The qualifying draw was supposed to take place in Morocco on 10 March 2013 during CAF General Assembly. However, the CAF Executive Committee decided on 8 March 2013 that the qualifying draw would be held on 31 January 2014 in South Africa in line with the 2014 African Nations Championship. However, on 28 January 2014, the draw date was reported to have changed once again. The qualifying draw was held on 27 April 2014 in Cairo, Egypt (with the exception of the preliminary round which was held on 21 February 2014 in Cairo).
A total of 51 teams entered the qualification matches (Djibouti and Somalia did not enter). After the CAF Executive Committee meeting on 24 January 2014, it was decided that the qualifiers shall be played in the format of several qualifying rounds, as well as a group stage with seven groups consisting of four teams each. The two top teams of each group then directly qualify for the finals, along with the best third place team of the seven groups. This was different from the original proposal, which consisted of a preliminary round followed by a group stage with twelve groups of four teams.
In each of the qualifying rounds, teams were drawn into knock-out ties. Each tie is played on a home-and-away two-legged basis. If the sides are level on aggregate after the second leg, the away goals rule is applied, and if still level, the tie proceeds directly to a penalty shoot-out (no extra time is played).
The draw for the first round was held on 27 April 2014 at Cairo, Egypt. The 26 teams ranked 22–47 and the two winners of the preliminary round played in this round. Teams ranked 22–35 were seeded, and teams ranked 36–47 and the two winners of the preliminary round were unseeded.
The draw for the group stage was held on 27 April 2014 at Cairo, Egypt. The 21 teams ranked 1–21 and the seven winners of the second round play in this round. Teams ranked 1–7 were seeded into Pot 1, teams ranked 8–14 were seeded into Pot 2, teams ranked 15–21 were seeded into Pot 3, and the seven winners of the second round were seeded into Pot 4. The 28 teams were drawn into seven groups of four, with each group containing one team from each pot. Each group is played on a home-and-away round-robin basis. The winners and runners-up of each group, plus the best third-placed team, qualify for the finals.