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Our research

More than a decade of researching peacebuilding and state-building in Africa shows that the nature of the state is invariably at the core of the challenge of conflict relapse. We need to re-examine the evolution and role of the state in building and sustaining peace. 

The liberal peacebuilding approach has not managed to devlier stable peace. However, state-building remains a factor that cannot be easily jettisoned. So, the questions remain:

  • what is the role of the state in the path to stable peace?
  • how is society impacted by the state and visa versa?

Our research interrogates the challenges of peacebuilding, conflict and insecurity in Africa. We examine the 'state' in Africa through our six research clusters. 

Our research focus areas

This research group interrogates the perspectives, visions and expectations of current future types of peace amongst a critical social group in Africa, namely young people.

It interrogates the predominant vision of peace among Africa’s youth and future leaders, as well as explores what they see as greatest sources of insecurity for African youth and Africa in general. It engages the core ideas and most viable strategies for sustaining peace as proposed or envisaged by young Africans.

This research group critically interrogates extant and dominant theories on statehood (across the ideological spectrum) and their utility for the African context across time. It explores the key questions such as:

* What notions and models of statehood exist in Africa?

* Who is the state, who identifies with the state, with whom does the state identify?

* Whom are state policies and ‘development’ meant to benefit?

* And what are the implications of these models for peace, security and socio-economic outcomes?

This research group explores the historical conceptualisation and interpretation of empirical realities of statehood in Africa across a range of periods. The re-visitation of the ideas and realities of statehood in Africa is guided by an appraisal of how evolution in conceptualisation and interpretation of statehood over specific periods has shaped approaches to peace, security and development. It also raises the question of what factors differentiate the experiences of statehood in Africa from other places?

Some of the periods to be examined might include, the pre-colonial; colonial; second industrial revolution; the Second World War and post-colonial and post-independence periods.

This research group focuses on the dynamics within societal contexts with emphasis on how various entities and actors are influencing the construct of African states and notions of statehood.

This research group interrogates the extent to which the internal dynamics in African societal responses to security and development challenges are compelling a change in the state and manifestations of statehood.

In particular it explores the following questions:

* How are evolutions in technology and new media altering societal responses to security and development challenges?

* How are these dynamics and evolutions influencing notions of statehood in Africa?

* And what justice and peace issues (puzzles) are brought to the fore by these dynamics and evolutions.

This research group considers how regionalism and regionalisation, including the pivotal role of nodal entities (individuals, groups and states) and processes, have evolved across time and how these dynamics have impacted on African statehood.

It is guided by questions such as:

* To what extent are notions of regionalism and regions changing in Africa?

* To what extent are the changes signposting the evolution of the ‘regions’ and ‘regionalism’ of the future, and what are the implications for statehood in Africa?

* How are evolutions and changes in regionalism shaping or altering notions of nodality and nodal states and regions in Africa?

* And what peace, security, socio-economic and political outcomes are emerging from these evolutions and changes?

This research group focuses on the interface between international political-economy contexts and the notions and realities of African statehood across times.

It is underlined by the assumption that Africa and Africa states exist in a global context where the policies, actions or inactions, and practices of major political-economy actors shape the identities, character, functions and ideological orientations of statehood.

This group is guided by questions such as:

* How have changes in the international environment influenced notions of statehood in Africa over time?

* How are global economic, security and political events impinging on the African states and shaping development and security outcomes on the continent?


Selected publications


More publications

Journal of Leadership and Developing Societies

The African Leadership Centre (ALC) established the academic peer-reviewed journal, Journal of Leadership and Developing Societies, in 2016, which motivates original thinking and high-quality analysis on the interaction between leadership and the security-development nexus with a global focus on the developing world.

The journal fills an important gap by examining leadership as a distinctive aspect of security and development processes and not simply as a by-product of institution building. It provides empirically grounded analysis of the interactions between security and development; and bridges the theory and practice of leadership in developing societies.


African Perspectives on Peacebuilding and Leadership

Published by Bloomsbury, this unique and much-needed series brings together renowned African practitioners – from leaders of peacekeeping missions to UN special envoys – to provide critical perspectives on current understandings of peacebuilding and leadership.

Titles will present a repository of cutting-edge knowledge for anyone interested in conflict, security and development. The series includes unique, insider accounts of peacebuilding processes, in-depth analyses of the institutional obstacles faced and theoretical and practical insights into how the present paradigm might be changed.

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Visiting Academics and Practitioners



Read about the African Leadership Centre's fellowship programmes.

Previous and ongoing research projects


The overarching aim of this research is to contribute to a reframing of the narratives that surround peacebuilding processes in Africa.

