In the second half of the twentieth century the population of Kampala grew substantially and the long-remarked surplus of men over women began to level out. These general trends are equally evident in other African cities, but important differences show up when the balance of age cohorts within the male and female populations is considered. Thus in Kampala, along with population growth and a declining overall sex ratio, censuses show a growing excess of girls/young women over boys/young men. The article reviews these population data and two levels of (unenumerated) explanation for them. The first is extrapolated from Uganda's recent history; the second from observation and narrative in one densely populated parish. The argument is that changes in the age–sex ratio follow from change in the map of work options in Kampala. The disappearance of young males stems from the collapse of the formal economy, once the employer of men, and the developments in the informal economy which favour young women. This conclusion is supported by census data from Nairobi, where the formal employment structure remains relatively buoyant, and the comparable age–sex ratios are less extreme. The health policy relevance of the Kampala trend is underlined by official calculations of increasing HIV/AIDS incidence among teenage women. As long as sex work remains dominant among their options in the informal economy, one effect of their economic advantage is extra vulnerability to fatal disease.