Stakeholders of the Africa Higher Education Centers of Excellence (ACE) Project in West and Central Africa, including Ministers of various countries in the region, have met to deliberate on ways to strengthen the development impact of the ACE project.  Discussions on scaling up the activities of high performing centers and increasing the number of participating countries were also key on the agenda.

Held in Dakar, Senegal on January 16-17, 2018, the meeting was attended   by sector ministers or their representatives, experts, and other stakeholders from Burkina Faso, Guinea, Republic of Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Benin Republic, Ghana, Djibouti, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Gabon, Mauritius, Gambia, Senegal, Togo, China, Kenya, USA and Spain. Representatives from the World Bank, ECOWAS and the Association of African Universities (AAU), were also in attendance.

Presentations made at the meeting outlined the performances and challenges of the initial phase of the Africa Higher Education Centers of Excellence Project (ACE I), as well as lessons learnt in project implementation, which should feed into the ACE for Development Impact (ACE III) Project. It was indicated that ACE I had proven productive with regard to enrollment, partnerships, graduate Internships, National and International Accreditations, and external funding. Over 12, 000 students have for instance, been enrolled in post graduate programmes while 11 programmes have attained international accreditation with several others gaining national accreditation, since the inception of the ACE 1 project.   Some Centers have also generated considerable external funding.  One such example is the West African Centre for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens (WACCBIP, Ghana),  which has been able to generate US$ 10 million from external sources.

Participants of the Dakar meeting were also briefed on the selection process, sector prioritization and status of the ACE for Impact Development (ACE III) Project.

As the Regional Facilitating Unit for the ACE III Project, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) represented by Professor Hamidou Boly, Commissioner for Education, Science and Culture, explained the role of the Commission in promoting Higher Education policies within the region. The Commissioner noted that, ACE III Project activities would be implemented through one of the Commission’s Higher Education specialized agencies.

The Association of African Universities (AAU) assured the meeting of its constant support to the project as well as its willingness to work with ECOWAS through the  provision of regional technical services such as Monitoring and Evaluation, Verification, Organization of Workshops and related Logistics.

The Africa Higher Education Centers of Excellence (ACE) was launched in April, 2014 and was introduced by the World Bank in collaboration with the governments of selected countries in Africa. It is aimed at enhancing specialization in addressing common regional development challenges through high quality training and applied research. ACE I has 22 centers in 8 countries (from West and Central Africa), while ACE II has 24 centers in 8 Countries (from East and Southern Africa).

AAU is the Regional Facilitation Unit (RFU) for ACE I while the Inter University Council for East Africa (IUCEA) manages ACE II.