Africa Centres of Excellence Project Stakeholders Discuss Practical Instruments and Programs for Supporting Partnerships to Foster Sustainability

A high-level side meeting was held on the 9th of May 2024 to bring together the ACE Impact Project Steering Committee members and the ACE II Regional Steering Committee members to share lessons and discuss their strategies for sustaining the Africa Centers of Excellence (ACEs) beyond the World Bank and French Development Agency funding. Other participants included the representatives from the World Bank, and the leadership teams of the Association of African Universities (AAU) and the Inter-University Council for East Africa (IUCEA). This meeting was hosted as part of the ACE International Partnership Workshop, held in Mauritius, by the project.  

Dr. Kokou Kouami the Chairperson of the ACE Impact Project Steering Committee and Professor Goolam Mohamedbhai the Chairperson of the ACE II Regional Steering Committee jointly chaired the session to engage the seventeen (17) countries that were present. 

ACE II was launched in 2016 and supports 24 centers in 8 countries in Eastern and Southern Africa – these include Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia – and is supported by the IUCEA. In 2022, the World Bank provided additional financing to the ACE II project, supporting 6 agriculture centers in Malawi and Mozambique.  

In 2019, the World Bank, together with the French Development Agency (AFD), launched the third phase of the program: the “ACE for Development Impact Project, ACE-Impact”, following the successful implementation of the ACE I project by the AAU. The ACE Impact project covers 54 centers across 11 countries mostly in Western Africa – these include Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Niger, Nigeria, Togo, and Senegal. Across the series of ACE projects, the World Bank has committed US$ 657 million in support of African governments and under the ACE Impact, the AFD is co-financing with a total amount of US$ 72 million. 

 

How ACE II and ACE Impact countries are addressing the sustainability of the Africa Centers of Excellence (ACEs) 

  1. Integrating the ACEs with their host universities – the countries present said that they were making the ACEs part and parcel of the host universities so that they could benefit from annual budget allocations to support their activities. The representatives from Senegal emphasized that the integration of their ACEs to their host institutions also allowed the Senegal ACEs to maintain their financial autonomy so that they are motivated to generate additional resources. 
  2. Lobbying for financial support from national governments – the countries underscored the importance of their governments committing resources to the running of the ACEs. Several countries spoke about embedding the ACEs into national statutes so that they are supported by their national governments. Mrs Jane M. Chinkusu from Zambia shared that they had lobbied their government to direct national scholarships for funding students from their ACEs. In addition, several countries were reported to be lobbying their governments to prioritize contributions to the national research funding agencies who would in turn support the ACEs. The government of Nigeria was reported to have created an annual budget line for the ACEs in Nigeria. 
  3. Leveraging the uniqueness of the ACEs to engage in consultancy and training services was highlighted as an important strategy. The ACEs were initially selected for funding because of the unique niches that they occupy. To sustain their operations, it was recommended that the ACEs should leverage their uniqueness and provide excellent consultancy and training services to their specific thematic areas, industries, and communities. Dr Fahmi Ahmed, from Djibouti mentioned that they were demonstrating the importance of their ACE by designing and delivering unique training services to the logistics and transport industry in Djibouti. 
  4. Focussing on solving real problems and graduating to commercialization and patenting of research products. The ACEs have debunked the myth that African Universities were irrelevant and could not support their national development strategies. Countries that were present agreed that “solving national / regional challenges, being relevant and engaging in commercialization and patenting of products could be an effective sustainability strategy”. 
  5. Engaging in strategic partnerships and joining thematic networks was highlighted as a long-term strategy for achieving sustainability because this enables the ACEs to participate in joint research and collaborations that open avenues for additional funding and support. Mr Carlos Mataruca from Mozambique shared that their ACE for oil and gas was strategically collaborating with SASOL, a global chemicals and energy company. 
  6. Proving the viability of the ACE Model and making achievements visible were also pointed out as being crucial. Dr Edmund Aalangdong mentioned that Ghana was leveraging its national facilitating unit to create visibility of the work of their 9 ACEs and build their capacities. A national tertiary education conference is planned as a national event to create a platform for continuously demonstrating the viability of the ACE model and showcasing the benefits of funding higher education institutions. 
  7. Seeking financial resources from elsewhere by responding to calls for grant funding was also highlighted as another method of sustaining the ACEs. Through partnering and joining thematic networks the ACEs could jointly respond to grant calls to increase their chances of success.  
  8. Leveraging the national facilitating units / national steering committees to strengthen the ACEs was also mentioned by several countries during the meeting. Paul Mungai from Kenya indicated that their National Steering Committee would continue to offer strategic directions to the Kenya ACEs beyond the World Bank funding. Mr Chris Jibreel Maiyaki the acting Executive Secretary of the Nigeria National Universities Commission emphasized the importance of political will in sustaining the ACEs. The Nigerian government has established additional ACEs funded through its national funding agency called the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND). 

 

Feedback from the Regional Facilitating Units – AAU and IUCEA 

The Secretary General of the Association of African Universities (AAU), Professor Olusola Oyewole emphasized that 10 years support was too little to create sustainable ACEs, he therefore appealed to the World Bank to continue supporting the ACEs. He also said that both the AAU and IUCEA should not abandon the ACEs but continue supporting them, promoting their achievements and lobbying for their support. Professor Oyewole shared eight key points in relation to suggestions for sustaining the ACEs: (1) African governments must prioritize support for their national research funding agencies; (2) African Universities must urgently move from laboratory based research to innovations so that they could attract industry partners; (3) African countries must demonstrate their ownership of the ACEs by supporting them financially and in other ways; (4) Centers of Excellence need to prioritize alternative resource mobilization opportunities; (5) ACEs have introduced excellent practices that should be adopted at the university level – adopting these practices of accountability, procurement, performance based financing and monitoring would lead to the sustainability of the ACES; (6) Partnerships are a great way of building sustainability of the ACEs; (7) When ACEs run demand-driven programmes they are more likely to be sustainable and (8) ACEs are encouraged to learn about the “Study in Africa project”, which is an initiative of the AAU and the European Union.

