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Why we are investing $580m in varsities in Nigeria, west, central African countries


The World Bank said it is investing over $580m in 53 universities in Nigeria and other West and central African countries through its African Centres of Excellence (ACE) project to address common regional development challenges and strengthen their capacities to deliver high quality training and applied research.

World Bank education specialist for west and central Africa, Ekua Bentil, disclosed this yesterday at a workshop organised by the National Universities Commission (NUC), Association of African Universities and the World Bank, on the assessment of the impact made so far by the African Centres of Excellence across the continent.

She said “By 2030, Africa will have an explosion of the youths and the World Bank sees human development as a key factor for the continent’s sustenance. Due to Africa’s high demographic dividend, the World Bank decided to invest in the human capital development of Africa. We at the bank felt if this is not done, African will suffer in the end.


“That is why the World Bank insists that we educate Africans thoroughly and the people as a whole.She added: “We are ensuring that there is quality in education, quality faculties in terms of facilities and quality in the nature of research that is being done in African universities through the established Africa Centres of Excellence.

This ACE project focuses purely on equipping Masters and PhD students with some support for undergraduate students for specific centres. The Africa Centres of Excellence (ACE1) project was launched in 2013 to promote regional specialisation among universities in the participating countries within the west and central African sub-regions, to address common regional development challenges and strengthen their capacities to deliver high-quality training and applied research.

The broad objective of the project is to meet the labour market demands for skills within specific areas where there are skill gaps that affect development, economic growth and poverty reduction.

Ekua said that the bank, in partnership with the AAU and governments of participating countries targets development of mining, ICT, water, environmental, agriculture and health sectors.

Out of the 22 ACEs in the west and central Africa in the first phase of the ACE project, 10 were domiciled in Nigeria across 10 federal, state and private universities with the main focus of promoting research and technology development.


The remaining eight were hosted by universities in Burkina Faso, Republic of Benin, Ghana, Cameroun, Togo and Senegal. Further identifying the essence of the centres in the region, Ekua said the World Bank is ensuring that the centres have a sexual harassment policy for female students across institutions in Africa.

“We also want to ensure they bring in more female students into the centres of excellence. The goal is to ensure more female students coming in and they to ensure that the women are recruited and retained when they come into the program,” she added.

In his remarks, the Executive Secretary of the NUC, Prof. Abubakar Rasheed, said, “The ACE project remains, to date, the biggest support ever, to research in the Nigerian university system.” ” ACEs in Nigeria have encouraged interdisciplinary research in the Nigerian university system and also encouraged both institutional and private sector collaborations at national and international levels.”

The secretary-general of the association of African universities, Prof. Etienne Ehile, applauded the ACE centres in the area of enrolment of national and regional students at the Masters and PhD levels.


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