The early part of the new millennium witnessed reports of a growing burden of cardiovascular disease in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). However the contribution of ischemic heart disease and stroke to this increasing burden relative to that caused by hypertensive heart disease, cardiomyopathy and rheumatic heart disease was not clear. Over the last decade, data from the continent has begun to clarify this issue and suggests three main points. The burden of ischemic heart disease relative to other causes of heart disease remains low particularly in the black Africans majority. Stroke caused predominantly by hypertension is now a major cause of disability and premature death. Third, the burden of risk factors for atherosclerosis is increasing rapidly in most urban and some rural regions. A concerted effort to understand the primary drivers of this increase in cardiac risk factors is required to prevent a future epidemic of atherosclerosis and its sequelae.