Godwin was a practicing human rights lawyer in Zimbabwe before becoming a foreign and war correspondent. He wrote for the London Sunday Times, where he covered wars in Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, and Zimbabwe. He was also the chief correspondent for BBCs foreign affairs program, where he directed documentaries on Cuba, Czechoslovakia, and the Balkans, among others. His film The Industry of Death, an exploration of the sex trade in Thailand, won the gold medal for investigative film at the New York Film Festival. Godwin has also written five non-fiction books. He is the author of Mukiwa: A White Boy in Africa, which won the Orwell Prize and the Esquire/Apple/Waterstones non-fiction award. He also wrote When a Crocodile Eats the Sun: A Memoir of Africa, which was selected by American Libraries Association as a Notable Book winner for 2008.
Godwin has taught writing at the New School, Princeton University, and Columbia University, and served as a 2010 Guggenheim Fellow and a MacDowell Fellow. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.