The number of scientific papers published by researchers in Africa has been rising faster than the total world scientific output in recent years. This trend is relevant, as for a long period up until 1996, Africa’s share of the world scientific output remained below 1.5 %. The propensity to publish in the continent has risen particularly fast since 2004, suggesting that a possible take-off of African science is taking place. This paper highlights that, in parallel with this most recent growth in output, the apparent productivity of African science, as measured by publications to gross domestic product, has risen in recent years to a level above the world average, although, when one looks at the equivalent ratio after it has been normalized by population, there is still a huge gap to overcome. Further it is shown that publications from those few African countries whose scientific communities demonstrate higher levels of specialization and integration in international networks, have a higher impact than the world average. Additionally, the paper discusses the potential applications of the new knowledge that has been produced by African researchers, highlighting that so far, South Africa seems to be the only African country where a reasonable part of that new knowledge seems to be connecting with innovation.