Africa Centers of Excellence meet to discuss investment in skilling graduates, research and quality of Science and Technology education in Africa
Accra, November 07, 2017 – A joint workshop for the Africa Centers of Excellence (ACE) from ACE I and ACE II is underway in Accra, Ghana, from 7-10th November 2017. The 22 Centers of Excellence from West and Central Africa and 24 Centers from Eastern and Southern Africa are meeting for the first time to learn from peers, and share knowledge, experiences and success stories. It’s an opportunity for the 46 centres to review their progress, deliberate on the challenges and collectively come up with solutions. The workshop was officially opened by the Minister of Education, Republic of Ghana, Hon. Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh.
Hon. Opoku said the Centers should be “models to drive changes that will entrench Higher Education Institutions as principal producers of knowledge that directly impact on socio-economic development,” he said. “This after all,” he added, “is what the mission of Higher Education institutions must be about.”
Kathleen C. Beegle, who represented Heny Kerali, World Bank Country Director for Ghana, Sierra Leone and Liberia said that the ACE project is leading groundbreaking research to bring new solutions to problems in the region. “For example, the Africa Center of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases based at Reedemer University in Nigeria published world-class research on the Ebola virus in Nature Science about where the first sample of Ebola was tested in Nigeria within a short time frame, and which strong scientific capacity was integral in battling the Ebola outbreak in Nigeria and the region.”
The Africa Higher Education Centers of Excellence, an initiative of participating African governments and the World Bank was launched as a key step towards providing the higher education necessary to strengthen competitiveness and employment through the production of quality skilled human resources in priority growth sectors. The 46 Centers are working in health, information technology, energy, agriculture, extractive industries, transport, education, statistics, material science and mining and water management and infrastructure. The phase one in West and Central Africa (ACE I) started in 2013 with 22 Centers of Excellence in eight countries and has advanced in implementation. The phase two in Eastern and Southern Africa (ACE II) was launched in 2016 with 24 Centers of Excellence in eight countries. Both ACE I and ACE II will be financed with $313 million dollars over the project period of five years, with $165 million for ACE I and $148 million for ACE II.
Andreas Blom, World Bank Task Leader for ACE I called on the Centers to aim for academic excellence. He revealed that from ACE I, 50 new PhD students are graduating this year, of which one third is regional students. “This is an investment that makes sense, it’s an investment that produces results. If you can keep producing those results we can keep arguing for more money for higher education in science and technology development education in Africa.”
He said that a third phase (ACE III) is in the pipeline. “We are looking at another $200 million investment but only if we keep producing results.” He emphasized the scarcity of high-level skills in water, health, mining, oil and gas in Africa and how industrialists keep getting consultants from outside the region to do the work. “Real development is skills and knowledge that lies in Africa,” he said. “Step out and get your faculty and students to solve real-life problems.”
Xiaoyan Liang, Task Leader for ACE II noted that while Africa can still prioritize different levels of education at different stages of economic development, higher education must be part and parcel of the reform agenda.
“The ongoing investment and economic transformation in Africa is boosting the demand for the well-educated and skilled labour force. Yet there remains a large gap between the demand and supply of skills,” said Liang.
“We have done our homework to ensure that each center while catering to the needs of their respective country’s higher education arena is also conscious of the entire region,” she said, adding, “Some of these interventions include developing new and relevant masters, Ph.D. programs and short-term courses, research, provision of teaching and learning facilities, capacity building of faculty, scholarship for students, motion of partnership with regional and international world-class institutions as well as the private sector, and generating revenues.”
Prof. Etienne Ehouan Ehile, Secretary-General, Association of African Universities (AAU) said the joint meeting will provide a platform for learning and knowledge sharing among the two ACEs, and an opportunity for guidance on improving university linkages and collaboration.
Prof. Mike Kuria, Deputy Executive Secretary at Inter-University Council for East Africa (IUCEA) said, “The Centers of Excellence give us what Barack Obama would have called the audacity of hope. The Centers of Excellence are giving us an opportunity to take the destiny of Africa in our hands. They are going to become a beacon of hope, they are going to become centres against which other universities and institutions can benchmark so that we can have excellence in those serious fields.”
AAU and IUCEA are the Regional Facilitation Units for ACE I and ACE II respectively. The project is in 16 countries including Cote D’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia, Uganda, Nigeria, Ghana, Benin, Togo, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, and Senegal. Gambia, Burundi and Zimbabwe which do not host any ACE are eligible to access services offered by the ACEs in other countries and regional capacity building activities under the project.