We analysed country-scale distribution records of solitary bees (i.e. excluding Apis mellifera) in countries in the Afrotropical Region, excluding the southern Arabian Peninsula and Socotra. Although different country estimates of bee species numbers can be explained by differences in climate, vegetation or topography, we concluded that the observed differences are mainly due to differences in sampling effort or taxonomic research intensity in different countries. We characterised three eras of bee taxonomy. The highest rate of species description per annum occurred during the first half of the 20th Century, before generic revisions were prevalent, and when the focus was on consolidating knowledge and developing identification keys. We also researched the locations of type specimens, which included all primary types and syntypes. Most types are housed in western Europe. We describe the Catalogue of Afrotropical Bees (CAB), a biodiversity information system and related GBIF checklist that is the system’s standardised, published output. In the revised CAB, all Afrotropical bee genera have been given common names, many of which are new.