The World Bank, on Friday, 10 November, 2017, announced an 18-month extension to the Africa Centres of
Excellence (ACE) I project, currently on-going in nine West-African countries. The announcement was made by
World Bank Regional Team Lead, Andreas Blom, during the 11th Project Steering Committee (PSC) meeting, held at
the La Palm Royal Beach Hotel, Accra, Ghana; to review the progress, prospects and challenges of the ACE Project,
at mid-term. The meeting, which was preceded by a joint regional workshop for both ACE I and ACE II Projects, was
also aimed at developing strategies for the success of the Project.
Mr. Blom informed members, who comprised representatives of the participating countries, that the Bank had agreed
to the extension, to allow participating countries to consolidate on gains and results of the projects in their various
institutions. He informed members of the Committee that, though the Bank was working towards raising funds to
cover the extension period, this was not guaranteed. He, therefore, advised the Centres to work towards having a “no-
cost” project extension. He also urged country representatives to approach their various governments, through the
Ministries of Finance, to push for an additional 18 months for the Project as well as do the necessary documentation
The Regional Team Lead noted that, though some of the ACEs had made considerable progress in meeting their
Disbursement-Linked Indicators (DLIs), some others were not utilising the opportunities of the Project. He noted the
need for the ACEs to identify strategies for improving on some of their disbursement-linked results, such as regional
student enrolment-particularly female students, funds disbursement and income generation. He expressed concerns
that, given how poorly some of the ACEs were performing with regard to revenue generation, the Project may not
survive beyond the expiration of the World Bank support. He, consequently, advised the ACEs to glean from the
experiences of their counterparts, who had successfully surmounted this challenge.
Mr. Blom expressed regret at the inability of some ACEs to utilise their funds, as a result of not delivering on their
DLIs, adding that, in line with the Performance Contract signed by the Centres at the commencement of the Project,
funds would be re-allocated from ACEs which were not utilising their grants, to others that showed more prospects of
utilising allocated funds.
To encourage collaboration among participating countries, the Task Team Lead informed the Committee that the Bank
would, in the following year, organise a ministerial meeting, which would also involve regional and international
organisations, such as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), to discuss, among other issues,
strategies for forging greater partnerships among the countries.
In his remarks, Secretary-General of the Association of African Universities (AAU), Professor Etienne Ehouan Ehile,
noted that, though significant progress had been recorded in the ACEs, with regard to supervision missions and
verification of results, among others, there was room for improvement. He commended the Centres which were
making remarkable progress and urged others that were not performing as well to take advantage of the platform
which the Project provides, to improve, not only their universities, but the country, in general.
The representative of the Government of Nigeria and Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission
(NUC), Professor Abubakar Rasheed, congratulated the West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI) and
West African Centre for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens (WACCBIP), both of the University of Ghana, Legon,
for the successes recorded with the ACE project and expressed interest in learning from their experiences.
Professor Rasheed, who also chairs Nigeria’s National Project Performance Review Committee (NPPRC), noted the
likelihood of achieving results, while spending less and called on the World Bank to explore the possibility of
rewarding Centres which showed such prospects. He observed the bottlenecks and delays associated with attaining
international accreditation for programmes of the ACEs, particularly from European accrediting bodies. He, therefore,
canvassed for the engagement of credible regional accrediting bodies to fast-track the accreditation process.
The Executive Secretary also called on the AAU and World Bank to work with the various national governments, to
facilitate the process of international accreditation of the ACEs and improve collaboration among participating
countries. This, he said, would ensure that the Project would have far-reaching effects on the West-African sub-region.
The NPPRC Chairman noted the increase in the number of publications by the Centres and the need to ascertain the
relevance and impact of the publications to the region. Publications, therefore, should arise directly from the work of
the ACEs, Professor Rasheed said. He also called on the ACEs to cut across regional boundaries and encourage better
resource-sharing, to ensure that the impact of the Project was felt across the sub-region.
Professor Rasheed commended the accountability and transparency of the World Bank and AAU, as was evident in
the ACE Project budget performance, which was presented in the course of the meeting.
Commenting on the progress of the ACE project, the subject matter experts noted that there were potentials for inter-
ACE collaborations, which the Centres had not tapped into. They advised the Centre Leaders to focus on driving the
success of the Project, while delegating mundane tasks to other staff of the Centres.
The experts observed the need to task the ACEs to develop and submit concept notes on their strategies for sustaining
the Centres, by the next PSC. They advised the ACEs to think up business strategies, using their universities’ business
schools or business consultancies.
The meeting was concluded with the decision that the next Regional Workshop would be hosted by Ouagadougou,
Burkina Faso, in May, 2018.