World Bank urges ACEs in Ghana to showcase accomplishments

World Bank Senior Education Specialist and Country Task Team Leader for the Africa Higher Education Centers of Excellence for Development Impact (ACE Impact) project in Ghana, Mrs Eunice Ackwerh has emphasized the importance of showcasing the outstanding achievements of ACE Impact centers in the country. Mrs. Ackwerh made these remarks during the country’s review workshop on Friday, September 29, 2023, at the Tomreik Hotel in Accra.

The ACE Impact project, initiated by the World Bank and implemented by the Association of African Universities (AAU), aims to enhance the quality and quantity of higher education in Africa. Championed by 53 centers across 10 West African countries and Djibouti, ACE Impact measures its success against various indicators of Project Development Objectives, including enrollment, accreditation, research publications, community engagement, resource mobilization, and practical student internships. To assess progress, bi-annual national review meetings are organized to provide a platform for center leaders and other key stakeholders to discuss the project’s achievements, operational challenges, and strategies to address them.

During the workshop, the nine Ghanaian centers of excellence reported several remarkable achievements, exceeding their targets.  These accomplishments include groundbreaking research publications, advanced technologies and innovations, infrastructural development, valuable partnerships, national and international accreditations, effective revenue mobilization, gender-balanced enrolment, and international awards and recognitions.

Despite their high female enrolment rates, the Ghanaian ACEs still struggle to attract students from other African regions, a critical aspect of the project’s success. The low international enrolment has been attributed to high tuition fees and additional costs not covered by scholarships. Mrs. Ackwerh thus suggested a sustainable solution to this challenge, emphasizing that the value of the programs offered by these centers should be clearly communicated to prospective students and other relevant people.

Mrs. Eunice Ackwerh, World Bank Senior Education Specialist and Ghana Country Task Team Leader, ACE Impact Project

Mrs. Ackwerh urged the centers to emphasize the value of their programs and make their achievements more visible through their websites and other communication platforms. She cited Ashesi University as an example, where international students are willing to pay higher fees because they recognize the value of the programs. She encouraged centers to leverage their success rates to attract more international students, emphasizing that this aspect would be crucial for the project’s next phase.

Mrs. Ackwerh also highlighted the importance of attracting foreign students, along with other key indicators like procurement, internship, and construction, in determining the continuation of the ACE program. She called upon host universities to support the centers in student financing and other relevant aspects to ensure the project’s sustainability.

On his part, Dr Edmund Aalangdong, Head of Policy and Planning and Focal Point for the National Facilitation Unit at Ghana Tertiary Education Commission, commended the centers, especially for their remarkable progress and continuous efforts towards advancing excellence in research and innovation. Dr Aalangdong therefore urged centers to continue to strive to achieve even more and sustain their successes. According to him, it is only when those gains are consolidated that their impacts will be meaningful. The national review meeting, organized by the National Facilitation Unit of the Ghana Tertiary Education Commission, also provided an opportunity for participating centers to plan for their sustainability as the project nears its conclusion. Dr. Sylvia Mkandawire, Senior Project Manager of ACE Impact, encouraged centers to work on ensuring project continuity beyond World Bank funding. This includes establishing endowment funds, seeking grants, brokering research and training contracts, offering short courses and consultancy services, and forming partnerships with government and private institutions.

Dr. Edmund Aalangdong, Head of Policy and Planning, ACE Impact Ghana National Facilitation Unit, Ghana Tertiary Education Commission, Accra
Dr. Edmund Aalangdong, Head of Policy and Planning, ACE Impact Ghana National Facilitation Unit, Ghana Tertiary Education Commission, Accra

Furthermore, the workshop served as a platform for networking and collaboration among centers, and to update stakeholders on the upcoming 10th regional workshop scheduled for October 31 to November 3, 2023, in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire.

Mrs. Adeline Addy (first from right), Head of Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning, ACE Impact Regional Facilitation Unit, Association of African Universities, Accra
Mrs. Adeline Addy (first from right), Head of Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning, ACE Impact Regional Facilitation Unit, Association of African Universities, Accra

The nine Ghana centers of excellence are hosted by five universities. They are: West Africa Genetic Medicine Center (WAGMC), the West African Center for Crop Improvement (WACCI), and the West Africa Center for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens and Non-Communicable Diseases (WACCBIP + NCDS), all at the University of Ghana, Legon, Accra. Others include the KNUST Engineering Education Project (KEEP), Regional Transport Research Center, Kumasi (TRECK), and Regional Water and Environmental Sanitation Center, Kumasi (RWESCK), all hosted by the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi. The remaining Ghana ACE centers are the Regional Center for Energy and Environmental Sustainability (RCEES) at the University of Energy and Natural Resources, Sunyani; the African Center of Excellence in Coastal Resilience (ACECoR) at the University of Cape Coast, Cape Coast; and the West Africa Center for Water, Irrigation, and Sustainable Agriculture (WACWISA) at the University for Development Studies, Tamale.

UG@75: WAGMC supports with 75 laptops

The West African Genetic Medicine Centre (WAGMC) at the University of Ghana, one of nine Africa Higher Education Centres of Excellence at the University of Ghana, has distributed 75 laptops to 75 postgraduate students across departments at the university. This action is in support of the University of Ghana’s ‘One student, One laptop’ (1S1L) initiative. 

In a short ceremony, dubbed 75 for UG@75, on Wednesday, July 19, at the forecourt of the Centre, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana outlined the aim of the 1S1L initiative. 

