Nigerian ACEs, Others Shine at First Higher Education Fair

All 10 Nigerian Africa Centres of Excellence (ACE) were among 22 Centres which showcased their education, research output and innovations to the public, during the recently-held ACE project Higher Education Student Fair, which took place at l’Institut International de l’Eau et de l’Environment (2iE), in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. 

Declaring the Fair open, World Bank Country Manager for Burkina Faso, Mr. Cheick Fantamady Kanté, noted that the event was the first of its kind. He re-iterated the Bank’s support for the ACE project, which he described as one of the most innovative Projects, which is aimed at proving the African continent with the wherewithal to meet its development challenges. 

In his remarks, the Secretary-General of the Regional Facilitating Unit (RFU) for the ACE Project and co-organiser of the event, the Association of African Universities (AAU), Professor Etienne Ehile, noted that the epoch-making event was a great feat for Africa as well as for the ACEs. He stated that the training and research programmes showcased during the Fair were a demonstration of the continent’s ability to develop the skills it needed to fast-track Africa’s development. He commended all stakeholders on the success of the Fair and urged them to ensure success of subsequent editions.

World Bank Education Specialist and ACE Task Team Lead, Mr. Andreas Blom, commended the progress recorded by the ACEs, particularly in the enrollment of regional students, currently estimated at about 3, 000, out of a total student enrollment figure of more than 7, 000. Mr Blom noted that the Centres currently had over 35 programmes, with about 15 of them meeting international standards. “We are encouraged by the strong ownership of the ACEs at institutional, national and regional levels and are taking steps to move to the next level to support the creation of new Centres of Excellence, while providing additional financing to scale up on some of the existing ones that are already glowing at regional and international level.”

Dignitaries at the opening of the Fair

Coordinator of the 2iE’s Africa Centre of Excellence for Research and Training in Water Science and Technology, Energy and Environment in West and Central Africa, Professor Harouna Karambiri, informed the Fair that, in addition to the Centre’s programmes meeting international standards, the training also equips the students, who are drawn from all over Africa, to be innovative, positively competitive and capable of accessing the labour market. 

The research programmes presented by the Nigerian ACEs covered the following areas: (i) genomics of infectious diseases; (ii) materials science engineering; (iii) agricultural development and sustainable environment; (iv) neglected tropical diseases and forensic biotechnology; (v) phytomedicine and development; (vi) reproductive health and innovation;  (vii) oilfield chemicals (viii) dryland agriculture; (ix) food technology; and (x) software engineering. 

Those by other countries covered areas such as (i) statistics; (ii) climate change; (iii) mining; (iv) water, energy and environment; (v) cell biology of infectious pathogens; (vi) crop improvement;  (vii) mathematical sciences and applications; (viii) water and sanitation; (ix) poultry sciences; (x) information and communications technology; and (xi) maternal and child health.

It would be recalled that the ACE Project, which is a World Bank-assisted programme, is targeted at promoting regional specialisation among participating African universities. It is aimed at supporting the emergence of regional hubs of excellence within higher education and applied research by focusing on areas that address particular regional development challenges and strengthening the capacities of the participating universities to deliver high quality training and applied research. The Project’s training focuses on offering Master’s and PhD programmes as well as short courses in three thematic areas of: Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), Health and Agriculture. With a total investment of 165million USD, the ACE Project offers an ideal option for concentrating limited top-level faculty, generating spill overs and meeting private sector demand for technical skills.

Other countries present at the Fair included Togo, Cameroon, the Republic of Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Gambia, and Senegal. It was attended by the private sector, captains of industry, the academia, students and members of civil society, who came to, not only witness the ACEs’ innovations but, also, explore opportunities for effective partnerships.  

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