Regional-scale above-ground biomass (AGB) estimates of tropical savannas and woodlands are highly uncertain, despite their global importance for ecosystems services and as carbon stores. In response, we collated field inventory data from 253 plots at four study sites in Cameroon, Uganda and Mozambique, and examined the relationships between field-measured AGB and cross-polarized radar backscatter values derived from ALOS PALSAR, an L-band satellite sensor. The relationships were highly significant, similar among sites, and displayed high prediction accuracies up to 150 Mg ha−1 (±∼20%). AGB predictions for any given site obtained using equations derived from data from only the other three sites generated only small increases in error. The results suggest that a widely applicable general relationship exists between AGB and L-band backscatter for lower-biomass tropical woody vegetation. This relationship allows regional-scale AGB estimation, required for example by planned REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) schemes.