This review was conducted using the 2020 Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines. Five computerized bibliographic databases, PUBMED, Scopus, Web of Science, ProQuest, and Africa Index Medicus were searched for published studies on the prevalence of myopia in Africa from 1 January 2000 to 18 August 2021. Studies were assessed for methodological quality. Data were gathered by gender, age and refraction technique and standardized to the definition of myopia as refractive error ≥ 0.50 diopter. A meta-analysis was conducted to estimate the prevalence. Significant heterogeneity was detected among the various studies (I2 >50%), hence a random effect model was used, and sensitivity analysis was performed to examine the effects of outliers.
Results:We included data from 24 quality assessed studies, covering 36,395 African children. The overall crude prevalence of myopia over the last two decades is 4.7% (95% CI, 3.9–5.7) in African children. Although the prevalence of myopia was slightly higher in females (5.3%, 95%CI: 4.1, 6.5) than in males (3.7%, 95% CI, 2.6–4.7; p = 0.297) and higher in older [12–18 years 5.1% (95% CI, 3.8–6.3) than younger children (aged 5–11 years, 3.4%, 95% CI, 2.5–4.4; p = 0.091), the differences were not significant. There was a significantly lower prevalence of myopia with cycloplegic compared with non-cycloplegic refraction [4.2%, 95%CI: 3.3, 5.1 versus 6.4%, 95%CI: 4.4, 8.4; p = 0.046].
Conclusions:Our results showed that myopia affects about one in twenty African schoolchildren, and it is overestimated in non-cycloplegic refraction. Clinical interventions to reduce the prevalence of myopia in the region should target females, and school children who are aged 12–18 years.