Professor Gaspard Banyankimbona the Executive Secretary of the Inter-University Council of East Africa (IUCEA) said that the results-based funding model had been proven to be effective during the implementation of the ACE projects – and it could be adopted in a follow up ACE project, as it promoted sustainability. He called on the funders of the project to renew their funding and support for the project, given the key achievements obtained and significant impacts made. He highlighted, that as a regional project, the ACE project created important avenues for knowledge sharing, academic mobility, and networking. The East African Community has an existing framework for mobility which could be used to support the sustainability of the ACE projects. Professor Banyankimbona also stated that investing towards incubation centers was key in promoting external funds generation, promoting industry partnerships and eventually leading to sustainable ACEs. 

 

Summary and Conclusions 

Dr Ekua Bentil from the World Bank and the Task Team Lead for the ACE Impact Team said that the meeting had provided an important learning platform. She indicated that several partners were keen and impressed by the work of the ACEs. She concluded by saying that the ACE at ten events planned around July 2024 would be a great opportunity to showcase the project results and create buy-in for additional project support. 

Dr Roberta Bassett, from the World Bank and supporting the ACE II Project stressed the importance of the participating governments expressing their interest in support from the World Bank. 

Professor Goolam Mohamedbhai, the Chairperson of the ACE II Regional Steering Committee summarised the meeting discussions by acknowledging that the meeting had been an enriching opportunity. There was no doubt that the ACEs had achieved exceptional results, impacted their communities, and positively impacted their host universities. Professor Mohamedbhai stated that the sustainability question was inevitable and that the proposed solutions seem to border around institutionalization, governments support and actively seeking alternative financial resources. “It is important to market the ACE model to other African countries and share the lessons with them” – said Professor Mohamedbhai.  “The collaboration of the ACEs at a continental level is a great opportunity that the AAU and IUCEA could jointly explore through the ongoing African Union / European Union innovation fund” – concluded Professor Mohamedbhai. 

Advancing Research and Innovation in STEM and Education: Key Insights from the ACE International Partnership Workshop

The Regional Facilitating Units for the Africa Higher Education Centres of Excellence (ACE) projects – the Association of African Universities (AAU), and the Inter-University Council for East Africa (IUCEA)—in collaboration with the World Bank, the French Development Agency (AFD), and the French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development (IRD), convened over 400 higher education stakeholders for the maiden ACE International Partnership Workshop. This high-level event was hosted at the Intercontinental Mauritius Resort, Balaclava Fort in Mauritius, from May 8-10, 2024 and featured prominent government officials from Europe and Africa, representatives from the private sector, university leaders (Vice Chancellors), ACE academics from host institutions, and experts from policy think tanks and development partner organisations. Since 2014, the ACE Program has provided support to over 80 centres within 50 universities across 20 African nations. Its aim is to cultivate and provide top-tier postgraduate education while fostering applied research in crucial sectors such as health, agriculture, ICT, water, transport, energy, education, sustainable mining, environment, and engineering. These ACEs have been pivotal in tackling a range of challenges, including Ebola, Covid-19, sickle cell anemia, maternal and child health-related complications, digital technologies related challenges, food insecurity, and climate crisis.  

The key objective of the Africa Centres of Excellence International Partnerships Workshop was to leverage the collaborative opportunities outlined in the Africa Union-European Union (AU-EU) Innovation Agenda, to foster engagement and knowledge exchange between Africa, Europe, and other continents.  

Overview of the Panel Discussion 

The plenary session four (IV) was a panel discussion held with the objective of having an engaging discussion on current research, innovations and partnerships already occurring within and outside of Africa in the STEM and Education sectors. The moderator, Mrs. Jane M. Chinkusu, Director of Science and Technology at the Ministry of Technology and Science, Zambia, introduced the following panelists:   

  1. Prof. Maïssa Mbaye, African Centre of Excellence in Mathematics and ICT (CEA MITIC), Senegal 
  2. Prof. Raghava R. Kommalapati, National Science Foundation (NSF) CREST Centre for Energy & Environmental Sustainability, United States  
  3. Dr. Luis Lucas, Centre of Studies in Oil and Gas Engineering and Technology (CS-OGET), Mozambique 
  4. Prof. Grace Jokthan, ACE on Technology Enhanced Learning (ACETEL), Nigeria 
  5. Dr. Andrea Ricci, ISINNOVA Institute on Research, Innovation, and Sustainability, Italy (participated virtually) 
  6. Dr. Benjamin Yao, ACE on Valorization of Waste Products with High Value Added (VALOPRO), Côte d’Ivoire. 

Reiterating the relevance of the discussion, Mrs. Chinkusu gave each panelist the platform to share with participants the innovations taking place in their various institutions and centres. 

Key Innovations in STEM & Education Research 

African Centre of Excellence in Mathematics and ICT, Senegal 

Prof. Mbaye unveiled the groundbreaking innovations and research initiatives implemented by the African Centre of Excellence in Mathematics and ICT (CEA MITIC) under his leadership. These initiatives span diverse domains including health, environment, agriculture, applied mathematics, and ICT. In the area of health, CEA-MITIC spearheaded the development of a cutting-edge health information system for sickle cell disease, revolutionizing the diagnosis process and enabling swift data collection for various ailments. This pioneering system has been deployed across multiple healthcare facilities, strengthening the efficiency of healthcare practitioners. 

