Flood-related fatalities in Africa, as well as associated economic losses, have increased dramatically over the past half-century. There is a growing global concern about the need to identify the causes for such increased flood damages. To this end, we analyze a large, consistent and reliable dataset of floods in Africa. Identification of causes is not easy given the diverse economic settings, demographic distribution and hydro-climatic conditions of the African continent. On the other hand, many African river basins have a relatively low level of human disturbance and, therefore, provide a unique opportunity to analyze climatic effects on floods. We find that intensive and unplanned human settlements in flood-prone areas appears to be playing a major role in increasing flood risk. Timely and economically sustainable actions, such as the discouragement of human settlements in flood-prone areas and the introduction of early warning systems are, therefore, urgently needed.