BACKGROUND: The incidence of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) may be lower among people of African descent than Caucasians. However, incidence studies among the former are uncommon and are often limited by incomplete case ascertainment or uncertainty about the size of the "at-risk" population. METHODS: We report the incidence and prevalence of IBD among people of African ancestry in Barbados from island-wide disease surveillance over a 25-year period beginning January 1980. RESULTS: The annual incidence of IBD age standardized to the world population was 1.85 per 100,000 person-years (95% confidence interval [CI] 1.53-2.22) for ulcerative colitis (UC) and 0.70 per 100,000 person-years (0.51-0.95) for Crohn’s disease (CD). These incidence rates increased to 2.09 and 0.76 when standardized to the US population. The UC incidence rate increased from 1.3 in 1980-1984 to 2.3 in 1995-1999, and decreased to 1.6 in 2000-2004. The CD incidence rate followed a similar trend, rising from 0.3 in 1980-1984 to 1.3 in 1990-1994 before decreasing to 0.6. IBD prevalence in December 2004 was 44.3 per 100,000 person-years (36.7-53.0) for UC and 16.7 per 100,000 person-years (12.2-22.4) for CD. In the island-nation of Barbados, with a population in 2000 of 270,000, we expect between 4.3 and 6.1 new cases of UC and between 1.5 and 2.6 new cases of CD each year. CONCLUSIONS: The reported rates are generally lower than reported for European and North American Caucasians, and are similar to The French West Indies–the only other IBD disease register in the Caribbean.