Additionally, CEA-MITIC delved into the usage of AI for detecting sickle cell disease in newborns, epitomized by the deep learning-based classification of isoelectric focusing images for newborn screening. Shifting focus to environmental concerns, the centre engineered an intelligent, distributed platform for assessing air pollution, leveraging fixed and mobile data collection mechanisms to monitor and mitigate pollution stemming from household waste. Additionally, CEA MITIC’s innovative web and mobile application, powered by Artificial Intelligence, aids in monitoring marine biodiversity by accurately counting freshwater birds. 

A standout project, the Deep4Monitoring Project, is an indication of CEA MITIC’s commitment to cutting-edge technology. This multi-model AI/ML (artificial intelligence / machine learning) platform serves as a robust decision support tool, addressing critical issues such as waste management, flood mitigation, fire prevention, and sustainable land use planning. Prof. Mbaye’s exposition emphasized CEA MITIC’s role as a hub for ICT and AI innovations, transcending traditional academic boundaries. 

NSF CREST Centre for Energy & Environmental Sustainability, USA 

Prof. Kommalapati’s presentation, focused on the accomplishments and innovations emerging from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Centre for Energy and Environmental Sustainability (CEES). He provided an overview of the centre’s evolution, highlighting its initial emphasis on teaching until the early 2000s. Established in October 2010 with an original funding of $5M from NSF, the centre received an additional $5M in 2019, extending its funding commitment to 2025. 

The core vision of CEES is to cultivate a nationally recognized, multidisciplinary, and self-sustaining community centred around education and research. This vision encompasses leveraging university research infrastructure, fostering productivity, and institutionalizing key research areas. Notably, CEES distinguishes itself through its integrated approach, incorporating research, outreach, and education components. Key areas of focus include collaborative research, partnerships, student enrichment programmes, and community engagement initiatives. 

The centre’s achievements are substantial, with its funding pool expanding to $20M, including contributions from entities such as the National Science Foundation, NASA’s Department of Education, and others. Noteworthy milestones include support for 12 post-doctoral candidates, with 8 transitioning to permanent positions. Additionally, the centre researchers have contributed significantly to scholarly discourse, with publications including one book and 197 articles spanning journal articles, book chapters, and peer-reviewed conference proceedings/extended abstracts. Also, 39 Master of Science theses have been completed, alongside over 250 presentations at various regional, national, and international conferences. In recognition of its accomplishments, CEES achieved the prestigious Carnegie R2 classification in 2021. 

Mrs. Chinkusu expressed her appreciation to the panelists and all participating centres for their remarkable innovative projects. She emphasized the importance of ongoing collaborations and then engaged Dr. Lucas from the centre of Studies in Oil and Gas Engineering and Technology (CS-OGET) in Mozambique. 

Centre of Studies in Oil and Gas Engineering and Technology, Mozambique 

Dr. Lucas, in turn, conveyed gratitude for the positive impact of the ACE Project on institutions in Mozambique, particularly highlighting CS-OGET’s advancement. He discussed the transformation of Universidade Eduardo Mondlade into a research-driven institution and detailed the centre’s collaborations with the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania and Makerere University in Uganda on nanotechnology applications in drilling processes. 

Among CS-OGET’s notable achievements are upstream and mainstream studies focusing on process safety, control, and optimization. The centre has also ventured into geological studies for oil and gas potential assessment, reserves determination, pay zone identification, and production optimization, including carbon dioxide capture and storage initiatives. Additionally, their exploration of alternative fuels, such as biofuels, and their blending with fossil fuels as part of energy transition studies, represents another significant innovation. Notably, the centre also utilizes cashew nuts to produce environmentally friendly biodegradable lubricants. Dr. Lucas concluded by acknowledging the multitude of innovations while recognizing that similar advancements have also been made by other centres. 

Africa Centre of Excellence on Technology Enhanced Learning, Nigeria 

Prof. Grace Jokthan highlighted several innovations from the Africa Centre of Excellence on Technology Enhanced Learning (ACETEL) during her comprehensive presentation on the theme of “Empowering Digital Education in Africa.” ACETEL primarily focuses on leveraging technology within the education sector. Previously, the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) stood as the sole online open and distance learning institution, and ACETEL continues to be dedicated to enhancing infrastructure, capacity building, and sustainability in developing digital education experts. 

ACETEL takes pride in training postgraduate students in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and cybersecurity, with one student currently excelling in Korea, which is a source of immense pride for the centre. Using digital technology, ACETEL has successfully trained over 4,000 participants in short courses and skill-based training programs with broad industry applications across the region. 

In addressing the growing risks in the digital learning environment, ACETEL developed the eGenti Kids Monitoring system, allowing parents to monitor their children’s online activities in real-time. This system provides crucial insights into children’s online behavior, especially as schools increasingly transition to online platforms. Additionally, to support students with visual or health impairments, ACETEL created the Neighbor Health Specialists online application which connects students and healthcare providers in real-time, offering immediate medical attention and referrals to specialists when necessary. 

ACETEL’s commitment to inclusive education is further demonstrated through the ACETEL Mobile Aid, designed to assist visually impaired learners in navigating campuses independently. Innovations like the Vision Link Mouse have revolutionized assessment processes, eliminating the need for additional assistance during exams. The centre also focuses on securing data-centric architecture for learning and utilizes virtual labs to enhance student participation. 

Benefiting from IBM training opportunities, ACETEL engages in immersive STEM Virtual Labs for Remote Learners, a pilot study simulating practical sessions virtually. This initiative aims to transfer practical experiences into the digital realm, facilitating learning for students outside traditional physical environments. 

ISINNOVA Institute on Research, Innovation, and Sustainability, Italy 

Dr. Andrea Ricci also contributed to the discussion by addressing the relevance of his institution, ISINNOVA, in advancing the development of urban smart cities and highlighting other emerging innovations. He provided a brief history of ISINNOVA, noting its establishment in Rome in 1971 as an independent research institute focusing on research, training, awareness, and consultancy services. The institute collaborates with a diverse network of national and international experts. 

