Oculocutaneous albinism (OCA2) is the most common autosomal recessive disorder in the South African Negroid population, occurring with a prevalence of 1/3900 individuals. The OCA2 locus, P, has been mapped to chromosome 15q11-q13 and a 2.7-kb interstitial deletion has been found to be the common mutation in Africa. This study reports the detection of the deletion allele in OCA2-affected individuals from the southern African, Zambian and Central African Republic (CAR) Negroid populations (0.77, 131/170 OCA2 chromosomes; 0.79, 11/14; 0.33, 4/12, respectively). Normally pigmented individuals from different African countries were also tested. The deletion mutation was found at a frequency of 0.013 (10/780) in the normally pigmented southern African Negroid population and at a lower frequency in individuals from central Africa (0.002; 2/834), including individuals from Zambia, Cameroon, Zaire and the CAR. The study confirms the African origin of this deletion allele. Haplotype analysis suggests that the deletion mutation probably occurred only once and that it arose before the divergence of these African populations, which is estimated to be about 2000-3000 years ago. The unusually high frequency of OCA2 mutations, in particular the 2.7-kb deletion, suggests some selective agent or genetic drift.