World Bank said its board of Executive Directors has approved $150m to finance 19 university-based Centers of Excellence in seven countries in West and Central Africa. A statement by the bank said these competitively selected centres will receive funding for advanced specialised studies in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, STEM-related disciplines, as well as in agriculture and health.
“This landmark Africa Centres of Excellence, ACE, project, which will equip young Africans with new scientific and technical skills, will be financed through IDA credits to the governments of Nigeria ($70m), Ghana $24m, Senegal $16m, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, and Togo $8m each.
The Gambia will also receive a $2m credit and a $1m grant to provide higher education, including shortterm training, to students, faculty and civil servants through the 19 ACEs”, the statement said.
“I am excited to support these pioneering centers of excellence because they will be another step in building and nurturing specialized world-class higher education institutions on the continent,” said World Bank Vice-President for Africa. Makhtar Diop, “I can think of no better way to grow African economies, create jobs, and support research in Africa, than educating young graduates with expertise in high-demand areas such as chemical engineering, crop science, and the control of infectious diseases.”
Accoerding to the World Bank said “The continent faces a serious shortage of skilled workers in fast-growing sectors such as extractive industries, energy, water, and infrastructure, as well as in the fields of health and telecommunications.
The result of having too few skilled workers in Africa’s extractive industries is that oil and minerals are extracted in Africa but processed elsewhere in the world, to the detriment of African industries and jobs. ‘‘Africa also suffers from a shortage of trained health workers who can provide high quality maternal health services. This may partially explain why Africa’s maternal mortality rate has remained so tragically high at 500 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births.”
Further, Africa needs its own research and innovative solutions to tackle its development challenges include it said climate change, which calls for urgent measures to increase yields in agriculture; and infectious diseases, which continue to exact a heavy toll on families and economies.
It said the new bank-financed ACEs offer a regionally integrated way to increase high-quality R&D services that will help meet these challenges, yet are efficient and economical given limited public budgets.
Coordination and knowledge- sharing among the 19 ACEs will be managed through the Association of African Universities, AAU, which has received a $5m grant for this purpose, and is an important regional partner.