This review addresses the role of agroforestry in the links between food security and agricultural sustainability in Africa. We illustrate that the products and services flowing from the integration of trees within farming systems can contribute to food security, farmer livelihoods and environmental resilience. However, for agroforestry to be adopted it should not be constrained by policies which hinder the integration of trees, with crops and livestock. This policy scenario can best be met when the governance of food production at local to global scales is multi-sectoral and based on a ‘Systems Approach’. Nevertheless, the adoption of agroforestry has recently been greatly supported by the international agenda on the mitigation of climate change and to achieve sustainable food production. In conclusion we pose the hypothesis that “Agroforestry concepts and practices can form an effective, efficient and fair pathway towards the achievement of many Sustainable Development Goals”, and discuss the main messages and research questions emerging from the papers presented in this special issue.