Washington — Institutions of higher education in Eastern and Southern Africa are set to benefit from new World Bank financing that will improve their training and research capabilities and strengthen the delivery of quality education as they seek innovative solutions to the continent's development needs.
The Eastern and Southern Africa Higher Education Centers of Excellence Project (ACE II) approved by the World Bank Group's Board of Executive Directors is funded by a $140 million International Development Association (IDA)* credit to the governments of Ethiopia ($24 million), Kenya ($18 million), Malawi ($12 million), Mozambique ($6 million), Rwanda ($20 million), Tanzania ($24 million), Uganda ($24 million), and Zambia ($12 million), and an $8 million grant to the Inter-University Council for East Africa, the regional facilitation unit which will coordinate and administer the implementation of the project.
"Homegrown research in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics is at the heart of innovation and enterprise as economies diversify and grow, and face common challenges from climate change to urbanization," said Moustapha Ndiaye, World Bank Coordinating Director for Regional Integration. "The Africa Centers of Excellence initiative is creating synergies in higher education across the sub region by optimizing limited resources and deepening cooperation between countries, while equipping young people with highly relevant skills and knowledge."
The IDA credit will finance the strengthening of 24 competitively-selected ACEs in five clusters of regional priorities: Industry, Agriculture, Health, Education and Applied Statistics. Each of these 24 specialized regional centers will receive up to $6 million for implementing its proposal in a specific regional priority area.
Countries in Eastern and Southern Africa need to expand, transform, and sustain their economies into the next level of development. For that to happen, they have to rely more on higher level science and technology skills and knowledge.
The ACE II project will support centers of excellence in institutions of higher education in the participating countries and strengthen their capacity to deliver quality post-graduate education and build collaborative research capacity. It will also focus on producing excellent training, applied research, and knowledge transfer in priority sectors such as agriculture, health, education, and applied statistics.
"Making higher education more relevant is critical to the on-going socioeconomic transformation and future development in Africa.
Countries hope that, through their collective effort, this network of centers of excellence will be able to produce much needed personnel with specialized knowledge and skills and applied research to tackle real development challenges in the region," said Xiaonan Cao, one of the World Bank Task Team Leaders of the project.
Young Africans in participating universities and their partner institutions across Eastern and Southern Africa will greatly benefit from high quality education and training in relevant subjects, while employers in targeted sectors and industries will have greater access to high quality and skilled personnel. With this collaborative regional approach, the countries will share innovations and good practices in teaching and learning, and enhance cross-border research networks.
The ACE II project employs a results-based financing approach to incentivize the centers and ensure they achieve the agreed results.
* The World Bank's International Development Association (IDA), established in 1960, helps the world's poorest countries by providing grants and low to zero-interest loans for projects and programs that boost economic growth, reduce poverty, and improve poor people's lives. IDA is one of the largest sources of assistance for the world's 77 poorest countries, 39 of which are in Africa. Resources from IDA bring positive change to the 1.3 billion people who live in IDA countries. Since 1960, IDA has supported development work in 112 countries. Annual commitments have averaged about $19 billion over the last three years, with about 50 percent going to Africa.