EAC History


Colonial Period

EA Railways logo1897 – 1901

Railway lines across Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika open up the region for colonial development.

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1900 – 1917

Customs for goods destined for Uganda are collected at Mombasa port, and a full customs Union comprising Kenya, Uganda and, later, Tanganyika is established in 1917.

Mombasa Harbour before World War I

Mombasa Harbour before World War I

1905 – 1940

East African Currency Bill and Stamp

East African Currency Bill and Stamp

The East African Currency Board, the Postal Union, the Court of Appeal for Eastern Africa, the East African Governors’ Conference, the East African Income Tax Board and the Joint Economic Council are established.


The East African Airways Corporation is incorporated. It covered not only the East African region, but operated across Africa, connecting also to Europe and India.

EAA International Flights

EAA International Flights

1948 – 1961

The East African High Commission (EACH) is the coordinating body to deal with a customs union, a common external tariff, currency and postage; and also with common services in transport and communications, research and education.

Independence and First EA Community


Following independence, the East African High Commission is replaced by the East African Common Services Organisation (EACSO), which many observers thought would lead to a political federation between the three territories. However, the new organisation suffered from a lack of joint planning and fiscal policy, separate political policies and Kenya’s dominant economic position.

On the way to build the East African Community. President Jomo Kenyatta, President Julius “Mwalimu” Nyerere, Prime Minister Obote

On the way to build the East African Community. President Jomo Kenyatta, President Julius “Mwalimu” Nyerere, Prime Minister Obote

1964 – Union Tanganyika and Zanzibar


Signing of the ‘Treaty for East African Cooperation’ among Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.

President Jomo Kenyatta, President Julius “Mwalimu” Nyerere, Prime Minister Obote, the “founding fathers’ of the first EAC

President Jomo Kenyatta, President Julius
“Mwalimu” Nyerere, Prime Minister Obote, the “founding fathers’ of the first EAC

The East African Community of 1967-77 aimed at a common market, a common customs tariff and a range of public services so as to achieve balanced economic growth within the region. It was already a monetary union with a currency board and a parity currency (1 Uganda Sh = 1 Kenya Sh = 1 Tanzania Sh). Public enterprises included East African Railways and Harbours, East African Airways, East African Posts and Telecommunications and East African Development Bank.

Other areas of commonality included education, with a single syllabus and a single examination body, the East African Examinations Council; the University of East Africa with specialised colleges in each country; the East African Literature Bureau engaged in publishing, the Inter-University Council of East Africa, and others.

Citizens of the community moved and worked across the region, from the professionals to the casual labourers. Kampala’s suburbs, like Namuwongo for example, still have communities whose roots are in Kenya, traceable to the EAC days. As an economic bloc, the region presented a large market for foreign direct investment with many multinationals establishing themselves in the region.


Arusha Declaration, outlining the principles of Ujamaa in TZ


East African Currency Board breaks down and three separate Central Banks are established, destroying hopes for a monetary union.


Idi Amin comes to power in Uganda; Nyerere refuses to sit at the same table with Amin. The cooperation comes to a factual standstill at this point.

Breakdown of the First Community, Mediation and Revival


Dissolution of the first East African Community. Causes for the collapse were seen as “lack of strong political will, lack of strong participation from the private sector and the civil society in the cooperation activities, the continued disproportionate sharing of benefits of the Community among the Partner States due to their differences in their levels of development and lack of adequate policies to address this situation”. (Preamble of Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community).

“We made a mistake; we did not involve the public at all. The civil society and the business people should push the bureaucrats. (Julius K. Nyerere)

Now that collapse had, of course, very serious consequences. (…) The borders were closed. (…) There were no inter-country railways, no trade, no airways. We had no post and telecommunications services any more, no joint navigation. We even had a war in 1978-79 between Tanzania and Uganda … And of course they did not pay their common debts. They not only had assets like railway wagons, they also had common liabilities, say to the World Bank and to many governments, which they had to re-pay as a Community. But the Community having collapsed, nobody re-paid anything, so they were all in default. There was no way to see to it that liabilities would be honored. The three countries lived so much apart from each other that they were unable to talk to each other anymore.” Victor Umbricht, World Bank Mediator, in an interview with WB Archives in 1987”


Uganda-Tanzania war in support of Obote and to overthrow Iddi Amin

Signing of the mediation agreement for the first EAC. Source: Viktor H. Umbrecht, Multilateral Mediation: Practical Experiences and Lessons. Dordrecht (The Netherlands), 1988

Signing of the mediation agreement for the first EAC. Source: Viktor H. Umbrecht, Multilateral Mediation: Practical Experiences and Lessons. Dordrecht (The Netherlands), 1988


East African Community mediation agreement for division of assets and liabilities of the first EAC.

In the agreement, the three States also agreed to explore areas of future co-operation and to make concrete arrangements for such co-operation.


Re-launching East African Cooperation: the New EAC


Formation of a tri-partite working group to develop modalities of renewed co-operation.


Ministers of Foreign Affairs to devise a pragmatic programme to reactivate co-operation; tri-partite committee of experts to identify spheres of common economic interest.


African Economic Treaty signed in June in Abuja (Nigeria)


First meeting of heads of state of Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda to discuss renewed EA cooperation.


Signing of COMESA Treaty


Permanent Tripartite Commission for East African Co-operation established.

Source: EAC

Signing of the EAC Treaty


EAC Secretariat in Arusha agreed to establish East African Business Council. First EAC Development Strategy 1997-2000.


Treaty Establishing the East African Community.


Inauguration of East African Legal Assembly and East African Court of Justice.

2004 – 2013

EAC Integration Schedule


Accession of Rwanda and Burundi to the EAC.

Accession of Rwanda and Burundi to the EAC


EAC Common Market Protocol signed


Mutual Recognition of Qualifications across the EAC


Protocol of Monetary Union signed

Presidents holding EAMU Protocol

EAC Presidents holding EAMU Protocol


Cross-border movement using ID Cards in three Partner States

2015 and beyond

EAC Political Federation


South Sudan becomes new member