While the trend in smoking prevalence is decreasing worldwide, the number of male tobacco smokers is growing in Africa. This study compares the cigarette market in eight sub-Saharan African countries. This includes examining cigarette prices, pricing differentials, pack sizes and affordability at national and subnational levels. Design and setting A cross-sectional data analysis using data from the Data on Alcohol and Tobacco in Africa (DATA) Project. The DATA Project was centrally coordinated by project supervisors following a standardised protocol. University students were recruited to conduct data collection and a total of 22 347 retail cigarette price data points collected between June and August 2018 were analysed (including Botswana, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe). Prices were converted to US$ and standardised to the price of a 20-cigarette pack. This research found large price differentials within provinces/states, with the gap between medium and minimum prices per 20-cigarette pack exceeding 50\% of the medium price in 18 out of 24 provinces/states. Single cigarettes were widely available, especially in Lesotho and Ethiopia. Results of multivariable regression suggest prices (per 20-cigarette pack) were lower for cigarettes sold in packs than single sticks (-US$0.27, 95\% CI: -US$0.39 to -US$0.23) and lower in less populated areas (-US$0.28 in rural compared with urban settings, 95\% CI: -US$0.41 to -US$0.15). Availability of cheaper single cigarettes (lower per unit price than packed cigarettes) were identified for Lesotho and South Africa. These findings identify a varied picture in cigarette pricing in studied countries and suggest measures to tackle pricing differentials and availability of single sticks are warranted. These measures should counteract the potential health consequences of the increasing penetration of tobacco industry in these sub-Saharan African countries. Data are available in a public, open access repository.