Africa Center of Excellence ACE2


Theme: Building Pathways Towards Sustainability through Collaborative Research and Innovation.
May 8-10, 2024, Mauritius
General Background Information:

The need for regional and cross-continental coordination and collaboration in addressing global poly-crises related to public health, climate change, food security, energy, water, and other development challenges is crucial. By leveraging economies of scale through such partnerships, development and economic gains can be accelerated and amplified. 

In July 2023, the African Union (AU) and the European Union (EU) adopted a joint AU-EU Innovation Agenda to strengthen Research and Innovation (R&I) cooperation between the African Union (AU) and the European Union (EU) as a key priority. The Agenda aims to transform and increase the innovative capacities and achievements of European and African researchers and innovators into tangible outputs, such as products, services, businesses and jobs. The AU-EU Innovation Agenda represents the key strategic document serving as an important platform to strengthen cooperation in Science, Technology and Innovation between Africa and Europe, for the next decade. The Agenda includes 4 major objectives, with short-, medium- and long-term actions, grouped according to the priority areas namely Public Health, Green Transition, Innovation and Technology and Capacities for Science, in addition to Cross-cutting issues. The Agenda has also identified 5 additional key areas in which AU-EU should strengthen the cooperation: 

a) development of innovation ecosystems

b) innovation management,

c) knowledge exchange, including technology transfer,

d) access to finance, and 

e) human capacity development.

Aligned with this vision is the flagship Africa Higher Education Centers of Excellence (ACE) Program, which, since 2014 has supported more than 80 centers in more than 50 universities in 20 African countries to develop and deliver high quality postgraduate training (master’s, PhD and short course certifications), and undertake applied research in priority fields such as health, agriculture, ICT, water, transport, energy, education, sustainable mining, education, environment and engineering. The centers have been at the frontlines on challenges related to Ebola, Covid-19, sickle cell anaemia, maternal and child health, digital technologies, food security, and climate change. Through a series of three projects (ACE I, ACE II and ACE Impact), the ACE program is the first large scale regional program funded by the World Bank in the higher education sector in support of African governments. The regional approach of the program promotes cross-border academic and industry partnerships within and outside Africa through peer-learning opportunities; sharing of specialized research facilities and equipment; exchange of faculty and students in specialized fields. The ACE program aligns with the World Bank Western and Central Africa (AFW) Regional Education Strategy and the Eastern and Southern Africa Education Business Plan.

There are three priorities of the AU-EU Innovation Agenda, which are aligned with the ACE program:

  1. Establishing AU-EU Centers of Excellence to champion new types of institutional partnerships with a transformative potential;
  2. Developing research and innovation infrastructures to boost the impact and the sustainability of cooperation.
  3. Building on the success of the ARISE initiative to support excellent African researchers by providing funding to mid-career and senior researchers

ACE 1 was launched by the World Bank in 2014 (closed in 2020) and supported 22 centers in 9 countries in Western and Central Africa – Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Nigeria, Togo and Senegal. ACE 2 was then launched in 2016 and supports 24 centers in 8 countries in Eastern and Southern Africa – Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. In 2019, the World Bank, together with the French Development Agency (AFD), launched the third phase of the program: the “ACE for Development Impact project, ACE-Impact”, covering 54 centers across 11 countries mostly in Western Africa (Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Niger, Nigeria, Togo and Senegal). In 2022, the World Bank provided additional financing to the ACE 2 project, supporting 6 agriculture centers in Malawi and Mozambique. Across the series of ACE projects, the World Bank has committed US$ 657 million in support of African governments. In addition, under ACE Impact, AFD is co-financing with US$ 72 million.

Objectives of the Africa Centers of Excellence International Partnerships Workshop

The ACEs have very promising research outputs and are looking to scale their research efforts and impact (including commercializing these impactful research outputs), especially in priority sectors that have nascent formal industries in the region. Therefore, the ACE program has been seeking critical partnerships to promote joint research and to strengthen the innovation ecosystems the centers work in and to foster greater research- to-market outcomes.

Building on the opportunity presented by the AU-EU Innovation Agenda, the objectives of the Africa Centers of Excellence International Partnerships Workshop, which will be held from May 8-10, 2024, in Mauritius, will therefore serve as a timely platform to:

(i)   Create peer-learning opportunities to Centers of Excellence on common topics of interest in key priority research areas;

(ii)   Identify potential areas of collaboration in research and innovation (including commercialization of research); and

(iii)  Engage private sector representatives and investors to support commercialization of research (knowledge, products and services) developed by the Centers of Excellence. 

Expected/Proposed Participating Organizations:
  •       Mauritius government officials
  •       World Bank representatives
  •       Agence Française de Développement (AFD) representatives
  •       Officials of AU Commission
  •       Officials of EU Commission
  •       African Government reps (Regional Project Steering Committee Members ACE II and ACE Impact)
  •       Inter-University Council for East Africa (IUCEA)
  •       Association of African Universities (AAU)
  •       Africa Centers of Excellence (Center leaders/Univ. Presidents)/Other African University teams
  •       French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development (IRD)
  •       ARUA representatives
  •       The Guild of European Research-intensive Universities representatives
  •       European Centers of Excellence (Center leaders/Univ. Presidents)/Other European University teams
  •       USA National Science Foundation-Funded Research Centers
  •       Private sector partners (including venture capitalists)
  •     … other partners
Agenda Summary




Day 0 Tuesday,

May 7


Arrivals and registration

Day 1 Wednesday, May 8

08:00 – 08:30

Registration continued

08:30 – 09:30

Opening Ceremony

09:30 – 10:00

Group picture and coffee break

10:00 – 11:30

Session I: Panel Discussion on the AU-EU Innovation Agenda

11:30 – 13:00

Session II: Panel Discussion with University Presidents from host universities of the Centers of Excellence to

discuss the importance of these centers to their university ecosystems

13:00 – 14:00


14:00 – 15:30

Session III: Panel Discussion with Water and Agriculture Centers to discuss key innovations within their


15:30 – 16:00

Coffee Break

16:00 – 17:30

Session IV: Panel Discussion with STEM and Education Centers to discuss key innovations within their research

Day 2 Thursday, May 9

09:00 – 10:30

Session V: Panel Discussion with Health Centers to discuss key innovations within their research

10:30 – 11:00

Coffee Break

11:00 – 12:30

Thematic Breakout Sessions

Parallel thematic sessions to help facilitate partnership discussions between centers.

High-level Side Meeting

Private discussions on practical and concrete instruments and programs for supporting the partnerships

12:30 – 13:30


13:30 – 15:00

Thematic Breakout Sessions continued

15:00 – 15:30

Coffee Break

15:30 – 17:00

Thematic Breakout Sessions continued

Day 3 Friday, May 10

09:00 – 10:00

Session VI: ACE Program Graduate Tracer Study Results

Side Meeting for University Presidents

Pitching Session (participation of pre-selected Centers)

10:00 – 13:00

Extended Coffee Break for

Informal Networking

13:00 – 14:00


14:00 – 15:00

Session VII: Highlights from Thematic Breakout Sessions

15:00 – 15:30

Closing Ceremony

For media inquiries or further information, please contact:

The World Bank: Harry Gerard Crimi Jr (

Inter University Council for East Africa: Agnes Asiimwe (

The Association of African Universities: Millicent Afriyie Adjei (