“The 1S1L programme was established for every student, irrespective of their financial background or discipline of pursuit, to own a laptop. Doing so will enhance their learning, research, and technological skills and build an inclusive digital academic community,” Prof. Nana Aba Appiah Amfoh explained. 

Prof. Amfoh thus commended WAGMC for supporting with 75 laptops, congratulated the 75 beneficiaries on winning, and encouraged other stakeholders and well-wishers to get involved in the 1S1L initiative. 

A group picture of WAGMC authorities and award recipients showcasing their awards after the ceremony
A group picture of WAGMC authorities and award recipients showcasing their awards after the ceremony
Professor Nana Aba Appiah Amfo, UG Vice-Chancellor (middle); Prof. S Fiifi Ofori-Acquah, WAGMC Director (left); and Prof. Peter Quartey, Chairman 1S1L Committee (right)
Professor Nana Aba Appiah Amfo, UG Vice-Chancellor (middle); Prof. S Fiifi Ofori-Acquah, WAGMC Director (left); and Prof. Peter Quartey, Chairman 1S1L Committee (right)

Professor Nana Aba Appiah Amfo, UG Vice-Chancellor (middle); Prof. S Fiifi Ofori-Acquah, WAGMC Director (left); and Prof. Peter Quartey, Chairman 1S1L Committee (right) 

The 75 for UG@75 is also in line with WAGMIG’s Postgraduate Laptop Fellowship programme, launched at its Fresher Graduate Student Fair on February 17, 2023, together with a Research Fellowship programme, both of which initiatives aim to empower students with resources and opportunities for enhanced teaching and learning. 

Belinda Henewaa Kyeremeh an MSc Genetic Counselling student receiving her award from the UG Vice-Chancellor
Belinda Henewaa Kyeremeh an MSc Genetic Counselling student receiving her award from the UG Vice-Chancellor
Group picture of Prof. Nana Aba Amfo, Prof. Ofori-Acquah, and some awardees
Group picture of Prof. Nana Aba Amfo, Prof. Ofori-Acquah, and some awardees

Having initially chosen 45 students from various departments for the Postgraduate Laptop Fellowship, in a competitive selection process led by a Fellowship Award Review Committee, WAGMC increased the number to 75 to commemorate UG@75.

Recipients of the laptops included postgraduate students from WAGMC, the University of Ghana Medical School, the School of Biomedical & Allied Health Sciences, and the School of Social Sciences.

Prof. Ofori-Acquah with the 2nd cohort of students from the WAGMC MSc Genetic Counselling Programme
Prof. Ofori-Acquah with the 2nd cohort of students from the WAGMC MSc Genetic Counselling Programme

Some of the awardees expressed their excitement about the programme and appreciation of WAGMC’s gesture.

“I was surprised when I was selected to receive the laptop. It is a fantastic offer. The laptop will go a long way in my research and proposal presentations for my various courses. Thank you to WAGMC and those who took the initiative to help the students,” said Emilia Sarpong, a first-year MSc Medical Laboratory Science student.

Other dignitaries present at the brief presentation ceremony were the Registrar of University of Ghana, Deans of various schools, Heads and Representatives of Departments, Representatives from other Centers of Excellence at the university—the West African Centre for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens (WACCBIP) and the West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI)—, and some other senior members of the university.

 

As one of the 53 Africa Centres of Excellence for Development Impact (ACE Impact) project, WAGMC is funded by The World Bank and French Development Agency in close collaboration with the Government of Ghana.  By introducing new educational programmes in genetics and innovative research on common genetic disorders, WAGMC is contributing to the realization the ACE Impact’s overall goal of enhancing the quality and quantity of higher education in Africa.

 

For more information about WAGMC, please visit the website at wagmc.org.

Combating cybercrime: ACETEL partners Digital Footprints to train security personnel

The Africa Centre of Excellence on Technology Enhanced Learning (ACETEL) has partnered Digital Footprints, a digital forensics and cybersecurity services provider in Nigeria, to train security personnel in digital forensic and incident response. 

The five-day training took place from Monday, June 19th to Friday, June 23rd, 2023, at the headquarters of the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), ACETEL’s host university, in Abuja. 

Necessitated by a two-decade radical adoption in important aspects of national life—from Banking to e-Governance to e-elections—, the training aimed at equipping participants with essential knowledge, skills, and tools to identify, investigate, and respond to digital incidents, according to the Chief Executive Officer for Digital Footprints Limited, Dr. Tombari Sibe. 

Dr. Tombari Sibe, CEO Digital Footprints, taking participants on a course at the training centre
Dr. Tombari Sibe, CEO Digital Footprints, taking participants on a course at the training centre


“As cybercrime increases with the use of technology, it is important that as a nation we prepare our public and private sectors for the highly sophisticated world of cybersecurity. This is the reason ACETEL and Digital Footprints have put together this course to equip participants with the necessary skillset both as human and corporate entities to be able to stand up to the emerging threat.
 

“Practically inclined as we [Digital Footprints] are, we have made it [the course] practically oriented, using some of the best tools in the world and hands-on practice,” Dr Sibe reassured. 

In a speech made on his behalf by his deputy, the Vice Chancellor of NOUN, Prof. Olufemi Peters reckoned an increasing threat of cybercrime in Nigeria. He emphasized the importance of empowering security personnel with digital forensic tools to curb the menace, hence the need for the training. 

