The African Peacebuilding Network (APN) remains strongly committed to strengthening the research capacity and professional development of researchers. I speak from the vantage point of being a three-time fellow of the APN. I have been an Individual Research Fellow (2014), a member of an APN Working Group (2016-2018), and a Book Manuscript Completion Fellow (2018). I have benefited immensely from the multiple opportunities for building and sustaining my career growth. APN training workshops are of great benefit at the individual and collective levels. For the individual, workshops provide opportunities to reflect on their research proposals or drafts, present them, receive feedback from peers and mentors, and refine it for fieldwork or publication. It could also be collective because it allows grantees to connect with and relate to each other in terms of learning about and applying diverse methodological approaches in the field or critiquing each other’s work. The collective nature of the workshops builds upon the ability and capacity of grantees to develop and sustain networks for their future work and career growth. This can be seen from my trajectory as a three-time grantee over the years.

In 2014, I was awarded an APN individual research grant. At the APN research methods training workshop in Nairobi, Kenya, my cohort had the opportunity to meet with senior academics who helped us to refine our research questions and methodologies before embarking on fieldwork to collect data. The APN workshop mentors taught us what to expect during fieldwork and how to navigate the field and best address practical and ethical challenges that may emerge while collecting and analyzing data. The debates on research methodologies were robust and academically enriching, as was the discussion of the subjectivities which constitute methodological approaches. What is equally interesting is that the APN draws workshop facilitators from different disciplinary backgrounds, just as the fellows in each cohort. This is enriching in the sense that one can benefit from interdisciplinary perspectives to research methodologies. The APN also gives space to fellows to engage with highly experienced mentors while critically engaging each other’s work. The space is important because often academics lack such engagements. I also attended another APN workshop in Arusha, Tanzania, in 2015. At the workshop, we received feedback on our draft articles which we had submitted to the program prior to the meeting. We were allocated mentors, who read the drafts, provided feedback aimed at strengthening our write-ups, and helped us find appropriate publication outlets for our research findings. This is one of the strong points of the APN program; it helps many academics and researchers bridge the gap between collecting data and producing articles or other peer-reviewed publications. In my time, I had detailed and critical discussions with my mentors. In fact, it was a mentor, Prof. Gilbert Khadiagala, who suggested where I could publish my paper. I subsequently submitted the paper to the suggested peer-reviewed journal, African Studies. Not only was my article— “When ex-combatants became peaceful: Azania People’s Liberation Army ex-combatants in post-apartheid South Africa,”—published, it was also awarded the best author prize: The Benedict Vilakazi Award.

In 2016, I was part of the group of researchers awarded the APN collaborative working group (CWG) grant to conduct research on armed youth violence in five African countries: Nigeria, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Ivory Coast, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The approach of the CWG was to bring together the best elements of research collaboration between senior, mid-career, and junior scholars sharing similar interests and active mentorship and guidance by a senior researcher. It is of import to note that the APN CWG has a longer duration of doing research, spanning 18 months. This enables researchers to develop a working relationship, which goes beyond the grant time frame. It was from the working group research that we managed to forge collaborative relationships in co-research and co-authorship, an important element in scholarship.

Our CWG had important conversations because the APN-approved work plan enabled us to collectively design our research, plan our fieldwork, and hold methods and writing and dissemination workshops. The collaborative approach of the working group structured our collective effort in terms of choosing our project title, discussing our strategies, and predicting research outputs.  This allowed our CWG to contribute to several program publication series: APN Policy Briefing Notes, APN Working Papers, and the program’s blog, Kujenga Amani.

My third APN grant was the 2018 APN Book Manuscript Completion Award which gave me an opportunity to write the manuscript and publish a single-authored book with Routledge in 2019, titled: Soldiers and the State in Zimbabwe.1Godfrey Maringira, Soldiers, and the State in Zimbabwe, Routledge, 2019. The APN allocated a mentor, Dr. Khabele Matlosa, who helped to frame the book by reading each draft chapter of my book and providing timely feedback. Apart from my contributions to APN publications and my book, I have also published other journal articles from my APN research.2Godfrey Maringira, & Diana Gibson, “Maintaining order in townships: Gangsterism and community resilience in Post-Apartheid South Africa,” African Conflict and Peacebuilding Review9 (2), 2019, 55-74; and Godfrey Maringira, “Killing as a Resource: Gang Rivals in South Africa,” Politeia40 (2), 2021, 1- 16. I have collaborated with my peers as well as past APN mentors, who have continued to invite me to contribute papers. Recently, my previous APN mentor Prof Gilbert Khadiagala invited me to contribute a paper to the Oxford Encyclopaedia of Politics3Prof Gilbert Khadiagalaon work related to my APN-supported research. The APN approach toward supporting the critical stages of the knowledge production process—from data collection to analysis, writing, and dissemination of research outputs—has been a very important investment in resourcing and building the capacities of emerging African scholars.

I became an APN grantee in 2014, the same year I graduated with a PhD. Within the space of six years, which is the time I was awarded the three APN grants, I rose to the rank of a University Associate Professor and Chairperson of the School-Faculty Research Committee. I have also been awarded the C2 rating by the National Research Foundation (NRF) of South Africa.4This is confirmation that the researcher is well established in his field of expertise and enjoys some international recognition for the quality and impact of his recent research outputs. Over the years, I have enjoyed the visibility which comes with being an APN grantee.

The APN supports its current and former fellows/grantees to travel to and participate in international conferences, which they would otherwise not have the resources to attend. International conferences enable us as emerging scholars to connect with our peers as well as highly accomplished academics from other parts of the world. It is not enough to award a grant, but it is significant to build research capacity in Africa and that is what the APN has been focusing on. Therefore, it is important to note that the APN goes beyond awarding grants/fellowships to emerging African Scholars by using such grants to build their research capacities and influence in the field of peacebuilding and knowledge production in Africa. The APN is reconnecting the older generation of scholars with the new and emerging scholars. In ten years, the APN has built an awesome research legacy: ensuring that grantees remain in touch and in contact with their program mentors and work collaboratively as a Pan-African and interconnected community of knowledge and practice. I am thrilled to be a part of this legacy that shows how a program can transform lives and an interdisciplinary scholarly community that is equally policy-engaged. In the coming years, I plan to contribute to the consolidation of the outstanding achievements of the program by collaborating with my peers and mentors, mentoring the next generation of African scholars, and advancing the course of peace and development on the continent.

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