Sorghum downy mildew (Peronosclerospora sorghi) infecting sorghum and maize, and pearl millet downy mildew (Sclerospora graminicola) infecting pearl millet can cause considerable yield loss in Africa. The last 15 years have witnessed an increase in knowledge of the biology, epidemiology and control of these two pathogens. Much information has been obtained on the effect of environmental factors on disease epidemiology, spore production and dispersal. Molecular techniques applied to study pathogenic variability have aided in defining relationships among these pathogens, although scope of the work is limited. Knowledge of the genetics and inheritance of resistance, and of resistance mechanisms, has also increased. This review presents the current state of knowledge of both downy mildew pathogens, with focus on their status on sorghum and pearl millet in Africa. Despite the advances in knowledge over the last 15 years, these downy mildews remain important constraints to sustainable crop production in the semi-arid regions of Africa. In some cases information obtained in Asia and the Americas can be extrapolated to Africa but care must be taken in ensuring its applicability. Priorities for future research relevant for Africa are proposed and discussed.