As calls for a ‘Uniquely African Green Revolution’ gain momentum, a focus on seeds and seed systems is rising up the agricultural policy agenda. Much of the debate stresses the technological or market dimensions, with substantial investments being made in seed improvement and the development of both public and private sector delivery systems. But this misses out the political economy of policy processes behind this agenda: who wins, who loses, and whose interests are being served? Drawing on lessons from country case studies from Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi and Zimbabwe, as well as insights from a set of complementary studies of cross?cutting themes, this article assesses the evolution of seed system research and development programmes and processes across the region. By examining how the contrasting politics and different configurations of interests affect the way cereal seed systems operate, it highlights opportunities for reshaping the terms of the debate and opening up alternative pathways to more sustainable and socially just seed systems.