Thirty-one viruses causing SAT-2 outbreaks in seven West African countries between 1974 and 1991, and four viruses representative of East and Central Africa were genetically characterized in this study. Four major viral lineages (I–IV) were identified by phylogenetic analysis of an homologous 480 nucleotide region corresponding to the C-terminus end of VP1. Lineage I comprised two West African genotypes with viruses clustering according to year of isolation rather than geographical origin. Lineage II was represented by viruses isolated between 1979 and 1983 in two neighbouring West African countries, Senegal and The Gambia. Viruses from Nigeria and Eritrea, representative of West and East Africa respectively, constituted lineage III, whilst lineage IV, comprising viruses from Central and East Africa, was regionally and genetically distinct. This study revealed that unrestricted animal movement in West Africa is a major factor in disease dissemination and has also provided the first indication of trans-regional virus transmission.