This paper is concerned with steadily developing knowledge of the epidemiology of some psychiatric disorders in sub-Saharan Africa. The diversity of ‘Black Africa’ is noted, and preconceptions about African psychiatry briefly discussed. Problems of sociological versus clinical philosophies are also mentioned. Early estimates of prevalence of psychiatric disorder in black Africa were universally low, being based on hospital data. More recent studies, sampling diverse populations, suggest a burden of psychiatric morbidity in black Africa which is not dissimilar to that found in more developed countries, and some studies suggest that rates in Africa may even be higher than in developed countries.