The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the importance of virus genome sequencing to guide public health interventions to control virus transmission and understand SARS-CoV-2 evolution. As of July 20th, 2021, >2 million SARS-CoV-2 genomes have been submitted to GISAID, 94% from high income and 6% from low and middle income countries. Here, we analyse the spatial and temporal heterogeneity in SARS-CoV-2 global genomic surveillance efforts. We report a comprehensive analysis of virus lineage diversity and genomic surveillance strategies adopted globally, and investigate their impact on the detection of known SARS-CoV-2 virus lineages and variants of concern. Our study provides a perspective on the global disparities surrounding SARS-CoV-2 genomic surveillance, their causes and consequences, and possible solutions to maximize the impact of pathogen genome sequencing for efforts on public health.