Dr. Ricci elaborated on ISINNOVA’s transformation journey, emphasizing its focus on urban mobility and sustainable development. Through extensive horizon scanning exercises, ISINNOVA identified key transport drivers likely to shape future technological advancements in sustainable mobility. This foresight led to the development of scenarios influencing policy formulation in the short term. 

One of ISINNOVA’s notable innovations, CIVITAS, aims to assist national and local governments in planning, designing, and implementing sustainable solutions to enhance urban mobility. Technology plays a pivotal role in these endeavors, significantly impacting people’s lives by facilitating sustainable and efficient urban transportation solutions. 

African Centre of Excellence for the valorization of waste into high value-added products, Cote d’Ivoire 

Prof. Yao began his presentation by highlighting the focus of the African Centre of Excellence for the valorization of waste into high value-added products (VALOPRO), on the circular economy, emphasizing their efforts to minimize waste. He mentioned that the centre engages in laboratory activities where students conduct research to identify prototypes, validate products, and develop marketing plans. Given that the country is the largest producer of cocoa, the centre conducts research on utilizing cocoa waste to create water filters. 

Regarding partnerships, Prof. Yao mentioned collaborations with various industries and institutions, including IMPHB and other state institutions, to further their research goals. Additionally, the centre has academic partnerships for biotechnology research with institutions in Africa and Europe. 

Partnership and Collaboration Strategies 

Speaking on the strategies used to establish partnerships with companies in both the government and private sectors, Dr. Ricci explained that they seek out teams with similar interests and integrate compatible competencies at the technical knowledge level. They also incorporate social sciences and humanities to understand the impact of modern technology, leveraging their extensive network. Additionally, they collaborate with EU-funded institutions that share similar interests and ensure active participation in research projects through workshops, thereby building and engaging research networks. 

Dr. Ricci further mentioned the development of an innovative tool to promote solutions that span technological and environmental aspects, drawing from successful experiments in various regions. This tool is being introduced to raise awareness and transform the sector it serves. 

In response to the question regarding partnerships and future expansion, Prof. Grace elaborated on the current collaborations that bolster the centre’s progress and development. She classified these partnerships into various categories, including academic collaborations such as DSTN, consisting of 6 centres working together on research, resource mobilization, research dissemination, entrepreneurship training, and capacity building. ACETEL ensures that each PhD student has two academic supervisors and one from industry to foster collaboration between academia and industry for demand-driven research and purposeful studies.  Prof. Grace Jokthan of ACETEL also mentioned collaborations with public sector agencies, particularly in ICT for education, and highlighted the centre’s collaboration with EFCC for cyber security research using their forensic laboratory. Prof. Jokthan emphasized the ongoing need for collaboration and engagement with relevant stakeholders to propel the centre’s activities forward. 

Continuing the discussion, Prof. Luis highlighted the dynamic nature of collaborations in the oil and gas sector. For each of their master’s degree programs, they involve at least two major companies in designing the curricula to align with industry demands. These companies also support the implementation of these programs, with lectures including foreign experiences to enrich student learning. Internship opportunities provided by these companies offer students hands-on experience even before completing the program, aiding in research data collection, and designing solutions to identified problems. 

Prof. Kommalapti contributed to the discussion by noting that when the NSF CEES centre was established, one of their primary goals was to ensure its sustainability even after the NSF funding ends. This drive led them to forge robust partnerships and networks within the university, persuading administrators of the importance of the centre’s continuity. Additionally, the centre boasts of a strong external advisory board comprising members from academia and industry. Leveraging this board, they have connected with numerous opportunities to secure additional funding and research support. The centre has also collaborated with other universities on joint proposals to secure funding. They also facilitate e-mentoring for students, enabling them to maintain close relationships with their mentors through virtual platforms, which enhances their prospects of securing jobs after graduation. 

 Prof. Mbaye highlighted the establishment of multidisciplinary partnerships as their initial focus at CEA MITIC. These partnerships involve industry stakeholders such as doctors and environmental specialists who directly address identified issues. He underscored the fact that partnership serves as a gateway to other collaborations, including those involving parks, forests, and governmental structures related to wildlife conservation, which align with their ongoing projects. They also engage in scientific partnerships, particularly with American universities, diversifying their collaborations. Additionally, their partnership with Stanford University has facilitated international exposure for their research results, aiding in North-South collaboration efforts. 

Conclusion 

As the session concluded, with the moderator giving an overview of the discussion and highlighting the relevance of partnerships, it was evident that the Africa Centres of Excellence (ACE) project, has made significant contributions to the development of the continent’s higher education sector. The international partnerships workshop served as a catalyst for meaningful dialogue, collaboration, and action. The insights shared by the panelists serve as guidelines for future endeavors, inspiring a shared vision of a prosperous and sustainable Africa driven by research, innovation, and inclusive partnerships.  

Innovations Shaping the Future of Healthcare: Key Insights from the ACE Impact and ACE II Health Centres

Plenary Session V: Panel Discussion on Research and Innovation within the Health Sector  

The healthcare industry in Africa is constantly evolving, driven by innovative research, technological advancements, and a relentless pursuit to improve patient outcomes. At the forefront of this evolution is the Africa Centres of Excellence (ACE) Project, which is being implemented to address high-level skills development needs and innovative requirements for Africa’s priority development sectors, including the health sector.   

As part of the ACE project’s efforts to strengthen partnerships and collaboration among the Centres of Excellence and between them and other key stakeholders in Africa, Europe and beyond, the project organised its maiden Africa Centres of Excellence International Partnership Workshop, at the Intercontinental Mauritius Resort, Balaclava Fort in Mauritius, from May 8-10, 2024. This event brought together over 400 higher education stakeholders. At the workshop, the health centers of the ACE Project convened a panel discussion to exchange insights and explore research findings and innovations developed since their establishment.  

