Contrary to popular belief, Africa's civil wars are not due to its ethnic and religious diversity. Using recently developed models of the overall incidence of civil wars in 161 countries between 1960 and 1999, we draw lessons with special reference to Africa, showing that the relatively higher incidence of war in Africa is not due to the ethno-linguistic fragmentation of its countries, but rather to high levels of poverty, failed political institutions and economic dependence on natural resources. We argue that the best and fastest strategy to reduce the incidence of civil war in Africa and prevent future civil wars is to institute democratic reforms that effectively manage the challenges facing Africa's diverse societies. To promote inter-group cooperation in Africa, specially tailored political governance and economic management institutions are needed, and we advance some hypotheses on the nature of such institutions. We suggest that Africa's ethnic diversity in fact helps - rather than impedes - the emergence of stable development as it necessitates inter-group bargaining processes. These processes can be peaceful if ethnic groups feel adequately represented by their national political institutions and if the economy provides opportunity for productive activity.