The academy was founded in 1985 following a proposal presented by the renowned entomologist Thomas OdhiAmbo at the inaugural meeting of TWAS, the World Academy of Sciences, in Trieste, Italy.

Odhiambo led a taskforce on the creation of the Academy, which presented its recommendations at a meeting convened on 10 December 1985. Participants at the meeting unanimously adopted the recommendations, turned the gathering into a General Assembly and drafted and adopted the Academy’s founding constitution, which has since been updated (link). The 33 participants who attended the General Assembly also became the founding fellows of the Academy.

The Academy also developed and implemented four strategies between 1989 and 2005 that focused on forestry research, biotechnology, soil and water management, improved food production and policy and advocacy. In 1988 the AAS launched the journal Discovery and Innovation, which focused on all areas of science and ran until 2012.

The AAS continued to grow in the ensuing years and bought its current premises in the upmarket suburb of Karen in Nairobi in 1992.