The discussion, moderated by Ms. Muna Meky, the Practice Manager for Eastern & Southern Africa with the Higher Education group Practice of the World Bank, highlighted several remarkable innovations that are reshaping the future of healthcare in Africa. 

Prof. Gordon Awandare, the founding leader of the West African Centre for Cell Biology of Infectious and Non-Communicable Diseases (WACBIP) hosted the University of Ghana, highlighted their significant strides in developing vaccines and drugs, including characterizing locally transmitted Dengue infections in Ghana, mapping malaria drug resistance, and identifying new malaria parasite antigens for potential vaccine development. In an environment of emerging diagnostic tools and improved treatment methods, the Centre has developed versatile devices that can be adapted for a wide range of communicable and non-communicable diseases, and a simple test to detect specific mutations associated with hearing impairment. Additionally, the Centre coordinated the largest surveillance study through the West African Network of Infectious Diseases ACEs (WANIDA) in Africa during the COVID-19 pandemic, providing critical support for national pandemic responses. 

Another innovation highlighted was the EMOTIVE Intervention developed by the Africa Centre of Excellence in Population Health and Policy (ACEPHAP) hosted by Bayero University in Kano, Nigeria. This initiative, according to Prof. Hadiza Galadanci, the founding Director of the Centre, has significantly reduced postpartum hemorrhage (PPH) mortality rates by 60% in five countries: Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, and Rwanda. The EMOTIVE approach has since been adopted by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a new guideline for addressing PPH-related issues. 

Another area of innovation highlighted was the work of the Centre for Transnational Medicine at the University of Rijeka in Croatia. Prof. Bojan Polic, the Head of the Centre, shared the Centre’s development of cytomegalovirus (CMV) vectors and vaccines, as well as their research on the intersection of the immune and endocrine systems. Notably, the Centre has made recent findings on the role of interferon gamma and hypocytokines in hyperinsulinemia and hyperglycemia, discovering the importance of conditional gene targeting in controlling cellular stress and identifying the impact of viral infections on the immune response. 

Prof. Adnan Custovic, the leader of the Pediatric Allergy Group at the Centre for Pediatric and Child Health at Imperial College London shared the findings of a study which focused on asthma. He further highlighted how the risk factors and phenotypes of asthma in Africa have fundamentally transformed, with factors like parasitic infections and allergen exposures playing a key role.  

Focusing on traditional medicine, the discussion also highlighted the significant strides made by the Pharma-Biotechnology and Traditional Medicine Centre (PHARMBIOTRAC) hosted by Mbarara University of Science and Technology in Uganda. Prof. Ogwang Patrick Engu, the Centre leader, emphasized the Centre’s efforts in addressing critical public health challenges through their research and training initiatives. The Centre has produced a cadre of skilled professionals equipped with scientific knowledge, who have assumed pivotal roles within governmental institutions. Recognizing the importance of quality control and regulation in the traditional medicine domain, some of the Centre’s graduates are now leading efforts to ensure the safety and efficacy of these products across Africa. One notable success story is the development and validation of a locally produced therapeutic, known as COVIDEX, which not only saved countless lives within Uganda but also garnered regional recognition for its efficacy. 

The panel also explored the concept of a Centre of Excellence, emphasizing the importance of vision, direction, and leadership. Dr. Abebaw Fekadu, the Leader of the Centre for Innovative Drug Discovery and Therapeutic Trials for Africa (CDT-Africa), in Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia, defined a Centre of excellence as an energetic concept that can drive impact and motivation within teams, providing clear direction and a world-class environment to drive progress in healthcare. 

The Role of Research and Collaboration 

The panelists emphasized the significance of collaboration and partnerships in amplifying the impact of the ACE Centres. Dr. Abebaw Fekadu defined the concept of partnership, drawing from the business sector, where each party benefits from the initiatives. He cited one of their successful collaborations, which involved a principled relationship with partners through the Academic Partnership Maturity Model. This model focuses on engaging in long-term partnerships, ensuring that trust is built and developed, and empowering the partners.  

Prof. Awandare and Prof. Hadiza also shared the benefits of collaborating within the WANIDA Network, which has enabled them to scale up their achievements and secure funding from prestigious organizations like the Rockefeller Foundation and Wellcome Trust. Prof. Bojan Polic Centre’s collaboration with European institutions also allowed them to secure grants from the European Union to transfer students to Europe for training and support them upon their return to become independent and sustainable. 

Challenges and Key Takeaways 

While the panel celebrated the remarkable innovations emerging from the Health Centres of the ACE project, the panelists also acknowledged the challenges that need to be addressed. These include the lack of enabling policies, limited funding, poor research infrastructure and equipment, inadequate access to data, and the pervasive problem of corruption.  

To address these challenges, the panellists provided a wealth of actionable insights for the Centres’  future endeavors. According to Prof. Christian Happi, the Director of the Africa Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases at Redeemer’s University, in Nigeria, the Centres should put equity and access at the Centre of science. Prof. Happi, along with Prof. Hadiza Galadanci and Prof. Adnan Custovic, emphasized the importance of engaging policymakers and community groups from the initial research stage. This ensures that the Centres’ work aligns with the needs and priorities of decision-makers and the people it is intended to serve, as well as generates political will to provide an enabling environment for research.  

Another key takeaway was the importance of leveraging the existing infrastructure and business startups that have emerged from the Centres’ students. This could help create a thriving research ecosystem where ideas can be translated into products. Prof. Happi also stressed the importance of creating a research ecosystem that could support the entire journey, from ideas to product development. Stressing the importance of togetherness, Prof. Hadiza Galadanci advised the Centres on utilizing grants through transparency, sharing results, and ensuring that their work is visible. This, she believes, will ensure that funders continue to support their efforts and aid in achieving the mission of the Centres of Excellence. 

