Deaths from non-communicable diseases are increasing worldwide. Low and middle-income countries, particularly those in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), are projected to see the most rapid increase over the next two decades. While non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease increasingly contribute to mortality in SSA, communicable diseases such as malaria and HIV/AIDS remain major causes of death in this region, leading to a double burden of disease. In this paper, we use World Health Organization data and life table techniques to: (1) delineate the magnitude and toll of the double burden of disease in four SSA countries: Ghana, Gabon, Botswana, and Kenya, and (2) scrutinize assumptions linking changes in disease patterns to economic development and modernization. Our findings suggest that non-communicable and communicable diseases warrant equal research attention and financial commitment in pursuit of health equity.