Contemporary narratives underpinning the making of Africa's states and the process of ensuring their viability are inadequately understood in academia and in the world of policy and practice. The potential or actual outbreak of intractable conflicts, which sometimes threatens the very survival of African states and the efforts to reconcile affected societies and set them back on the course of state building are rarely constructed as part of a continuum.

This research project aims to capture and document these narratives and in so doing it interrogates common and established understanding of statebuilding and peacebuilding processes in Africa.

Research Objectives:

This research will be guided by four key objectives:

1) To draw new and comparable insights about the trajectory of countries that have pursued their statebuilding conversations in part through violent conflict

2) To develop conceptual grounding of peacebuilding and statebuilding in Africa.

3) To draw lessons for peacebuilding processes in countries undergoing violent conflict in the course of statebuilding; and in particular for actors seeking to intervene in those contexts.

4) To deepen the knowledge of next generation academics and researchers on this subject – through participation in this research and development of curriculum for the study of peace and statebuilding processes in Africa.

This project builds knowledge on non-mainstream approaches to peacebuilding.

There are a number of issues that mainstream peace-building literature and policy practices do not cover. Even when they try to cover these issues, they do so only in particular ways.

Themes such as gender, reconciliation, translation, peace education and leadership are some of the issues that are not adequately addressed by the mainstream peacebuilding literature and hence they are outliers in peacebuilding. However, the fact that they are outliers in peacebuilding does not necessarily mean that they are of little relevance for building peace in conflict-affected societies.

Through the research undertaken by ALC Fellows, staff and associates, this project conducts a deeper interrogation of these issues.

In particular, we interrogate non-state armed conflicts in Africa, which are not on the radar of mainstream peacebuilding processes – an area in which ALC Fellows are already undertaking original investigative work.

Two key questions occupy our attention in this area of work:

1) What models of peacebuilding are evident in the responses to non-state armed conflicts? To what extent is the dominant model of peacebuilding effective in these contexts?

2) How are outlier issues addressed in non-state armed conflict?

In this project, researchers undertake extensive case study analysis examining a range of peacebuilding interventions in Africa, the policies that shape these responses as well as the role and impact of a range of actors.

There is consensus among analysts and practitioners alike that we need to know more about what works and what does not work on the ground.

By dedicating attention to the study of policy environments as well as theatres of operation, this research seeks to document lessons of experience in current peacebuilding interventions in Africa.

This includes a range of contexts in which there are structured responses as well as less structured responses to armed conflicts involving state and non-state actors.

We will transfer lessons from on-going research at the ALC on peace- and state building as well as from the Mapping Study of Peacebuilding and Security in Africa.

The knowledge gained from Leading Peacebuilders' reflections as well as from research by mid-to senior level policy practitioners Fellowships at the ALC (described under Research Uptake) also offer valuable insights to this project.

A fourth area of research at the ALC is that which seeks to understand the internal channels of resilience to violence, armed conflict and insecurity in African societies.

Three core sets of questions occupy our attention in this research project.

First, what does resilience mean in African societies and states? Is resilience what we think it means in those places? What separates the notion of resilience in the African context from other contexts?

Second, in what realms can we find evidence of the most robust structures and instruments of resilience to destructive conflict, violence and large-scale insecurity including disasters? Are the most prominent places the most robust sources of resilience?

Third, through what mechanisms and processes can we develop, transfer and scale up ideas and methods that offer solutions that make societies more resilient to destructive conflict, violence and disaster?

In seeking to address these questions this project focuses on "society" rather than the "state" as an entry point from which to study interventions and approaches that work or fail to build resilience in societies and states affected by conflict, violence, and large scale insecurity including disaster.

It recognises the important role of the state. But we contend that in the process of solution-seeking there is the tendency to relegate to the background, ideas and interventions outside the view of the state, which provide some evidence of success.

More so, many African societies demonstrate a fine measure of resilience when compared to the state. As such, there is potential to upscale some of the experiences for application at the level of the state.

This project proposes a different and new lens through which to consider developmental transformation in post-conflict societies: developmental post-conflict reconstruction.

It does so by examining peacebuilding, post-conflict reconstruction and developmental statehood with particular focus on the interaction between the state and the private sector in addressing economic development in the aftermath of conflict.

This is novel as despite widely acclaimed developmental success alongside security challenges in the developmental states of East Asia, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan over three decades from the 1960s (1930s for Japan) there is limited analysis of transferable lessons to the Global South (example: Barbara, 2008).

It is also timely as the proposed post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals suggest a stronger role for industrialisation in developmental pursuits, which is very much in line with the Developmental State Paradigm (DSP).

