Genomic discovery and characterization of risk loci for type 2 diabetes (T2D) have been conducted primarily in individuals of European ancestry. We conducted a multiethnic genome-wide association study of T2D among 53,102 cases and 193,679 control subjects from African, Hispanic, Asian, Native Hawaiian, and European population groups in the Population Architecture Genomics and Epidemiology (PAGE) and Diabetes Genetics Replication and Meta-analysis (DIAGRAM) Consortia. In individuals of African ancestry, we discovered a risk variant in the TGFB1 gene (rs11466334, risk allele frequency (RAF) = 6.8%, odds ratio [OR] = 1.27, p = 2.06 × 10-8), which replicated in independent studies of African ancestry (p = 6.26 × 10-23). We identified a multiethnic risk variant in the BACE2 gene (rs13052926, RAF = 14.1%, OR = 1.08, p = 5.75 × 10-9), which also replicated in independent studies (p = 3.45 × 10-4). We also observed a significant difference in the performance of a multiethnic genetic risk score (GRS) across population groups (pheterogeneity = 3.85 × 10-20). Comparing individuals in the top GRS risk category (40%-60%), the OR was highest in Asians (OR = 3.08) and European (OR = 2.94) ancestry populations, followed by Hispanic (OR = 2.39), Native Hawaiian (OR = 2.02), and African ancestry (OR = 1.57) populations. These findings underscore the importance of genetic discovery and risk characterization in diverse populations and the urgent need to further increase representation of non-European ancestry individuals in genetics research to improve genetic-based risk prediction across populations.