BACKGROUND Despite an increase in scholarly and policy interest regarding the impacts of environmental change on migration, empirical knowledge in the field remains varied, patchy, and limited. Generalised discourse on environmental migration frequently oversimplifies the complex channels through which environmental change influences the migration process. OBJECTIVE This paper aims to systematise the existing empirical evidence on migration influenced by environmental change with a focus on Africa, the continent most vulnerable to climate change. CONCLUSIONS The contextually contingent nature of migration–environment relationships prevents us from drawing a universal conclusion, whether environmental change will increase or suppress migration in Africa. However, this study unravels the complex interactions between the nature and duration of the environmental pressure, the livelihood of the populations, the role of kinship ties and the role of demographic differentials on migration response. CONTRIBUTION The review provides an initial systematic and comprehensive summary of empirical evidence on the environmental drivers of migration in Africa. It also discusses the implications of the scale, materials, and methods used in the 53 studies.