that this would be a prerequisite on relaxing the grip that the British had on the colonies; with those who voiced their concern to safeguard interests of the Africans fearing that a closer association between the territories would give leverage to the settlers who would end up dominating the key positions. To this effect a commission was delegated, which concluded that forming a federation was unwelcome for all practical reasons.” – Lily N. Njenga

The amazing Royal drummers at Gishora Drum Sanctuary