“Cybercrimes are becoming increasingly alarming these days; hence, there is a need for software or methodology to arrest the situation. Digital forensics is inevitable if the law enforcement investigation today is going to be meaningful,” he concluded. 

Director, ACETEL, Prof. Grace Jokthan, giving her welcome address at the opening ceremony
Director, ACETEL, Prof. Grace Jokthan, giving her welcome address at the opening ceremony

Prof Peter’s sentiment was shared by his colleague Prof. Grace Jokthan, ACETEL’s Director. For Prof Jokthan, as cyber threats continued to evolve and challenge the security of people, organizations, and nations, it had become non-negotiable for guardians of the digital world to stay one step ahead and be armed with the knowledge, tools, and techniques to safeguard digital assets and preserve the integrity of evidence. 

 

“The training delved into the fascinating world of cyber investigation whereby we explored its such aspects as evidence connection, preservation, analysis, and effective management of cyber incidence. 

“Together, we navigated through real-life scenarios and examined the latest trends and challenges in the field. With these insights, participants, including National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Nigeria Deposit Insurance Company (NDIC); Defence Research and Development Bureau (DRDB), Presidential Amnesty Programme, and the Federal Ministry of Communication and Digital Technology, should be better equipped to handle digital incidents, identify potential vulnerabilities, and mitigate future risks,” Prof. Jokthan said—optimistically. 

ACETEL is one of the 53 World Bank-funded Africa Centres of Excellence for Development Impact (ACE Impact), which aim to enhance the quality and quantity of higher education on the continent. To support ACE Impact’s overall goal, ACETEL is developing human capacity and research to use technology to aid education. For more information on ACETEL and its activities, please visit the website. 

ACE Impact-Morocco Partnership Forum provides learning opportunities for Vice Chancellors

To fast-track the connections between Sub-Saharan Africa and Moroccan universities and industries, the World Bank partnered with the Morrocco Ministry of Higher Education, Scientific Research and Innovation, Mohammed VI Polytechnic University (UM6P), OCP Africa, the Association of African Universities (AAU), and the French Development Agency (AFD) to co-host the ACE Impact-Morocco Partnership Forum from 31 May to 2 June 2023 in Marrakech, Morocco.

 

This Partnership Forum involved the ACE Impact Centers, Moroccan government representatives, Moroccan universities, Tunisian universities, private sector representatives, experts in commercialization of research, other thematic/sector experts, and experts from the World Bank, AFD, IRD, and AAU. Because sustainability is vital for the future of the ACE Impact Centers, the Vice Chancellors of universities hosting the 53 Centers were invited to participate in this partnership forum so that they benefit from knowledge sharing and hopefully forge partnerships and networks with regional stakeholders to advance the sustainability of their Centers and their higher education institutions overall.

 

Learning visit to Mohammed VI Polytechnic University

In line with the objectives of the partnership forum, over 40 Vice Chancellors and Focal Points of governments participating in the ACE Impact Project visited the Mohammed VI Polytechnic University on the 31st of May 2023. Mohammed VI Polytechnic University is strategically positioned to promote applied research and innovation and places research and innovation at the forefront of African development.

 

The visit by the Vice Chancellors focused on understanding the strategic plan for Mohammed VI Polytechnic University, learning how faculty are supported to digitalize their courses, gaining exposure to the peer learning school, learning about the relevant and impactful research being conducted in the areas of phosphate fertilizers, green energy, materials science, and nano engineering. The Vice Chancellors who visited Mohammed VI Polytechnic University attested to the fact that is a model university of excellence in Morocco and Africa as a whole – demonstrating a high quality and conducive environment for teaching, learning research and collaboration.

 

Best Practices in Research Funding

Since funding is a key ingredient of sustaining the ACE Impact Centers, another special session on “Best practices in research funding in the context of autonomy” was organized for the Vice Chancellors on the 1st June 2023. Professor Mustapha Bennouna the former President of Abdelmalek Essaadi University, Tétouan-Morocco and now a World Bank Consultant facilitated this session to discuss good practices regarding research funding and shared experiences across African universities. “There are several reasons why governments must invest in research, and these include strengthening innovations, encouraging dynamic businesses, developing an effective system for creating and disseminating knowledge, taking advantage of the transition to the digital economy, and fostering talent and skills” stated Professor Bennouna at the beginning of his presentation.

 

Morocco is currently dedicating 0.8-1% of its GDP for research expenditure and the goal is to match and exceed countries such as Sweden, Denmark and Finland who are spending more than 3% of their GDP on research. Professor Bennouna also spoke about sources of research funding in general, common approaches to allocating public research funding, research funding in Morocco, Moroccan sources of financing and strengthening the financial autonomy of universities. He advised that for sustainability to be achieved, governments must be the largest sponsors of research and other sources such as private sector, foundations, sponsorships, and charities must complement government efforts.

 

Since 2015 the government of Morocco has made strides in strengthening the ‘National Fund for Scientific Research and Technological Development’ by ensuring that it is supplemented by other sources of funding. The country has also prioritized studies into the introduction of appropriate incentives and mechanisms such as research tax credits and public/private partnerships with a view to mobilising private research funds. The National Centre for Scientific and Technical Research (CNRST) is key player in the Morocco research and innovation space – it runs the National Support Programme for Sectorial Research and issues calls for research proposals to public institutions.

