Africa is portrayed by the world's media as a giant disaster area, plagued by civil war, ethnic and tribal conflict, natural and climatic catastrophes, famine and disease. Rural poverty is rife and burgeoning shanty-towns disfigure the outskirts of every African city. Yet travellers, including journalists, people in business and academics, are often struck by the timeless normality of African life and the survival of communities against all odds. This book does not conceal the huge problems, but examines them with empathy and suggests solutions. It stresses the extent to which there has already been positive political, economic and social progress - in particular, the gradual process of democratization and the growth of civil society. People are better educated and trained than ever before, and structural adjustment, despite its often brutal effects, has reduced over-blown state structures in several countries. Aid is now being channelled into stimulating local economic development and is no longer merely a "top-down" exercise. Agricultural production is rising despite the droughts of the early 1990s and there is growing industrialization. This accessible and topical account provides a good introduction to some of the main issues.McCarthy, Stephen is the author of 'Africa:challenge of Transformation' with ISBN 9781850438212 and ISBN 1850438218.