During Africa's first two decades of independence from 1960 to 1980, priority was given to increasing the size of national extension services because it was assumed that technology could be imported from industrial countries and the International Agricultural Research Centers. Over the past decade, donors have turned their attention to assisting national agricultural research systems (NARS). But many NARS are performing poorly and are faced with a high turnover of scientific staff and inadequate operating budgets. Moreover, the present donor-financed project by project and country by country approach to building African scientific capacity is seriously flawed. This paper examines Africa's agricultural research history over the past six decades and draws lessons for strengthening national and regional agricultural research systems over the coming 30 years.