Purpose: Performance management (PM) remains one of the fundamental human resource practices in organisations today and is a dominant strategy adopted in managing employees. This paper aims to analyse extant research on PM conducted globally to inform research and practices in an African context. Design/methodology/approach: A systematic review of 43 articles published in 22 journals ranked by the Australian Business Deans Council and Chartered Association of Business Schools was undertaken. The papers selected were limited to the past two decades (2001–2021) to focus primarily on contemporary practices. Findings: The findings of this review indicate that PM continues to gain attention from African scholars and practitioners, though not as prominently as indicated within the broader global context. The review also exposed significant gaps in current research, including PM issues, theoretical or conceptual development and methodological approaches, which, if addressed, could inform future practices and research foci. Research limitations/implications: The primary limitations of this study are a focus on the most recent two decades of research into PM and the intention to direct learnings from this review of scholarly insight towards a focus solely on an African context. Thus, as interpretations of insights are based upon the perspective of how these can inform PM practices in Africa, a direct extrapolation of the findings to other contexts may not be appropriate. Practical implications: This review of research conducted into PM globally in the past two decades has identified limited contributions from within the African context. This lack of contextual understanding may well be affecting the adoption and creation of globally recognised PM practices in Africa. As such, there is an opportunity to understand better the complexities associated with PM by embracing theories and formulating, testing and refining existing models to consider performance issues at more profound levels of analysis within an African context. Originality/value: This study presents insights into global trends in PM research and practices not previously explored, highlighting a need for more contextualised research to progress Africa beyond current theoretical, conceptual and methodological limitations.