The Chinese curse: "May you live in interesting times" certainly seems to have been true for Africa in the last decade of the twentieth century. At a time when several conflicts - notably in Mozambique and Mali drew to a close; others have flared up. Thus in 1998: Africa experienced 7 major conflicts, 31 other conflicts and 37 African States were experiencing various degrees political instability. At a time when campaigns against tuberculosis and malaria were being successfully fought, two million Africans die annually as a result of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. At a time when several African States - for e.g. Tunisia, Uganda, Botswana, and Mozambique - were posting very positive economic growth rates; Africa's share of world trade was halved from 4 percent to 2 percent.

How are we to understand the anomaly that is Africa? What is clear from the foregoing is that there is a desperate need for effective policy-relevant analysis. This is precisely what sparked the need for and led to the establishment for an interdisciplinary Unit for African Studies within the Centre for International Political Studies in late 1999.