It was just a “crazy idea” to start with, says Ambroise Wonkam, professor of medical genetics at Cape Town university in South Africa. He is talking about his vision of creating a huge library of genetic information about the population of Africa, outlined in the science journal Nature, earlier this year. The Three Million African Genomes (3MAG) project emerged from his work on how genetic mutations among Africans contribute to conditions like sickle-cell disease and hearing impairments. He points out that African genes hold a wealth of genetic variation, beyond that observed by scientists in Europe and elsewhere. “We are all African but only a small fraction of Africans moved out of Africa about 20-40,000 years ago and settled in Europe and in Asia,” he says. Only about 2% of the genomes mapped globally are African, and a good proportion of these are African American. This comes from a lack of prioritising funding, policies and training infrastructure, he says, but it also means the understanding of genetic medicine as a whole is lopsided.