This research strand builds on the Outliers in Peacebuilding research theme, by utilising a non-mainstream examination of peacebuilding as a lens through which to interrogate dominant contemporary approaches such as liberal peacebuilding.

It also contributes to the Peacebuilding operational and policy spaces in Africa research theme with reflection on contemporary reconstruction experiences that draw on liberal peacebuilding through structured interventions.

This project responds to four distinct research questions:

How significant are state-private sector interactions to historical and contemporary understandings of post-conflict reconstruction in Africa?

What is the developmental legacy of post-conflict reconstruction in conceptual and policy terms in Africa?

How significant is the 'centrality' of structural transformation of the economy to post-conflict reconstruction across time?

What has influenced the choice and utility of post-conflict reconstruction and developmental policy frameworks and how have these impacted on developmental processes and outcomes?

The project proceeds with two identifiable approaches to post-conflict reconstruction in Africa.

The first one draws on the conceptual framing and analysis of empirical experiences of reconstruction in post-colonial/post-independence Africa within the context of a strong role for the state in development and dominance of development planning as a policy tool as with the Biafran war (Second National Development Plan 1970-1975).

We also analyse efforts towards developmental transformation through development planning in the aftermath of the Mau Mau uprisings in Kenya (First National Development Plan 1965/66-1969/70- revised).

There was emphasis on a strong role for the state alongside engagement with the private sector (with vibrant participation from foreign capital) as part of a wider development planning process.

The second one draws on empirical experiences in the post-structural adjustment period within the context of mainstream arguments for the reduced role for the state in development in the early responses to the present-day conflicts in the Niger Delta (2009), Boko Haram- affected North Eastern Nigeria (2014-) and Post-Election violence in Kenya (2007).

This second approach is most clearly identifiable as reconstruction within the liberal peacebuilding framework as exemplified by the mandate of the UN Peacebuilding Commission (Olonisakin and Ikpe, 2012).

These approaches are emblematic of Moore's (2007:12) suggestion that post-conflict reconstruction is caught ‘in tensions between neoliberal and more interventionist visions of development in general.’

This project investigates the implications of these tensions on the conceptual development and practice of post-conflict reconstruction.

In doing so it contributes to providing new guidance to policy and practice where current approaches fall short.

This project is an EPSRC funded project (under the Global Challenges Research Fund).

It is a collaborative, multidisciplinary project between the Department of Informatics and the African Leadership Centre at King's College London, the London Business School and in partnership with international demining charity, The HALO Trust.

The researchers are collaborating on a novel research project that proposes to create a new technological tool for detecting and clearing landmines alongside a methodology for examining cultural, political, and socio-economic factors within peacebuilding processes that can influence the demining process.

This joint approach is significant for articulating the order in which different areas and land types are prioritised for clearance. It can thus support the deployment of the technology for the greatest benefit in the shortest possible time.

Upon completion, this will be the first time that such a combined strategy will have been tried.

The project acknowledges that clearing landmines saves and improves lives in numerous different ways.

Therefore, de-mining can help a community access agricultural land, markets and food supply, schools, hospitals and other essential services, through the clearing of transportation links and routes as well as be a significant element of peacebuilding process in conflict affected contexts.

By clearing anti-personnel (AP) and anti-vehicle mines (AVMs) from roads and fields, people and communities are reconnected and this can bring huge socio-economic benefits to developing countries where these are most needed.

However, efforts to clear roads and fields from the threat of landmines are complicated by the slow speed of current demining approaches particularly for anti-vehicle mines (AVMs). The proposed technological tool and methodology therefore seeks to address this challenge.

The project team from the Africa Leadership Centre are Dr. Ekaette Ikpe and Dr. Sarah Njeri.


Digital Outreach and Knowledge Management

The ALC Datalab is part of the expanded Knowledge Management (KM) system of the ALC that speaks to the interconnecting ways we create, use, and share knowledge with the appropriate constituencies in pursuit of our transformative agenda. The KM system operates through three units – the Data Laboratory (Datalab), ALC Radio, and the Journal of Leadership and Developing Societies (LDS) – that individually and collectively enable us to effectively create, share and use knowledge in pursuit of our stated objectives.

The ALC Datalab is committed to providing broader social science data with particular focus on peacebuilding, women, gender, security, and development in Africa. It is designed to serve primarily as a digital warehouse for scarce data in order to assist African researchers, scholars and students in their works.

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Research across the Global Institutes

Our cross-cutting thematic research groups, which bring together members from across the five institutes, bring a diverse approach to some of the most pressing issues facing the world today.

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