 

“To strengthen the financial autonomy of universities a new law called the ESRI PACT provides for the strengthening of the universities’ financial autonomy and the introduction of a control system based on performance criteria”, said Professor Bennouna. Financial autonomy will encourage universities in Morocco to mobilize their own funds and build their capacities to contract large projects and to invest in innovation and entrepreneurship.

 

Question and Answer Session

During the question-and-answer session following Professor Bennouna’s presentation the Vice Chancellors asked for advice on alternative sources for supporting universities since budgets provided by governments to universities were decreasing. Professor Bennouna recommended that universities target participating in thematic cooperation networks to respond to some international calls for large research funding.

 

Another question was on the level of PhD graduates employment in Africa and Professor Bennouna advised that universities should focus on running innovative PhD programs and not producing theoretical PhD graduates. The focus must be on developing new skills for PhD graduates and linking the training of PhDs to economic and global needs, advised Professor Bennouna.

 

On the question about the level of support from the private sector to research funding in Morocco Professor Bennouna advised universities to specialize in specific research domains so that they become known for expertise in a specific research domain. Private sector would then be attracted to support these specialized universities who meet the needs of the specific private sector.

 

On the important question of the independence of research focus versus the interests of the funders, Professor Bennouna reiterated that “If universities are excellent and focused on their areas of specialization they will be identified for the funding of their strong, specialist and relevant research areas”.

 

Conclusion

Clearly the ACE Impact-Morocco Partnership Forum provided valuable learning opportunities for Vice Chancellors that are hosting ACE Impact Centers. The topics that they were exposed to during the forum will contribute to their institutional strategies for sustaining their Centers and leading advocacy in their countries for increased research funding by their governments. The forum also provided opportunities for the Vice Chancellors to establish partnerships and networks with Moroccan universities and other regional stakeholders to advance the sustainability of the quality work being done by African higher education institutions.

Outcomes from the joint ACE Impact-Morocco Partnership Forum (May 31 – June 2, 2023)

The hosting of the 9th ACE Impact Regional Workshop and joint ACE Impact-Morocco partnership forum in Marrakech Morocco from 29th May to 2nd June 2023, was unique because Morocco is not one of the ACE Impact hosting countries. Morocco was identified to host these events because the country is strategically positioned to share its knowledge for the benefit of the ACE Impact Centers. The universities in Morocco are arguably more advanced in terms of their infrastructure, research and learning facilities and staffing as compared to most of their counterparts in sub-Saharan Africa.

The partnership forum took place from 31st May to the 2nd of June 2023 and involved plenary sessions, thematic breakout sessions and field visits to selected educational and research institutions in Morocco. The main objectives of the ACE Impact-Morocco partnership forum were to:

  1. Advance cross-country partnerships and networks between ACE Impact centers and Moroccan higher education institutions and private sector stakeholders, and
  2. Present opportunities for deep dive training and capacity building on the topic of moving research from the lab to the market.

The Thematic Breakout Sessions on the 31sy May were organized to initiate and foster partnerships by providing opportunities for participating researchers to share their research fields and identify opportunities for collaboration. The nine sessions which were facilitated by the ACE Impact experts were focused on Agriculture, Health, ICT, Education, Engineering, Energy & Environment, Water, Mining and Transport and Logistics.

The Engineering, ICT, Transport, Logistics and Urban Development partnership discussions revealed that the ACE Impact Centers and Moroccan Universities were keen to collaborate in the areas of digital technologies, that is artificial intelligence, big data processing, natural language processing, blockchain, and robotics​. Additional priority areas for collaboration were agreed to be in joint faculty research publications, and grants​; joint faculty and student exchange, supervision, and training; sharing of teaching/learning materials and best practices; joint organisation of PhD summer schools, seminars, webinars, scientific and technical workshops and conferences​ and collaborations in implementing entrepreneurial and innovative initiatives.

The Environment and Energy thematic group discussion between the ACE Impact Centers and the Moroccan Universities revealed that their highest interest for collaboration is in renewable energy enhancement, battery development, energy storage optimization, photovoltaic, electricity network management, green hydrogen, energy efficiency, pollution control and risk analysis.

The agriculture cluster of ACE Impact Centers and Moroccan Institutions agreed to cooperate through student exchanges, PhD training, seminars, and common research projects. ​ They also agreed to collaborate in communication, sharing cross information and common advertising​. The ACE Impact Food for West Africa network (Food4WA)​ and the Africa Initiative at UPM6 agreed to initiate the linkage between Morocco Institutions and ACE Impact centers. Immediate practical outcomes​ of the agriculture cluster included the invitation to Morocco Institutions to participate in the international conference on drylands in Kano September​ 2023. A connection was made between the Centre d’Excellence Regional sur les Productions Pastorales (CERPP) and the Hassan II Institute of Agronomy and Veterinary to collaborate in animal embryology and artificial insemination​.

The health thematic group agreed that their joint areas of cooperation were in idea development, building networks, business development, faculty exchanges and student exchanges. This cluster agreed on the research themes of infectious diseases, pharmaceutical science, drug development, herbal medicine, food safety​, nursing, reproductive, maternal, and infant health, and genetic medicine.

The ACE Impact centers also benefitted from mini workshops that were organized on commercialization of research results. These were parallel workshops to train participants on tools in value creation; what the journey from patent to products to market involves; and how to strengthen commercialization in the university ecosystem to attract investors and funders from both the private and public sectors. The ACE Impact Centers also had the opportunity to share on how they are currently handling the commercialization of their research results. The discussion knowledge sharing addressed models of technology transfer that are working well and provided best practices in planning, setting up private sector ventures and fostering public private partnerships.