The panel discussion on key research innovations involving ACE Impact and ACE II Health Centres provided a powerful insight into the transformative work being done. By highlighting the advancements in medical technology, preventive care, and community engagement, the panelists painted a compelling picture of the transformative potential of these innovative solutions. The insights gleaned from this panel discussion serve as a valuable roadmap for African and global healthcare leaders and practitioners to navigate the complex and ever-changing landscape of healthcare innovation. 

African University Presidents Discuss the ACE Programme’s Transformative Impact on their Universities and its Sustainability

During the Africa Centers of Excellence (ACE) International Partnerships Workshop held on Wednesday, May 8th, 2024 (session II), university presidents engaged in a profound dialogue concerning the influence of centers of excellence on their respective institutions. The focus of the discussions were on fostering an environment conducive to innovation, impactful research, and establishing connections with industries. The session took place at the Intercontinental Resort, Balaclava Fort, Mauritius and was moderated by Professor Goolam Mohamedbhai, a former Vice Chancellor of the University of Mauritius and former Secretary-General of the Association of African Universities. 

Commending the ACEs for their remarkable strides and profound influence on both host institutions and nations, Professor Mohamedbhai set the stage for an enlightening exchange. Introducing the distinguished panelists, he posedcritical questions to each, focusing on support for the ACEs, the sustainability of these centers, and the various financial mechanisms and partnerships needed to enhance collaboration between ACEs in Africa and internationally. 

Panel Discussion 

Professor Svein Stølen, the Rector of the University of Oslo and Chair of The Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities, highlighted the significant impact of the global environment on higher education institutions, including factors like geopolitics and export controls. He emphasized the essential role of international cooperation for forward-thinking universities, suggesting that collaborations could be initiated in one country and expanded to others over time. He cited an example from Norway, where there have been five generations of centers of excellence, which have facilitated predictability, long-term planning, excellence, institutional commitment, prioritization, and  transformation of national and institutional perspectives within universities. 

The University of Oslo places great emphasis on collaborating with research-based innovation centers. Recently, it has forged partnerships with the Africa Research Universities Alliance. To enhance these collaborations, the university adopts innovative approaches in its engagement with Africa, investing time in meticulously designing partnerships. For instance, establishing the partnership with some Nigerian Universities required three years to cultivate trust and align priorities, he said. Professor Stølen underscored the importance of taking decisive actions rather than prolonged discussions, with a focus on bolstering infrastructure and career structures. He concluded by emphasizing the necessity of exploring diverse strategies to achieve sustainability, secure long-term financing, and foster mutually beneficial partnerships. 

 

Professor El Hadji Bamba Diaw, the Director General of the International Institute for Water and Environmental Engineering (2iE) in Burkina Faso, shared that 2iE boasts of two ACEs, which have been seamlessly integrated into their host institution in terms of administrative procedures and governance. These Centers have forged strategic partnerships, spearheaded the adoption of best practices at the institutional level, and motivated the extension of ISO certification to all activities of 2iE. They serve as vibrant hubs for research and innovations in engineering and water-related thematic areas. Additionally, language inclusivity is being promoted through a dedicated Center for languages. 

In pursuit of sustainability, both 2iE and the Burkina Faso government view the ACEs as a valuable “brand” that has facilitated increased partnerships, financial support, and the training of over 1000 young Africans.The incubators associated with 2iE Centers are interconnected with the private sector, fostering impactful research through fellowships and scientific output. An innovative irrigation system has been implemented on an agricultural farm. Moreover, the 2iE Centers have played a pivotal role in fortifying collaborations not only within Burkina Faso but also across neighboring countries such as Ghana, Niger, Benin, and Ivory Coast. 

 

Professor Celestino Obua, the Vice Chancellor of the Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST) in Uganda began by reminding the participants that traditional medicines were used in Africa but were not widely studied. There was therefore vast indigenous knowledge related to traditional medicines that was un-documented. PHARMBIOTRAC was established in 2017 as a Center of Excellence at the MUST to address the challenges of low life expectancy and productivity due to communicable and non-communicable diseases, through “building a critical mass of specialized and skilled human resource that can advance traditional medicine and Pharm-Biotechnology for socio-economic development of Africa”. 

The Center has permeated MUST holistically – by impacting research, teaching, curriculum, and accreditation of programs. The Center has acquired state of the art equipment. The MUST Centre for Innovations and Technology Transfer (CITT) collaborates closely with PHARMBIOTRAC. During COVID-19, PHARMBIOTRAC developed COVIDEX, a treatment for COVID-19. MUST has seen an exponential rise in PhD graduates and are now able to recruit scientists outside Uganda because of the good reputation of PHARMBIOTRAC. They have collaborations with Ethiopia, Malawi, and other countries outside Africa. 

Speaking on sustainability of PHARMBIOTRAC, Prof. Obua referenced various initiatives being implemented to ensure this, including joint resource mobilization, and philanthropic activities. He added that the strength of the ACE program has been around promoting accountability in the implementation of activities, and results verifications.  

Prof. Tomislav Josip Mlinaric, the Vice Rector of the University of Zagreb in Croatia participated virtually and said that his university has five Centers of Excellence that were created recently. These are in the fields of Medicine, Molecular Biology, Quantum Algebra, Neuroscience and Data Science. These Centers support national development. 

Since 2002 the University of Zagreb has been collaborating with Africa, adding that  Staff from some Nigerian Universities have already visited Croatia. He stressed that sustainability can be achieved by implementing supportive financing policies and designing strategic measures to address global challenges. 

 

Professor Sanjeev K. Sobhee, Vice Chancellor of the University of Mauritius, said that even though Mauritius had no funded Center of Excellence, they had several pockets of Research Excellence in the areas of biomedical research, Tourism and Slavery Research. These pockets of research excellence followed the rules for being Centers of Excellence.

