Mr. Nedson Pophiwa

Research Specialist
The Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)
South Africa


In 2005, I looked forward to pursuing an MA in African Economic History at the University of Zimbabwe. The university would waive the tuition fees, but I needed to find other funding to pursue my fieldwork and complete my dissertation. I was unsuccessful until I found the KSAL programme and I submitted my expression of interest. The fellowship could not have come at a better time; I had completed coursework and was ready to face the daunting task of writing a thesis. From the start, KSAL empowered my cohort with research methods and leadership courses. We were also taught to ploughback into society, my first encounter with this principle. I then shared my newly acquired skills with peers in my MA class and did the same with my undergraduate classes. By so doing, I witnessed growth in my own research and writing skills. Eventually, I produced a well-argued, empirical and informative dissertation for my MA. I was able to secure tenure with the university and publish my thesis. I also contributed to the body of knowledge on African borders and cross-border trade—a research focus which requires more nuanced empirical evidence. The KSAL programme is one of the most important milestones of my life. Five years after receiving the award, I still feel that the breakthrough in my early career came from being part of the programme. I learned a lot about effective leadership, which is a skill missing in many graduates, even those who complete their studies with distinction. As such, it is the life skills component of the programme that I am in awe of. I later received other fellowships, but none of them had a ‘personal’ or human face approach to ensuring that fellows not only receive money but the skills needed to put the funding to good use. I feel that KSAL’s methodology courses are partly the reason behind my current success in pursuing a career in social science research. Today, I am employed as a Chief Researcher in one of South Africa’s leading research councils—the Human Science Research Council. I also worked previously for the Africa Institute of South Africa, University of the Witwatersrand and also had a stint in the private sector at one of Zimbabwe’s leading market research companies, Probe Market Research Limited.