The outcomes from the joint ACE Impact-Morocco partnership forum include the well-articulated proposed areas of collaboration, improved awareness of the research focus of the ACE Impact Centers, exposure to various models for research commercialization and value creation and physical exposure to selected Moroccan Universities that are doing well in the areas of research, teaching, and impactful collaborations.

Looking Ahead: Vice Chancellors’ Perspectives on Sustaining the Impact of the ACE Project

During the 9th ACE Impact Regional Workshop that was held in Marrakech, Morocco from 29 May to 2 June 2023, Dr Waly Wane a World Bank Practice Manager for West and Central Africa moderated an insightful question and answer panel involving four Vice Chancellors from Nigeria, Djibouti, Ghana, and Burkina Faso. The purpose of the Q&A session was to explore how universities hosting ACEs could best support their centers achieve sustainability beyond the World Bank funding by paying attention to human resources, funding, useful partnerships and other aspects.

The distinguished panelists were Professor Folasade Tolulope Ogunsola, Vice Chancellor from University of Lagos; Professor Djama Hassan Mohamed, Vice Chancellor from University of Djibouti, Djibouti; Professor Ellis Owusu Dabo, Pro Vice Chancellor, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Ghana; and Professor El Hadji Bamba Diaw, Director General, 2iE, Burkina Faso.

On sustaining the ACE Impact Centers beyond the World Bank funding, Professor Ellis Owusu Dabo, the Pro Vice Chancellor, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, from Ghana advised that it was important for all Centers to have embraced the concept of sustainability from the beginning of the project and to have integrated it to all their plans. He underscored that funding was a key indicator of sustainability and that ACE Impact hosting universities must develop diverse funding mechanisms. “Sustainability is a cross-cutting issue that requires governments, universities, departments, and the individual staff to all be involved and working together in an integrated manner”, stated Prof Owusu Dabo.

The Vice Chancellors said the next phase of the ACE Impact Project should consider supporting universities to move their research towards “tangibles / inventions” such as innovations, entrepreneurship / businesses, and technological products.  They agreed that Africans must focus on solving African problems for the benefit of Africa. “One such urgent problem was alternative energy sources and reducing energy wastage so that universities could power their sophisticated laboratories without experiencing power outages”, said Professor Folasade Tolulope Ogunsola. Professor El Hadji Bamba Diaw emphasized that the next stage of the ACE Impact project also needed to prioritize state of the art infrastructures and equipment for high-end computing.

When asked how the University of Lagos achieved its goal of having a sufficient number of qualified faculty to support post-graduate supervision and teaching, Professor Folasade Tolulope Ogunsola stated that they had been “intentional in developing multi-disciplinary teams and in  identifying like minded people keen to work and not motivated by monetary gains”. She also said that the University of Lagos used its policy allowing the use of international collaborators for co-supervision. The University of Lagos has also changed its staff appraisal form to emphasize the value of supervision – and this has supported the creation of incentives for quality students supervision. She also indicated that the university also complements the research support provided by the ACE Impact to encourage high quality publishing.

Professor El Hadji Bamba Diaw, Director General, 2iE, from Burkina Faso shared lessons on how 2iE had integrated entrepreneurship into its academic programs and overall institutional approach. He stated that 2iE had focussed on strengthening its ecosystem of entrepreneurship and innovation through building university level to support entrepreneurship and making entrepreneurship training compulsory for all students. “2iE considers entrepreneurship important for handling development projects and responding to the challenges facing Africa and therefore promotes innovation platforms and spaces to exchange ideas, promote business concepts and nurture those ideas / concepts” said Prof Diaw.

Professor Djama Hassan Mohamed, Vice Chancellor from the University of Djibouti stated that the ACE Impact project had challenged them as a university to adopt new ways of doing business and unifying their decision making and procedures. “The University of Djibouti used opportunities to understand the project through elaborate training on disbursement linked indicators, monitoring and evaluation, safeguards procedures and project management”, said Prof Djama.

The Vice Chancellors agreed on the value and benefits that the ACE project had brought to their institutions, countries, and Africa as a whole. Some of the key bonuses of the project that they mentioned included strengthened resource mobilization techniques, beneficial linkages and partnerships, increased visibility for the universities and the centers, strengthened capacities to implement demanding projects, attraction of students from various African countries, inter-cultural exchanges through regional events and academic / student mobilities, strengthened national collaborations with governments and regulatory institutions, increased research publications, a critical mass of future faculty trained, infrastructure and laboratories built, efficiencies in community trainings, accreditation of programs.

DAY 1 SUMMARY OF THE 9TH ACE IMPACT REGIONAL WORKSHOP

The 9th ACE Impact Regional Workshop commenced in Marrakech, Morocco on the 29th May 2023. The first day’s programme featured 7 key meetings.

