The APN fellowship program has impacted my life and academic career positively. Before I received the APN fellowship award, my research was dominated by a quantitative approach, based particularly on the use of statistics, data, and graphs to analyze and explain phenomena such as poverty, informal economy, conflict trends, etc. One of the main reasons for my dependence on the quantitative approach was the prohibitive cost of collecting qualitative data based on fieldwork. In addition, there was the challenge of not having sufficient guidance for conducting good fieldwork-based research. The APN award in support of my project on the “Relationship between armed conflicts and local economy dynamics in Mali” provided resources to conduct fieldwork-based research. The financial support enabled me to go to the field in Segou and Mopti to collect data. I spent more than six months in the field observing, interacting, discussing, and interviewing people. Also, my participation in APN fellows training workshops was of tremendous help in developing and transforming my skills in conducting field-based social research and data collection.

The training and mentoring received during the workshop sessions were especially useful to the fellows. My mentor, Prof. Amy Niang, has been incredibly supportive. She proofread my drafts and provided relevant comments and suggestions for improving them. Indeed, I learned through my participation in APN activities how to deepen research by focusing on its scientific, social, and political contributions and I am now more engaged in debates on African peacebuilding and conflict resolution. I have been sharing my research findings in Mali by organizing internal seminars attended by academics, practitioners, and officials of local and national authorities.

Also, based on the exposure to and insights into various perspectives of African peacebuilding during APN workshops and my research, I revised and updated my course syllabus on the “Economics of Conflicts.” I have been teaching this course to both undergraduate and graduate students at the Faculty of Economics Science and Management (FSEG) of the Social Science and Management University of Bamako. The APN has opened the door to more opportunities in the academic world. I have also continued to benefit from continued communication and advice from my mentor and the entire APN network of support, including the weekly information-sharing posts on opportunities for professional growth.

Furthermore, the interaction with my peers has been beneficial to me. The discussions and debates among us have been a major source of inspiration for me and positively impacted the quality of my research. In addition to reading and commenting on my work, my peers provided me with many useful comments. We have formed a network through which we share ideas, opportunities, and advice. I have also used data from the findings of my APN-supported research to draft several working paper manuscripts and presented several papers based on research findings from my APN-supported research at international conferences and workshops. I presented a paper entitled “Comprendre la dynamique de l’économie informelle en période de conflits armés1”Understanding the dynamics of the informal economy in times of armed conflict” at the international conference organized by the Merian Institute for Advanced Study for Africa-Pilot African Postgraduate Academy (MIASA-PAPA) on “Challenging Conflict Research in Africa: epistemological, theoretical and methodological issues,” held on December 10-12, 2021 at University of Ghana, Legon, in Ghana. I also presented another paper on “Quand le fusil remplace la faucille. Les mutations paysannes à l’aunes des conflits armés à Niono, Mali,2”When the rifle replaces the sickle: Peasant mutations in the light of armed conflict in Niono, Mali” drawing from the results of my APN-supported research at the international conference of Point Sud held on March 2022 at Université Joseph Ki-Zerbo in Burkina Faso. Most recently, I gave a presentation on “A Comparative Analysis of Local Economic Dynamics in Mopti and Ségou Regions in Mali in armed conflicts period” during the UNU-WIDER’s conference on “The puzzle of peace – towards inclusive development in fragile contexts,” which took place in Helsinki from May 16-17, 2022.

These conferences gave me opportunities to travel and meet scholars around the world and initiate conversations around collaboration and networking. The key connections that I was able to establish include: 1) Collaborative research on armed groups in Africa with Vilassenroot Koen from the University of Ghent and Aymar Nyenyezi Bisoka (a former APN fellow) from the University of Mons and 2) the connection to the Merian Institute for Advanced Study for Africa (MIASA), based in Accra, Ghana, where I am currently collaborating with a colleague from University of Joseph Ki-Zerbo (Zakaria Soré) in Burkina Faso to create a Research Program on Conflict and Development in West Africa. This project is built from our own experience and from our post-doctorate program at the “Pilot African Postgraduate Academy (PAPA), a program founded by the Gerda Henkel Foundation in Germany. The Pilot African Postgraduate Academy (PAPA) targets early career scholars who have recently accomplished their doctoral theses and are based at universities in Africa. The goal is to foster a commitment among scholars toward valuing scholarship for its own sake, cultivate their interest in conceptual understanding of social phenomena, and promote an orientation toward the use of knowledge acquired in Africa to contribute to the further development of science in general with regards to conflict, youth, and migration. In the same regard, I have participated in a Research Program called “CONCERNS,” standing for Conflict and Economic Development Research Network in the Sahel. The main goal of this program is to study interdisciplinary approaches to conflict and development in the Sahel Region. It is a voluntary program involving researchers from Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, and Belgium. I think this program can connect with and contribute to the expansion of the APN’s scope of activities in Africa.

At another level, I have also sharpened my skills in drafting policy briefs targeted at associations, NGOs, local authorities, and government, with the aim of offering advice or policy options for local economic development in periods of armed conflict. This has also provided opportunities to disseminate my research findings to NGOs, practitioners, and local authorities involved in conflict resolution in Mali. Also, based on my APN project findings and my field experience, I have initiated a book project on “Conflicts and Development Studies.”

Conclusion

As an economist working on armed conflicts and peacebuilding-related issues, it is important to take the issue of the local economy seriously in the analysis of conflict, peace, security, and post-conflict development processes. Furthermore, the link between the economy and conflicts should be unpacked by seeking to understand the external and internal dynamics of the local economy during armed conflict. This will help analysts isolate endogenous parameters and approaches for local development, which seems to me to be an essential approach to preventing armed conflicts. The other aspect that must be urgently addressed is the question of the development agenda, which is increasingly shifting in favor of military interventions based on colossal financial costs and huge defense budgets. However, such military interventions have demonstrated serious limitations. A paradigm shift toward demilitarization of peace and security will reinforce the implementation of an alternative development agenda, based on an endogenous approach, which will constitute one of the key links in the search for solutions to armed conflicts and lay the foundation for lasting peace.

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