He added that the Centers respect the need to address national priorities. One Center, for instance, is collaborating with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the USA. The University of Mauritius is implementing its own research schemes to strengthen its collaborations with key stakeholders. Currently, the university is party to several collaborations with various African countries and institutions – including the African Economic Research Consortium, membership to the Southern Africa Regional Universities Alliance, Association of African Universities, Australia Africa Universities Network, and the African Research Universities Alliance. The university is also collaborating with European universities through the Erasmus plus initiative. 

“By joining strategic networks and associations, the University of Mauritius is leveraging African Research Centers of Excellence and being connected to platforms that address resource limitations”, stated Professor Sobhee. He underscored the important role of governments and development partners in contributing to addressing the sustainability challenge and called on higher education to engage such partners more closely.  

 

Moderated Q&A session  

A question was asked on how the Centers of Excellence were addressing the issues of sustainable funding. 

In response, the Director General of 2iE said that when funding for their Centres was delayed due to various reasons, they were able to finance activities for the Centers from the main 2iE institutional budget. This was possible because the ACE is considered to be an important “brand“. Therefore, 2iE leveraged its other sources of finance to support the Centres run effectively.    

The Vice Chancellor of Mbarara University of Science and Technology said that the Centers of Excellence had promoted resilience and therefore host universities made it a point to ensure its sustainability.   The VC added that sustainability must go beyond writing grants and focus on the expansion of networks and collaboration to facilitate long-term and deeper success. 

 

Other suggested funding mechanisms, as laid out during the discussions included tapping into the various initiatives existing on the continent and elsewhere, such as the Erasmus plus initiative, as well as also creating and promoting spin-offs from expansions. Closer engagement of governments was also highlighted. 2iE additionally indicated that they are using their high-level equipment to support the sustainability plans of their Centers of Excellence.  

Covenant University‘s strategy include investing an annual amount for sustaining their Center and ensuring that these funds are part of the institutional budget.  

 

The Rector of the University of Oslo highlighted the need for institutions to commit to long-term sustainable funding. On its part, it employs a number of strategies, including encouraging its professors to be oriented towards competing for grants. 

The University of Mauritius research center was said to be linked to financial independence. Its researchers have been very active, and the center was self-funded for 5 years because of its niche programs that are high quality and very much in demand. 

A question was asked concerning post-doctoral level manpower and where trained students went to. 

Mbarara University of Science and Technology shared that three of its students had returned to their home countries and become heads of departments or Deans of faculties. Others had set up small industries. Additionally, there were research projects that supported post-doctoral training at Mbarara University of Science and Technology. 

The Director General of 2iE said that they had an effective system to follow up on their students and they knew where they went after graduation. 

Closing Remarks by Moderator 

Professor Goolam Mohamedbhai summarised the discussion by stating that institutional commitments were critical to the success of the Centers of Excellence. Sustainability was a complex issue that had to involve the institutions and the governments. Collaborations between the AU and EU have been taking place for years and that there are several opportunities for collaborations within the wider ecosystem that Centers could tap into. It was said that an independent evaluation of the Centers of Excellence would be very useful. He added that stakeholders should not be worried about doctorates leaving Africa because they cannot be forced to stay, but rather favourable working environments can be created to attract them to stay.  

Clearly, University policies, funding, and administrative systems have be adopted to support the Centers of Excellence. The integration of the Centers as a core part of their host institutions is contributing to the sustainability of the Centers. 

The types of financial instruments to strengthen the cooperation between Centers and other centers in Africa and abroad include national government financing, alternative resource mobilization and funds generated from spin-offs.  

The partnership options that would strengthen the cooperation between Centers of Excellence and other centers in Africa and abroad – include Erasmus Plus, membership to research universities alliances and membership to subject specific thematic groups.  

 

Short Biographical Information

Moderator: Prof. Goolam Mohamedbhai is an independent consultant in higher education, with a special interest in Africa. He has served as the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Mauritius and held leadership positions in several international organizations, including the Association of African Universities and the International Association of Universities. He chairs the Regional Steering Committee of the African Centers of Excellence for Eastern and Southern Africa.  

 

Prof. Svein Stølen is the Rector of University of Oslo and Chair of The Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities. He was also elected the first president of the European University Alliance Circle U, a European University Alliance.  He is a professor of chemistry, with research interest in inorganic materials, especially relationships between structure and properties. 

 

Prof. El Hadji Bamba Diaw currently serves as the Director General of the International Institute for Water and Environmental Engineering (2iE) in Burkina Faso, where he is also a distinguished full professor specializing in water sciences and techniques. With a diverse academic background including a master’s degree in applied physical sciences and a PhD in Fluid Mechanics, he has held various significant roles such as Director of the Polytechnic School of Thiès and Head of the research division of the University of Thiès, Senegal 

 

Prof. Celestino Obua, Celestino Obua is a medical doctor and Professor of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, currently serving as Vice Chancellor at Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST) and chairing the Board of Directors at Uganda National Examinations Board (UNEB). Prof. Obua focuses on capacity building in areas such as non-communicable diseases and HIV/AIDS prevention. 

 

Prof. Tomislav Josip Mlinaric is the Vice Rector of the University of Zagreb in Croatia. He is a full professor in the Department of Transport and Traffic Sciences. He currently holds several management positions including president of the Committee for Innovation and Technology Transfer of the University of Zagreb and Head of the Land Transport Section of the Scientific Council for Transport in the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts.  

 

Professor Sanjeev K Sobhee is the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Mauritius and has been spearheading major academic reforms at the University including the streamlining of several administrative processes and procedures. Professor Sobhee has wide experience in teaching at undergraduate and postgraduate levels across different fields of Economics. His teaching focus has been Advanced Macroeconomics, Public Policy, Economics of the Environment and Sustainable Development and Quantitative Methods mostly on postgraduate programmes.