  • Project Steering Committee Meeting

In the morning the Project Steering Committee (PSC) of the ACE Impact met at Riad Ennakhil Hotel to deliberate on the implementation progress of the project. The PSC meeting was chaired by Prof. Kouami Kokou, the PSC Member from Togo and it involved the representatives of the 11 ACE Impact implementing countries, the Association of African Universities, the World Bank, Research Institute for Development (IRD) and the French Development Agency. The opening ceremony featured Prof. Olusola B. Oyewole, Secretary General, AAU; Virginie Delisée-Pizzo, Head of Education Department, AFD Paris (connecting virtually) and Scherezad Latif, Practice Manager, West and Central Africa Region, World Bank. Dr Sylvia Mkandawire the Senior ACE Impact Project Manager provided the project updates, and she was supported by Mrs Adeline Addy (MEL, AAU); Mr Frank Adjei (Finance, AAU); Maud Kouadio IV (Project Disbursements, World Bank); and Mr. Harry Crimi (Project restructuring, World Bank). Dr. Gregory Giraud from IRD explained the support that IRD provides to the ACE Impact Centres. The PSC also deliberated on strategies for sustaining the gains from the ACE Impact project beyond the funding from the World Bank. Dr. Ekua Bentil, the ACE Impact Task Team Leader, from the World Bank also participated and provided next steps and closing remarks.

 

  • Experts Meeting

The Experts Meeting took place in parallel with the PSC Meeting at Riad Ennakhil Hotel. The purpose of the Experts Meeting was for the experts to engage in experience and feedback sharing from missions done to the Centres. This meeting also deliberated on strategies for supporting the Centers to achieve more results in line with the agreed project restructuring plans for each Centre. The group of subject matter experts are a team that contributes to the operational and technical implementation support and supervision of the ACE Impact Centers. These independent Experts are selected based on their academic and/or disciplinary expertise relative to the ACE Impact Centers, and their international experience in higher education and/or university leadership.

  • Procurement Meeting

The procurement session was held at the Palm Plaza Hotel and Spa in the afternoon and the attendees were procurement officers from the 53 Centres. The objective was to ensure that procurement contracts are successfully implemented by the Centres. The key presentation was in 2 parts – that is best practices, common challenges and experience sharing in managing procurement contracts and common and specific roles of procurement officers as part of a contract management team. The key highlights of this session were:

  1. Procurement Officers are not Project / Contract Managers.
  2. Proper planning and assignments of roles to members of the contract management team are prerequisites to successful contract implementation.
  3. Roles that cut across all procurement categories were highlighted as Contract Negotiation and Award; Contract Documentation; Relationship Management; Risk Management and Contract Change Management.
  4. Roles that are specific to the different procurement categories were also emphasized.

 

  • Financial Management

The financial management and disbursement parallel session concentrated on the financial management aspects of the project, and it was facilitated by the fiduciary team of the World Bank and the AAU. The session provided guidance and clarifications to the Centre finance officers concerning the World Bank financial management guidelines. The session provided a brief of centers’ achievements status and proposed changes for disbursement linked indicator six (DLR 6). During the meeting, the facilitators mentioned that it was essential to accelerate the progress on DLR6. Currently, the achievement status for DLR6 stands at 33% for the first ACE Impact centers and at 32% for the second ACE Impact centers. The need for speeding up implementation progress was emphasized so that the desired targets are met. The session also discussed the proposed changes to DLR 6 and these comprised the following:

  1. The remaining balance on DLR 6.4 is being reallocated to the other 3 sub-indicators under DLR6.
  2. An increase in the unit cost for DLR 6 was communicated and this would take care of the unachieved funds under DLR 6
  3. There are three more rounds of verification remaining for the project i.e., August 2023, Feb 2024, and August 2024.

 

  • Safeguards

The parallel session on Environment and Social Safeguards (E&S Safeguards) lasted around 4 hours and included a wide range of discussions on E&S Safeguards issues affecting the ACE Impact project. The items discussed during this session were part of the principal challenges and difficulties raised during the virtual round tables, and those identified by the World Bank and AAU E&S Safeguard experts over the last six months. The session was led by Gina Consentino from the World Bank, and Williams Dzonteu, E&S Safeguards Specialist from the Association of African Universities. The following key points were discussed:

  1. Each site where work has commenced should be visited by the World Bank and it is important that the project ensures that these visits take place.
  2. The Centres must monitor the Environmental, Social, Health and Safety aspects on all worksites that are ongoing and produce monitoring reports.
  3. Each Centre must prepare and transmit a quarterly follow-up/monitoring report on all aspects of E&S Safeguards to the World Bank and AAU.
  4. The level of implementation / monitoring of the Grievance Redress Mechanism in each Centre
  5. The level of implementation and monitoring of anti-sexual harassment policies by the Centers
  6. The difficulties faced by each center.

 

For each of the points discussed, clear recommendations were made to the E&S Specialists from the various centers, to ensure that better account was taken of safeguard-related aspects throughout the lifecycle of the ACE Impact project.

 

  • Monitoring and Evaluation

The M&E parallel session was organised for the M&E officers of participating ACEs. The aim of the session was to inform M&E officers about current changes to the project verification and reporting protocols. Due to the ongoing restructuring of the project, additional funds have been allocated to specific disbursement linked results (DLRs) and in some instances, funds allocated have been reduced. As part of the restructuring, the World Bank has also introduced several project-wide changes to the verification protocols of disbursement linked indicators and results. These include changes in the verification process for DLI 2 (Development Impact), increases in the unit cost for international programme accreditation and changes to how funds can be earned under DLR 5.3 (Entrepreneurship and Innovation).

Mrs. Adeline Addy, the ACE Impact M&E Specialist led the session and made a presentation on the changes to the project and the implications of the restructuring to results reporting and verification. The M&E officers were also given information about the verified results for students and research publications. The M&E team from AAU responded to all centre questions regarding verification of results. The reporting and verification schedule for results was also shared with the participants. In conclusion, the M&E officers were asked to submit any of their concerns on results reporting and verification to a dedicated SharePoint link. M&E officers were also asked to submit all results achieved to the MEL platform for immediate verification.

