Dynamic global vegetation models (DGVMs) are important tools for modelling impacts of global change on ecosystem services. However, most models do not take full account of human land management and land use and land cover changes (LULCCs). We integrated croplands and pasture and their management and natural vegetation recovery and succession following cropland abandonment into the LPJ-GUESS DGVM. The revised model was applied to Africa as a case study to investigate the implications of accounting for land use on net ecosystem carbon balance (NECB) and the skill of the model in describing agricultural production and reproducing trends and patterns in vegetation structure and function. The seasonality of modelled monthly fraction of absorbed photosynthetically active radiation (FPAR) was shown to agree well with satellite-inferred normalised difference vegetation index (NDVI). In regions with a large proportion of cropland, the managed land addition improved the FPAR vs. NDVI fit significantly. Modelled 1991–1995 average yields for the seven most important African crops, representing potential optimal yields limited only by climate forcings, were generally higher than reported FAO yields by a factor of 2–6, similar to previous yield gap estimates. Modelled inter-annual yield variations during 1971–2005 generally agreed well with FAO statistics, especially in regions with pronounced climate seasonality. Modelled land–atmosphere carbon fluxes for Africa associated with land use change (0.07 PgC yr−1 release to the atmosphere for the 1980s) agreed well with previous estimates. Cropland management options (residue removal, grass as cover crop) were shown to be important to the land–atmosphere carbon flux for the 20th century.