As part of the 7th ACE Impact Regional Workshop, members of the media were given an opportunity to interact with the project stakeholders in a Press briefing held on 14th June 2022 at Palais de Congres, Contonou in Benin. Present were the Secretary-General of the Association of African Universities (AAU), Professor Olusola B. Oyewole, the ACE Impact Task Team Leader and Senior Education Specialist at the World Bank, Dr. Ekua Bentil, and the Centre Leaders from Benin, the host country of the 7th ACE Impact Workshop. These were – Professor Daouda Mama of the Water and Sanitation Centre and Prof. Guy Alitonou of the University of Abomey Calavi’s College of Engineering.
During the briefing, Professor Oyewole highlighted some successes achieved by the project since its inception. He mentioned that the Project’s Development Objective is to improve the quality, quantity, and development impact of postgraduate education in participating universities through regional specialization and collaboration. “ACE Impact is strengthening key thematic areas that address regional challenges, and concurrently improving the capacities of universities to deliver quality training and applied research”, said Prof. Oyewole. He further noted that 22, 161 students are currently enrolled in the various centres of excellence, undertaking programmes in the different thematic areas of the project. It was added, that out of this number, 2,853 are PhD students, 9,097 are MSc students, and 10, 211 are enrolled in Professional Short Courses. Prof. Oyewole further indicated that Over 7,214 of the students enrolled are females and this represents 33 percent of the overall student population. Additionally, the project had created internship opportunities for 4,766 students to gain practical sector-based skills and expertise. “To boost innovativeness, proffer solutions for solving the continent’s challenges, and contribute to knowledge creation, the centres continue to undertake key research on topical issues” Prof. Oyewole added. He concluded by saying that the AAU was leveraging the brilliant ACE model and promoting it to all other African Higher Educational institutions for adoption to facilitate transformation of the continent’s higher education sector.
Responding to the rationale behind the ACE Impact Project, Dr. Ekua Bentil of the World Bank explained that the project was the first World Bank funded regional higher education initiative for Africa. According to her, the ACE Impact Project was necessitated by the need to develop home-grown skill sets for the labor market as well as applied research that responds to Africa’s developmental challenges. She added that the ACE Project is a model that needs to be replicated to elevate higher education in the region. Replying to a question raised by the press about project extension beyond its five-year duration (2019-2024), Dr. Bentil stated that the possibility of an extension would have to follow a systematic process of review by all partners including the participating governments and the World Bank.
In highlighting support to the Centres by the Project, Professors Alitonou and Mama mentioned that through the project, Centres are benefitting from the provision of enabling teaching and learning environments as well as ultra-modern laboratory equipment and upgraded facilities among other substantial benefits crucial to the enhancement of research, teaching and learning.
The Press Briefing was conducted in a hybrid manner to accommodate both physical and virtual participants. It brought together over 12 local and international journalists out of which five participated virtually. Some ACE Impact Communication Officers from the Centres also participated in the press conference virtually.
Written by: Millicent Afriyie Kyei, ACE Impact Communications Officer