 

  • University Vice Chancellors and DLI 7 Focal Points

This session was specifically organised for University Vice Chancellors and disbursement linked indicator seven (DLI 7) Focal Points of each institution. The objective of the session was to update university leadership about the progress made in DLI 7 which focusses on institutional impact and the nimble impact evaluation done by the World Bank to assess the progress of the overall project. The DLI 7 is among one of the lowest earning indicators with a disbursement rate of 25%. Progress have been made notably on regional strategies (DLR 7.1) and on PASET benchmarking (DLR 7.4), with every institution having achieved 100% in the first round of evaluations. The indicators on gaps assessment (DLR 7.3) and institutional impact (DLR 7.5) are the lowest performing indicators. The University vice chancellors and focal points were encouraged to accelerate progress on these milestones.

The second session on the findings of the evaluation done by the World Bank consultants in Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire centres was facilitated by Dr Jamil Salmi, formerly with the World Bank. The outcome of the evaluation revealed the positive effect the ACE impact project on the participating universities and African higher education development in general. He indicated the ACE model will be presented in Singapore this year and could be adopted worldwide. Some of the challenges revealed by the evaluation were related to institutional leaders that conflict with centre leaders in some centres and bureaucracy of internal processes which delay performances. The evaluation results concluded that when these challenges are managed there would be increased improvement in the progress of the project and the overall impact on African higher education.

PSC Members meet to discuss the implementation progress of the ACE Impact Project

Project Steering Committee Convenes in Marrakech to review ACE Impact Progress

As a prelude to the 9th ACE Impact Regional Workshop that was held in Marrakech Morocco from 29 May to 2nd June 2023, the Project Steering Committee (PSC) met to receive updates on the implementation of the project and to also provide guidance on implementation strategies. The ACE Impact project operates under the overall guidance and oversight of the PSC whose main tasks are to set implementation guidelines, review results and progress, oversee the Regional Facilitating Unit (the Association of African Universities) and to ensure the achievement of the project objectives.

Eleven (11) representatives of government/ministry of Higher Education from each of the ACE Impact participating countries converged at Riad Ennakhil Hotel in Marrakech to review and guide the overall progress of the project. The meeting was ably chaired by Professor Kokou, the PSC Member from Togo.

In his welcome remarks the Secretary General of the AAU, Professor Olusola Oyewole expressed his appreciation to the PSC members and Focal Points for their “enthusiasm and commitment to ensuring that centers are working up to expectations and at par with the project goals and targets”. He also paid special tribute to the Kingdom of Morocco through the Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation, the Mohammed VI Polytechnic University, and OCP Africa for their support and partnership in hosting the 9th ACE Impact Regional Workshop.

Progress Updates from the AAU

Dr Sylvia Mkandawire, the Senior ACE Impact Project Manager presented the progress report on behalf of the AAU which is the Regional Facilitation Unit (RFU) for the project. Her updates covered the period November 2022 to May 2023 and highlighted progress on the coordination and facilitation of regional activities, monitoring and evaluation, capacity building, project communication, partnership brokering for sustainability and sharing of good practices across the countries.

The National Facilitation Units of Nigeria, the Gambia, Burkina Faso and Ghana were reported to have actively supported the implementation of several ACE Impact project activities such as evaluation exercises, implementation support missions and national review committee meetings. Dr Mkandawire also reported that the Project had achieved impressive results in the areas of external revenue generation (US$77 million), PhD enrollment (3,357 students), Masters enrolment (9,631 students), national program accreditation (283 programs nationally accredited), regional students enrolment (10,489 students), and female students enrolment (11,357 students).

It was reported that the AAU RFU had supported Centers with low disbursement linked indicator achievements, disbursements, and funds utilization rates through targeted technical support to improve their performance and increase earnings by June 2023. During this reporting period the AAU and World Bank teams together with appointed subject-matter experts had also undertaken virtual and onsite missions to 22 centers in Cote d’Ivoire, Djibouti, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Niger, Nigeria, and Togo to follow-up on mid-term project actions and acceleration plans and to discuss the finalization of restructuring proposals. Dr Mkandawire narrated various seminars and trainings that had been hosted for the Centers on communication, celebrating women’s day, procurement, international institutional accreditation, and fighting sexual harassment.

In the area of project communication and visibility she shared that the RFU team was exploring partnership agreements with Science and Development (SciDev), Times Higher Education and the Voice of America (VoA), to profile the project’s success stories to an international audience. The ACE Impact Project was also reported to have brokered several project-wide partnerships to sustain the gains made so far. Examples of these partnerships include the Morocco-ACE Higher Education Forum hosted from 31 May to 2nd June 2023; the ongoing and upcoming partnerships with USA Universities; the IBM ACE Impact Partnership and the European Union Partnerships with selected Centers.

Dr Mkandawire concluded by sharing some challenges and opportunities presented by the ACE Impact project and these included inadequate capacities for developing safeguard instruments and plans before the rehabilitation, construction, or renovation activities; inefficient procurement systems; high inflation rates leading to delays and amendments to annual work plans, budgets, and procurement plans; inadequate strategies to support the sustainability of the Centers and insufficient numbers of qualified faculty at some Centers.

