Pearl millet [Cenchrus americanus (L.) Morrone] is a staple food for more than 90 million farmers in arid and semi-arid regions of sub-Saharan Africa, India and South Asia. We report the ∼1.79 Gb draft whole genome sequence of reference genotype Tift 23D2B1-P1-P5, which contains an estimated 38,579 genes. We highlight the substantial enrichment for wax biosynthesis genes, which may contribute to heat and drought tolerance in this crop. We resequenced and analyzed 994 pearl millet lines, enabling insights into population structure, genetic diversity and domestication. We use these resequencing data to establish marker trait associations for genomic selection, to define heterotic pools, and to predict hybrid performance. We believe that these resources should empower researchers and breeders to improve this important staple crop.