This is volume I of a four volume set, with papers developed as part of a large-scale project and associated conference series funded by the Gates Foundation. It is comprised of careful empirical reports on progress with economic, political, and social development in Africa over recent decades. Papers are grouped by a rough hierarchy of development. The first volume therefore deals with the essential issues that any country must resolve if there is to be any kind of sustained economic growth and shared benefits from development: is there social peace, does the government function in any kind of reasonable manner, and how does the private sector cope with government dysfunction? The broad theme of our project was that Africa has made much more progress with economic and social development than is widely supposed, and that there is a great deal of success – particularly since 1990 – from which lessons can be gleaned. The papers in this volume deal with ensuring peace after civil conflict, establishing a robust level of revenue for government, thinking about the implications of who holds political power, creating secure property rights, and understanding the nature of the informal economy. Papers also cover important policy innovations, both around road safety and economic development more broadly. We also include a paper that could become a model of how to measure changes in household and per capita income using available data from Africa, and a detailed case study that focuses on the impact of foreign aid on growth.