The burden of rabies in Africa is estimated at 24,000 human deaths year(-1), almost all of which result from infection with dog rabies viruses (RABV). To investigate the evolutionary dynamics of RABV in western and central Africa, 92 isolates sampled from 27 African countries over 29 years were collected and sequenced. This revealed that RABV currently circulating in dogs in this region fell into a single lineage designated 'Africa 2'. A detailed analysis of the phylogeographical structure of this Africa 2 lineage revealed strong population subdivision at the country level, with only limited movement of virus among localities, including a possible east-to-west spread across Africa. In addition, Bayesian coalescent analysis suggested that the Africa 2 lineage was introduced into this region of Africa only recently (probably <200 years ago), in accordance with the timescale of expanding European colonial influence and urbanization, and then spread relatively slowly, perhaps occupying the entire region in a 100 year period.