It has long been debated what determines distribution of vegetation types, though this has rarely been tested at continental scale. We thus aimed to determine which vegetation types are most accurately predicted by natural environmental factors, and which of these factors best predict current vegetation distribution across Africa. Vegetation types were extracted from the Global Land Cover Map for the year 2000, and the distribution of vegetation types modelled in terms of climate, soil and topography. Annual precipitation was the best predictor of the distribution of all vegetation types, and response curves showed that, at lower rainfall levels, an increase in precipitation brought on vegetation types with greater woody cover, though this pattern disappeared at higher rainfall levels. Subsequently, the influence of current and historic human impacts on the distribution of vegetation types was also assessed, and found to be of some importance for most vegetation types. We conclude that, in addition to including environmental variables in predicting vegetation distribution, it is essential that human impact be considered, also in future climate change scenarios.