Photosynthetic leaf traits were determined for savanna and forest ecosystems in West Africa, spanning a large range in precipitation. Standardized major axis fits revealed important differences between our data and reported global relationships. Especially for sites in the drier areas, plants showed higher photosynthetic rates for a given N or P when compared with relationships from the global data set. The best multiple regression for the pooled data set estimated Vcmax and Jmax from NDW and S. However, the best regression for different vegetation types varied, suggesting that the scaling of photosynthesis with leaf traits changed with vegetation types. A new model is presented representing independent constraints by N and P on photosynthesis, which can be evaluated with or without interactions with S. It assumes that limitation of photosynthesis will result from the least abundant nutrient, thereby being less sensitive to the allocation of the non-limiting nutrient to non-photosynthetic pools. The model predicts an optimum proportionality for N and P, which is distinct for Vcmax and Jmax and inversely proportional to S. Initial tests showed the model to predict Vcmax and Jmax successfully for other tropical forests characterized by a range of different foliar N and P concentrations.