The restriction endonuclease (RE) technique was used to compare 172 meningococcal group A strains collected between 1969 and 1990, mainly from countries of the so-called African Meningitis Belt, the Gambia and Ethiopia. The 64 strains from various African countries (Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Morocco, Djibouti) were distributed within 3 main restriction enzyme patterns (REPs); the 77 Gambian strains fell into 5 REPs and the 24 Ethiopian strains into 2 such patterns. Several of the main REPs were formed by clusters of closely related clones. Clones, very similar to dominating REPs of the 1960s in Niger, Burkina Faso and Cameroon, were in the 1980s found to be strongly represented in the Gambia to the extreme west of the Meningitis Belt. One of the Gambian clones from 1983-86 was identical to an Indian clone recovered in New Delhi 1986-87. Another clone was detected in 1983 in the Gambia, in 1989 again in the Gambia as well as in Ethiopia, and in 1990 in Tanzania. Our results are largely in line with those of previous studies based on modern techniques of protein and isoenzyme electrophoresis. The RE method is useful mainly for the exact genotypic differentiation of closely related clones, and seems to be a valuable complement to phenotypic tools for epidemiological mapping of Group A meningococcal infection.