Research World is devoting a considerable section of this summers issue to market research in the lost continent. In what some people may denounce as an unforgivable concession to business convention, we have taken a pragmatic approach and have also included the Middle East in this special focus which looks at two regions that usually attract very limited coverage. In talking to researchers conducting research there, we have gained an upbeat picture of developments in Africa and the Middle East. Growth and change are words that they frequently used when discussing what is happening. This comes as a welcome change in contrast to the stories of poverty and hardship that are often told about these parts of the world. A more positive, but also critical viewpoint also fits with the growing trend in the debate about how to trigger growth and development in stagnated regions, especially Africa. After half a century of government run aid programmes that haven't done the trick, heads are turning toward the corporate sector to stimulate development in Africa. If business is the way to go, the role of market research will only become more important. Based on their proximity to consumers, market researchers should be the first to be able to tell businesses what African and Middle Eastern people want, or what their humanitarian needs are. Along with opportunity comes responsibility. As one of the researchers interviewed in this issue points out, multinationals in Africa are combining their profit-oriented investments with meaningful investments in the realm of social responsibility. Some of these companies are helping to build infrastructure, which will ultimately benefit their business.