British East Africa

British East Africa Company

British East Africa Company
Chartered company

British East Africa protectorate

British East Africa
British protectorate





Quick reference

General issues: British East Africa Company 1890-1895, British protectorate 1895-1901

Country name on general issues: British East Africa

Special issues: Local issues Mombasa 1891-1895

Currency: 1 Rupee = 16 Anna 1890-1901

Population: 1 352 000 in 1900

Political history British East Africa

Postal history British East Africa

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British East Africa, initially, are the territories in eastern Africa that, at the 1885 Berlin conference, have been awarded to the British. At this Berlin conference, the colonial powers divided the spheres of influence of the colonial powers in Africa. The British and the Germans further define their respective rights in eastern Africa through treaties signed in 1886 and 1890.

The British government has its priorities in southern Africa and thus the development of British East Africa is taken up by the British East Africa Company – a chartered company of which the charter is defined in 1887.

The British East Africa Company first establishes itself, through treaties with the sultan of Zanzibar, in the coastal region, from the border with German East Africa to Kipini further north – the region is part of the sultanate of Zanzibar. In 1890, when Zanzibar becomes a British protectorate, this region is also put under British government protection as the protectorate of Kenya.  The protectorate of Kenya will be administered as part of British East Africa and later Kenya but retains its status as protectorate until it is transferred to Kenya after independence in 1963.

British East Africa Company - Treaty making

British East Africa Company – Treaty making with the Kikuyu people

Also, in 1890, Witu is transferred to the British. Witu has been a German protectorate from 1885 but becomes part of the British sphere of influence in 1890, based on the treaty signed in that year with Germany.

The British East Africa Company, from its base in Mombasa, extends its activities along the coast to the border with the Italian sphere of influence in the north and to Lake Victoria in the west and, from 1890, across Lake Victoria further inland into Uganda. However, as the British East Africa Company does not manage to show a profit, it is forced to transfer its rights to the British government: in Uganda in 1893 and in the rest of British East Africa in 1895.  The British subsequently form the protectorates of Uganda and British East Africa in 1894 and 1895 respectively.

Uganda will be a British protectorate until 1962, when it first gains self government, and, next, independence within the British Commonwealth. British East Africa will become the colony of Kenya in 1920 and will gain independence within the Commonwealth in 1963.

Postal history British East Africa

The first post office to be opened in British East Africa is the German post office in Lamu, opened in 1888. At this office, German stamps were used, recognized by the cancels. This office was closed in 1891. The first British post offices were opened in 1890 in Lamu and Mombasa.

Postal history British East Africa

1890 – Coat of arms

The British East Africa Company issues stamps from 1890. The first issue is an overprint on stamps of Great Britain reading ‘British East Africa Company’ and the face value in the local currency. A set of definitives is issued later in 1890. A number of provisionals are issued in Mombasa at different times in 1891 and 1895. These are the 1890 definitives with a hand written new face value and the initials of representatives of the British East Africa Company. In 1895 the stamps of the British East Africa Company are superseded by the issues for the protectorates of British East Africa and Uganda.

The British East Africa protectorate issued stamps from 1895 until 1897.  The first set issued by British East Africa in 1895 are overprints on the stamps of the British East Africa Company, the overprint reading ‘British East Africa’. A second set of overprints – now on stamps of British India – is also issued in 1895. The first set of definitives is issued in 1896. The issues of British East Africa protectorate are, in 1903, superseded by the issues of the postal union of British East Africa & Uganda formed in 1901. These again are superseded by the issues of the East African Community in 1922 and, in 1963, by the issues of independent Kenya.

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