This article assembles the results of three multicountry surveys on variety performance and adoption patterns to measure the impacts of maize research in West and Central Africa from 1981 to 2005, and uses cost data since 1971 to compute social rates of return on public investments in maize research in the region. Adoption of modern varieties increased from less than 5% of the maize area in the 1970s to about 60% in 2005, yielding an aggregate rate of return on research and development (R&D) investment of 43%. The estimated number of people moved out of poverty through adoption of new maize varieties rose gradually in the 1980s to more than one million people per year since the mid 1990s. Over half of these impacts can be attributed to international maize research at IITA and CIMMYT. The article concludes with a discussion of strategic options to enhance the impacts of maize research in the region.