East Africa


  1. Physical Setting
    • Africa's Rift Valley
    • Climate
  2. Human Environment
    • Population
    • Population Clusters
    • Regional Health Concerns
    • Language
    • Religion
    • Regional Conflicts
    • Economic Development
  3. Demographic Analysis (FROM POPULATION DATA SHEET)
    • Population Growth
    • Under 15 / Over 65
    • Infant Mortality
    • Percent Urban
    • GNI PPP
  4. Countries
    • Tanzania
    • Kenya
    • Uganda
    • Rwanda
    • Burundi
  5. References
  6. Review Questions

Regional Characteristics

At one time Africa was the center of the land mass called Pangaea. About 200 years ago landmasses started to break away leaving Africa the shape it is today. Being located in the center and having all of the countries pull away from it the separation of the five countries show on the landscape of Africa. There are rifts located throughout the country. There is a major rift that runs along the eastern side of Africa. The major rift is expected to break apart the east part of Africa one day. Eastern Africa is considered to be a savanna. Here there are also volcanoes throughout the rift valley. The equator cuts right through Africa. Both halves tend to have the same weather. The rainy and hot climate of Zaire travels both north and south. The savannas soil is not capable of handling heavy cultivation. But in the upland areas of East Africa the farm yields are high. Corn and millet are two crops in Africa but there isn't a large amount that comes from this area.

Five countries make up East Africa Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda. A majority of the people here are Bantu, who met the Nilotic peoples. Tutsi, in their cattle owning kingdoms dominated the Hutu peasantry in the hills of Rwanda and Burundi. Population in this eastern part varies from 5.9 million to 29.1 million. Africa is faced with problems in population because of diseases that break out in different areas. Malaria is the number one killer, over one million children die each year.

The colonial period brought much to Africa. There are thousands of languages spoken throughout the country. For a country that carries less than 1/10 of the world's population, 1/7 of the world’s languages are spoken here. There are a variety of religions practiced in Africa. Islam is practiced in the eastern countries, and stretches all the way through Kenya and Tanzania.

Hutu and Tutsi were two old adversaries in Rwanda and Burundi. Under Belgian rule their differences grew. There space was limited by a boundary that was rewarded for Belgian action during World War I against the Germans. Uganda along with Central African and Burkina Faso contain about 40% of the world’s refugees. Ethnic diversity, cultural complexity, and economic deprivation are among the few deprivations that confront this area. The European involvement began in the fifteenth century. This period was intended to interrupt Africa’s development and to alter the economic, political, and social make-up of the continent. This started slowly with a few ships trying to get a sea route to the Orient. Then ships started to travel to and from and set up forts. It spread from the Savannas to the foreign stations on the Atlantic coast. Slaves then became known and used in the Savannas. Slave trading became well known in eastern Africa before Europeans brought the idea to the west.


Tanzania is the largest country in eastern Africa. Tanzania is larger than the other four countries of eastern Africa put together. Tanzania is said to be a country without core, everything is separated throughout the country. Population and productivity are spread out in different locations. There are about 100 different ethical groups. After gaining independence they worked on developing a better country including setting up a farm program. China also helped by building a railroad. Tourism is not too popular in Tanzania. In the late 1990's Tanzania was said to be one of the poorest countries in the world.

Kenya does not carry the title of being the largest or having the most population, but has been the dominant state in the region. It’s capital Nairobi is the largest city. After gaining independence Kenya began to lead a capitalist development. Kenya depended on coffee and tea exports also on tourism that was large mainly because of its national parks.

Uganda contained the Kingdom of Buganda that was the most important African political entity. Buganda are the dominant people in Uganda Being a landlocked state and depending on Kenya for outlet to the ocean after independence, Uganda had a better economy than any other African country. Uganda used to be the largest producer of coffee and had a major cotton export. This all changed in 1971 when Idi Amin became the dictator and destroyed the economy. Amin was driven from power in 1979. Uganda has been hit with a high epidemic of the AIDS virus. The country that was once strong may never be able to recover.

Rwanda carries a population of about 8 million. Population is separated into three layers Tutsi, Hutu, and Twa. Rwanda has been struggling against Burundi for a long time for power. In 1994 around 500,000 Rwandans lost their lives in a campaign by militias of Hutus against Tutsis.

Burundi has a population of 7 milliion. With the campaign of Tutsis and Hutus more then 2 million have shifted over to Zaire and Tanzania

Review Questions

1. The trenches that contain the large elongated lakes of East Africa, which were formed by huge parallel faults in the earth's crust, are called: A. hanging valleys; B. plate collapses; C. elongated valleys; D. break valleys; E. rift valleys.

2. This East Africa country has no major mineral deposits and receives most of its foreign-earned income from tourism. It has the world's fastest growing population (natural increase is over 4%). Culture groups here practice polygamy and a woman's status is measured by the number of children. The average number per woman is 8.1. A. Tanzania; B. Kenya; C. Uganda; D. Rwanda; E. Burundi.

3. East Africa includes all of the following countries except: A. Tanzania; B. Kenya; C. Uganda; D. Rwanda; E. Angola.

Add three questions of your own. (Something about population expansion, health problems, regional conflict.)

Submitted by Diane Payich on December 17,1996.