The WHO African region is characterised by the largest infectious disease burden in the world. We conducted a retrospective descriptive analysis using records of all infectious disease outbreaks formally reported to the WHO in 2018 by Member States of the African region. We analysed the spatio-temporal distribution, the notification delay as well as the morbidity and mortality associated with these outbreaks. In 2018, 96 new disease outbreaks were reported across 36 of the 47 Member States. The most commonly reported disease outbreak was cholera which accounted for 20.8% (n = 20) of all events, followed by measles (n = 11, 11.5%) and Yellow fever (n = 7, 7.3%). About a quarter of the outbreaks (n = 23) were reported following signals detected through media monitoring conducted at the WHO regional office for Africa. The median delay between the disease onset and WHO notification was 16 days (range: 0–184). A total of 107 167 people were directly affected including 1221 deaths (mean case fatality ratio (CFR): 1.14% (95% confidence interval (CI) 1.07%–1.20%)). The highest CFR was observed for diseases targeted for eradication or elimination: 3.45% (95% CI 0.89%–10.45%). The African region remains prone to outbreaks of infectious diseases. It is therefore critical that Member States improve their capacities to rapidly detect, report and respond to public health events.