We conducted a systematic literature review with two objectives: (1) to assess reported patterns of analgesic use in African children and compare these observed patterns to the analgesics given in the WHO Essential Medicines List for Children (EMLc); and (2) to summarise outcomes related to effectiveness, adverse events, cost and accessibility of these analgesics. Eligible participants were children (≤12 years) living in any African country who received an analgesic administered with the intention of relieving pain in any setting. Thirty-four peer-reviewed, observational studies representing 7772 African children were accepted. Studies were conducted in 25 different regions of 12 countries. Pain was attributed to surgery, burns, sickle cell anaemia and conditions requiring palliation in 32% of children, and was unspecified in the other 68%. Of the three EMLc analgesics, paracetamol and ibuprofen were widely employed, constituting 60% of all analgesics, while morphine was used in 20 children (0.2%). There were 455 suspected adverse drug reactions which included 17 deaths. Analgesic use reported in African children appears to fall short of WHO standards.