Why 5 stars?
1. Because it is one of those rare books on Africa that portrays its peoples with empathy and understanding. The usual negative stereotypes are refreshingly absent, and instead the wider picture, which is far from all doom and gloom, emerges to present a Complex, Varied, Energetic continent.
2. The depth of first hand information is very interesting, and again devoid of the usual Vertical approach of "I was in Africa and i saw this and this and therefore this and that happens. Oh, and the solution would be..." This book is the contrary, it opens more questions that it even tries to answer, and leaves the reader well intrigued into the mechanisms of Africa's very different societies.
3. Related to point 2, the insight into rarely discussed aspects of Social Africa are superb. I can attest this from his portrait of Somalis (i have lived and worked in Somaliland), a wonderfully intricate society that is so much more than the usual stereotypes. In fact, it was so refreshingly accurate that it simply makes you fall in love with this country. Superb writing. But it goes further, his portrait of the Senegalese Muslim brotherhoods, their economic and theological influence on the country. At last a book on Africa that actually celebrates Africa for what it really is, and it does so while at the same time admitting and mentioning in fair detail its many problems. Having read dozens and dozens of books on the country (my speciality being Ethiopian Studies and the horn of Africa), i would without hesitation recommend this one as the single & introductory book of choice.