Africa Centers of Excellence rebalancing higher education towards science and technology
Lusaka, May 10, 2018 - The Eastern and Southern Africa Higher Education Centers of Excellence Project (ACEII) is holding its fifth Technical and Advisory meeting at the Mika Convention Center in Lusaka, Zambia. The ACEII project is strengthening 24 competitively selected centers to deliver quality, market relevant post graduate education, and build collaborative research capacity in five regional priority areas of industry, agriculture, health, education and applied statistics. Sixteen universities in eight countries are participating in the ACEII Project. The five year project is financed by the World Bank to a tune of $148M in form of credit to the eight countries which include Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia.
Mr. Alex Simumba, the Permanent Secretary for Higher Education who represented the Minister for Higher Education said, “The Zambian government supports strategies, such as the World Bank Africa Centers of Excellence Project, that enable the transformation of universities from mere graduate producers to those capable of creating internationally acclaimed human resources.”
“As a country,” he added, “we hope to use these centers as models to drive the changes that will establish higher education institutions as principal producers of knowledge that directly impact on socio-economic development.”
Prof. Alexandre Lyambabaje, the Executive Secretary of the Inter-University Council for East Africa, the Regional Facilitation Unit of the project reiterated the trust that African governments put into selected universities when they were given the responsibility to train the new generation of leaders for the region at MSc. and PhD level. “This is an important forum because it gives a tremendous opportunity to the center leaders to work together towards achieving the goal of transforming higher education in our region.”
Speaking on behalf of the World Bank Country Representative for Zambia, Dr. Xiaoyan Liang, the Team Leader for the ACE II Project said that when the World Bank started the two phases of the Africa Centers of Excellence (ACE) project, the first in West and Central Africa with 22 ACEs and the second in Eastern and Southern Africa with 24 centers, a strong collaborative movement across the continent to rebalance higher education towards science and education was created. She revealed that an ACEIII is being prepared in West Africa to add about 20 more centers. “We believe that the ACEs will substantially help narrow the skills gap in priority sectors such as agriculture, water and manufacturing where there are huge unmet needs.”
Zambia, the host of the meeting has two Centers of Excellence, the Africa Center of Excellence for Sustainable Mining at Copperbelt University and the Africa Center of Excellence for Infectious Diseases of Humans and Animals at the University of Zambia. Both will be funded for a total of $12 million over five years. As with the other ACEs, the funds will be used to develop new programs, expand enrollment, provide research facilities, build capacity among faculty and management and strengthen partnerships with leading regional and global institutions as well as the private sector.
Over the project’s duration of five years, the selected ACEs are expected to enroll more than 3,500 graduate students in the regional development priority areas, out of which at least 700 would be PhD students and more than 1,000 would be female. It also plans to facilitate publication of at least 1,500 journal articles, launch more than 300 research collaborations with the private sector and other institutions, and generate about US$30 million in external revenue. Already there are close to 400 masters students and 300 PhD students enrolled in the centers. By the end of the project in 2022 the centers will have developed sufficient capacity to become sustainable regional hubs for training and research in their specialized fields.
Dr. Liang said that as centers of excellence they are tasked to provide exemplary models of how to bring together and promote the best training models in the industry, how to strengthen national quality standards, how to serve as knowledge centers and how to be hubs that link diverse stakeholders with productive sectors.
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Agnes Asiimwe Okoth
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