Eritrea marked their home debut in the tournament with a goalless draw against troubled Cameroon, while the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius held South Africa to a 1-1 draw. Meanwhile, the World Cup finalists Nigeria looked far from convincing in their 2-0 home win over Burundi.
The embarrassing draw in Eritrea was a further setback for Cameroon. They were suspended briefly at the start of the year by Fifa, world football's ruling body, for refusing to implement a new football administration structure.
As for South Africa, a team loaded with Europe-based professionals were favourites to romp home against Mauritius. But Desire Periatambee, who plays for the French Second Division club Troyes, struck a second-half equaliser after South Africa had led at half-time through the former Leeds striker, Phil Masinga.
"We were let down by our midfield," the South African defender Mark Fish, who plays for Bolton, said. "They never created enough for the strikers to have any real chances."
In Nigeria, goals from Garbal Lawal and Finidi George gave the home team victory over Burundi in the first competitive match in charge for their new coach, Thijs Libregts - but an anticipated goal deluge did not materialise as Burundi looked the better side.