ACE IMPACT Project Restructuring

Overall, the ACE Impact project restructuring aims to optimize project performance, adapt to changing circumstances, and ensure successful project delivery within the available resources and constraints.

Mr Harry Crimi, the Education Consultant, with the World Bank reported on the activities that had been undertaken towards restructuring the ACE Impact Project ahead of the project closure on the 30th June 2025. The justification of the project extension and restructuring is based on several factors that include country specific delays, COVID-19 disruptions, costs already incurred that cannot be recovered, risks of not completing civil works, increasing demand for partnerships, and increased impact of the project on students receiving support.

The restructuring exercise involved the participating countries and their Centers. The roadmap towards the development of the restructuring plans for each of the Centers included the assessment of Centers, consultation with PSC, World Bank and AAU teams, and agreement on finalized parameters of restructuring. The restructuring was achieved through in-person and virtual support by the World Bank / AAU / AFD / PSC, leading to the reallocation of existing funds, and allocation of additional funds.

By the 30th June 2023 the World Bank team expects to have received restructuring/extension requests from participating governments, formally submitted restructuring packages to the World Bank management, sought formal clearance from the World Bank management and submitted notices to borrowing countries.

The Move Towards Digitalisation of the Water and Sanitation Sector

In the face of rising populations, changing demographics, natural disasters among others, the adoption of digital solutions, is a highly needful measure in catalysing innovations and supporting smarter water management. Digitally transforming Africa’s water and sanitation sectors is again critical in addressing the myriad of challenges confronting these sectors. 

According to a 2022 special report by the UNICEF/WHO Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene, achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) targets on water, sanitation and hygiene in Africa will require a dramatic acceleration in the current rates of progress. A statement released on this report projects that Africa requires a 12-fold increase in current rates of progress on safely managed drinking water and a 20-fold increase for safely managed sanitation to achieve its SDG targets.    

Higher education is indeed well placed to champion the digital transformation of the water and sanitation industry through the conduction of research, development of new knowledge, training of highly skilled manpower, leveraging start-of-the-art laboratories to develop new technologies and creating important platforms to educate and facilitate dialogue among stakeholders in the sector, as well as the public, just to mention a few.  

In a move to address the underlying challenges confronting the ICT and water/ sanitation sectors, the Regional Water and Environmental Sanitation Centre, Kumasi (RWESCK), hosted by the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), together with its partners are working to address the skill gaps identified in the application of digital innovations and smart circular economy in water and sanitation utilities management.   

Speaking at a national workshop on Digital Transformation Skills Development in the water and sanitation sector in Ghana, Prof. Sampson Oduro-Kwarteng, the Centre Director for RWESCK called on tertiary institutions across the continent to review their curriculum to include digital education in order to produce industry-ready graduates equipped with the requisite skills to transform the sector.  The centre is leading the way, by training over 300 PhDs and more than 200 master’s students from across the region on digital skills.  

Under the Nyansapo project, which is funded by the French Embassy in Ghana and implemented by RWESCK, the centre is focusing on introducing digital transformation skills into water and sanitation education to enhance the employability of young Ghanaian graduates with digitalisation innovation skills during their masters training, research and internship periods.

Again, RWESK has undertaken various projects aimed at employing innovative solutions to addressing water and sanitation issues. These include the 13 million Euros SWITCH project funded by the European Commission initiated to adopt modern technologies in realizing sustainable urban water management. That notwithstanding, the ACE Impact project has been instrumental in contributing to the centre’s overarching goal of delivering quality education and applied research at world-class standards. 

Breaking Barriers in Digital Innovation – The Story of Fatoumata Thiam

Fatoumata Thiam is a PhD student at the Centre of Excellence in Mathematics, Informatics, and Applications (CEA-MITIC) in Senegal. Her research focuses on Self-optimized Irrigation System based on the Internet of Things (IoT) in the Sahel. The Sahel is characterized by desertification and advancement of the sea, which accounts for limited access to arable farmland, as well as increased urbanization that threatens water resources. The resultant conditions are affecting farmers and their yields significantly, with the need for immediate advanced alternative irrigation. Ms. Thiam’s study aims to provide modern and affordable technology to farmers in water management, and precision irrigation with IoT. 

Fatoumata noted that she developed a passion for science at an early age which influenced her choice of study. She stated:

“I’ve always loved science and I grew up in it. Very early on I had access to computers, digital equipment, music players, etc. and it has always caught my attention and curiosity. The operation behind these technologies has always aroused my curiosity. Later, when the opportunity to do computer science at university arose, I seized it.” 

Noting some challenges, Fatoumata indicated that as a woman in a male-dominated area of IT, she is faced with gender-related impediments. She said “It can be difficult to evolve in this professional environment where the majority are men.  As a woman, one may face unique barriers in the IT industry, such as work-life balance. For example, being more likely to take time off to care for our families can affect career progression.  It is important to recognize that women have an important place in the information technology industry and must be treated fairly and justly.  Conscious efforts should be made to remove barriers and promote an inclusive and diverse work environment for all.” In spite of these challenges, her family has been a robust support system for her growth and career path. 

In the future, Fatoumata seeks to further broaden her horizon in IT and its related fields. She looks forward to commercializing her research on a large scale for maximum impact. She believes that with the necessary support and mentorship, women possess the ability to provide solutions and positively impact the digital sector.  

Contact: smkandawire@aau.org | Association of African Universities | P. O. Box AN 5744,
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