The emergence and persistence of antimicrobial resistance is driven by varied factors including the indiscriminate use of antibiotics and variable drug efficacy and presents a major threat to the control of infectious diseases. Despite the high burden of disease in sub-Saharan Africa and the potential health and economic consequences, the level of research on antimicrobial resistance in the region remains unknown. Little data exists to quantify the contribution of different factors to the current levels of antimicrobial resistance. To identify the factors that contribute most to the emergence, amplification, persistence and dissemination of antimicrobial resistance in humans and animals, we used the PRISMA 2009 guidelines to conduct a systematic review of studies on antibiotic-resistant enteric bacteria in Eastern Africa. We searched PubMed and Google Scholar databases and identified 2,155 probable articles, of which 89 studies on humans and 28 on animals remained after full-text review. These were articles from Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Burundi, published between 1974 and 2013, that reported resistance in Salmonella, Shigella, Escherichia coli and Vibrio sp. The majority (98%) of human studies were based on hospital- (rather than community-wide) sampling and although they report high levels of antimicrobial resistance in the region, study design and methodological differences preclude conclusions about the magnitude and trends of antimicrobial resistance. To remedy this, we discuss and propose minimum reporting guidelines for the level of detail that should be explicitly provided for antimicrobial resistance study designs, testing of samples and reporting of results that would permit comparative inferences and enable meta-analyses. Further, we advocate for increased focus on community- rather than hospital-based sampling to provide a better indication of population-wide trends in antimicrobial resistance. This approach, together with the establishment of a robust regional surveillance network, should over time build a pool of evidence-based data useful for policy decisions and interventions aimed at controlling antimicrobial resistance.