The major health problems in Africa are AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, gastroenteritis and hypertension; hypertension affects about 20% of the adult population. Renal disease, especially glomerular disease, is more prevalent in Africa and seems to be of a more severe form than that found in Western countries. The most common mode of presentation is the nephrotic syndrome, with the age of onset at five to eight years. It is estimated that 2 to 3% of medical admissions in tropical countries are due to renal-related complaints, the majority being the glomerulonephritides. There are no reliable statistics for ESRD in all African countries. Statistics of the South African Dialysis and Transplant Registry (SADTR) reflect the patients selected for renal replacement therapy (RRT) and do not accurately reflect the etiology of chronic renal failure (CRF), where public sector state facilities will offer RRT only to patients who are eligible for a transplant. In 1994, glomerulonephritis was recorded as the cause of ESRD in 1771 (52.1%) and hypertension in 1549 (45.6%) of patients by the SADTR. In a six-year study of 3632 patients with ESRD, based on SADTR statistics, hypertension was reported to be the cause of ESRD in 4.3% of whites, 34.6% of blacks, 20.9% mixed race group and 13.8% of Indians. Malignant hypertension is an important cause of morbidity and mortality among urban black South Africans, with hypertension accounting for 16% of all hospital admissions. In a ten-year study of 368 patients with chronic renal failure in Nigeria, the etiology of renal failure was undetermined in 62%. Of the remaining patients whose etiology was ascertained, hypertension accounted for 61%, diabetes mellitus for 11% and chronic glomerulonephritis for 5.9%. Patients with CRF constituted 10% of all medical admissions in this center. Chronic glomerulonephritis and hypertension are principal causes of CRF in tropical Africa and East Africa, together with diabetes mellitus and obstructive uropathy. The availability of dialysis and transplantation is quite variable in Africa: treatment rates in North Africa are 30 to 186.5 per million population (pmp) in countries with more established programs: Algeria 78.5; Egypt 129.3; Libya 30; Morocco 55.6; Tunisia 186.5 pmp. In South Africa, treatment rates of 99 pmp were reported; Dialysis and transplant programs in the rest of Africa are dependent on the availability of funding and donors. Services are still predominantly urban and therefore generally inaccessible to the poorer, less educated rural patient. There is not enough money for healthcare in the developing world, particularly for expensive and chronic treatment such as RRT. The goal should be to have a circumscribed chronic dialysis program, with as short a time on dialysis as possible, and to increase the availability of transplantation (both living donor and cadaver). Efforts should be made to optimize therapy of renal disease and renal failure globally and particularly in developing countries. Strategies should be developed to screen for and manage conditions such as hypertension and diabetes mellitus at the primary healthcare level in an effort to decrease the incidence of chronic renal failure. Increasingly, health is influenced by social and economic circumstances. Any improvements in health thus demand integrated, comprehensive action against all the determinants of ill health.