Time series of terrigenous source elements (Al, K, Ti, Zr) from core GeoB4901-8 recovered from the deep-sea fan of the Niger River record variations in riverine sediment discharge over the past 245,000 yr. Although the flux rates of all the elements depend on physical erosion, which is mainly controlled by the extent of vegetation coverage in central Africa, element/Al ratios reflect conditions for chemical weathering in the river basin. Maximum sediment input to the ocean occurs during cold and arid periods, when precipitation intensity and associated freshwater runoff are reduced. High carbonate contents during the same periods indicate that the sediment supply has a positive effect on river-induced marine productivity. In general, variations in the terrestrial signals contain a strong precessional component in tune with changes in low-latitude solar radiation. However, the terrestrial signal lags the insolation signal by several thousand years. K/Al, Ti/Al, and Zr/Al records reveal that African monsoonal precipitation depends on high-latitude forcing. We attribute the shift between insolation cycle and river discharge to the frequently reported nonlinear response of African climate to primary orbital configurations, which may be caused by a complex interaction of the secondary control parameters, such as surface albedo and/or thermohaline circulation.