Maternal nutritional status (MNS) is a strong predictor of growth and development in the first 1000 days of life and may influence susceptibility to non-communicable diseases in adulthood. However, the role of nutrition during this window of developmental plasticity in Africa is unclear. This paper reviews published data to address whether maternal nutrition during the first 1000 days is important for Africa, with a focus on MNS and its associations with fetal growth and birth, neonatal and infant outcomes. A systematic approach was used to search the following databases: Medline, EMBASE, Web of Science, Google Scholar, ScienceDirect, SciSearch and Cochrane Library. In all, 26 studies met the inclusion criteria for the specific objectives. MNS in Africa showed features typical of the epidemiological transition: higher prevalences of maternal overweight and obesity and lower underweight, poor diet quality 1 and high anaemia prevalence. Maternal body mass index and greater gestational weight gain (GWG) were positively associated with birth weight; however, maternal overweight and obesity were associated with increased risk of macrosomia and intrauterine growth restriction. Maternal anaemia was associated with lower birth weight. Macro- and micronutrient supplementation during pregnancy were associated with improvements in GWG, birth weight and mortality risk. Data suggest poor MNS in Africa and confirms the importance of the first 1000 days as a critical period for nutritional intervention to improve growth, birth outcomes and potential future health risk. However, there is a lack of data beyond birth and a need for longitudinal data through infancy to 2 years of age.