Forging Global Alliances – Inaugural Africa Centers of Excellence International Partnership Workshop Currently Underway in Mauritius, May 8-10, 2024

Close to 400 higher education stakeholders from Africa, Europe and other continents have gathered at the Intercontinental Mauritius Resort Balaclava Fort, for the maiden Africa Centres of Excellence (ACE) International Partnership Workshop. Holding from May 8-10, 2024, on the theme- Building Pathways Towards Sustainability through Collaborative Research and Innovation, the workshop marks a significant milestone, creating the needed platform for the forging of new partnerships, reinforcement of existing ones, interaction with the private sector, and deepening of strategies aimed at strengthening the sustainability of the ACE initiative.  

The workshop is a culmination of the strategic collaboration between the Association of African Universities (AAU), the Inter-University Council for East Africa (IUCEA), The World Bank, French Development Agency (AFD), and the French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development (IRD). Other key partners include the African Union (AU) and the European Union (EU).  

In alignment with the AU-EU Innovation Agenda, adopted in July 2023, the Africa Centers of Excellence International Partnerships Workshop is creating the platform to amplify research and innovation cooperation between Africa and other continents. With a view to creating multifaceted alliances and promoting the joint interests of the participating institutions, the workshop’s programme is carefully crafted to include engaging and insightful panel discussions, pitching sessions with industry players, and parallel thematic sessions, among others.  

Addressing the high-level delegation at the workshop, the Secretary General of the AAU, Professor Olusola Oyewole praised the many successes achieved under the ACE program which has driven growth and contributed to the transformation of Africa’s higher education sector.  He called on development partners, industry, governments and other key players to catalyse and increase investments in the ACE model and various key initiatives, to advance higher education in Africa to generate the critical mass of human resource required to champion the targets of key blueprints such as the African Union’s Agenda 2063, the global sustainable goals, and the continental education strategy for Africa. 

Prof. Olusola Oyewole addressing the audience
Prof. Olusola Oyewole addressing the audience

He reiterated the Association of African Universities’ commitment to work jointly with the various higher education stakeholders and institutions to lead this transformation. Prof. Oyewole said, that the AAU operates a values-based approach, underpinned by transparency, accountability, adaptability and good governance and that it was no coincidence that the Association has been the partner of choice for the World Bank and other partners for the first phase of the Africa Centres of Excellence Project and again for the third phase – ACE Impact. 

With a membership of over 400 higher education institutions across the continent and serving as the regional facilitation unit for the ACE Impact project, we are proud of what we have achieved so far, together with our 54 centres from 11 countries and all our partners.  On this journey, we have recorded over 29,000 students being enrolled in PhD and MSC programmes,  over 79 million externally generated funds, and close to 3000 publications in high impact journals” – he added.  

For his part, the Executive Secretary of the Inter-University Council for East Africa, Prof. Gaspard Banyankimbona, recognized the government of Mauritius for hosting the event, and paid a glowing tribute to the World Bank team, represented by the regional director, human development – Dr. Daniel Dulitzky, for their enabling financial and technical support to the ACE programme. Prof.  Banyankimbona highlighted the role of the Inter-University Council for East Africa (IUCEA), as being an intergovernmental institution of the East Africa Community mandated to advise, develop and coordinate all matters related to higher education and research in the EAC. In line with this, IUCEA facilitates networking among universities in EAC member states, and with universities outside the region, provide a forum for discussion on a wide range of academic and other matters relating to higher education in east Africa, while facilitating maintenance of internationally comparable education standards to promote the region’s global competitiveness in higher education. Zooming in on its achievement as the regional facilitation unit for the ACE II project, he intimated that the project has recorded tremendous achievement with over 20,000 beneficiaries including Faculty, Masters and PhD graduates, and a total amount of close to 44 million USD raised in externally generated funds. He wrapped up his delivery by assuring the project teams and stakeholders of the IUCEA’s commitment to ensure the project attains its intended development objectives.   

Image of Prof. Gaspard Banyankimbona addressing the audience
Prof. Gaspard Banyankimbona addressing the audience

Research as a Strategic Tool for Africa’s Economic Transformation 

Mr. Hans Stausboll, the Director for Africa at the European Commission’s Directorate for International Partnership, articulated the pivotal role of research in societal and economic transformation. Emphasizing the European Union’s commitment to fostering science, technology, and innovation, he highlighted the significance of initiatives like the “African Research Initiative for Scientific Excellence” (ARISE) program. Under the guidance of the EU and AU, ARISE aims to unlock Africa’s innovation potential by supporting the next generation of scientific leaders. Mr. Stausboll stressed the EU’s focus on enhancing knowledge infrastructure and empowering practitioners to build a critical mass of role models for African researchers. He underscored the importance of aligning EU and AU initiatives to maximize impact and assured the African higher education community of the EU’s readiness to collaborate for global advancement. 

Mr. Mathieu Thenaise, the Deputy Director for Mauritius, Agence Française de Développement (AFD) reiterated the institution’s belief in the pivotal role that the Centres of Excellence play in driving social and economic development.  He emphasized the imperative of these centers in nurturing a cadre of skilled professionals capable of spearheading transformative change and called for collective action to confront the myriad challenges facing higher education, particularly within the context of programmes like the African Centers of Excellence (ACE), including the crucial issue of sustainability. 

For the AFD, investing in the development of competent professionals equipped to lead Africa into a prosperous future is not just a priority but a necessity. Recognizing the interconnectedness of global development, Mr. Thenaise underscored the significance of nurturing talent that can contribute meaningfully to the continent and to the broader international community.  

Breaking new ground in Africa’s higher education through the Africa Centers of Excellence Project  

Dr. Daniel Dulitzky, the regional director for human development at the World Bank, indicated that the ACE initiative transcends traditional academic boundaries, embodying a beacon of hope and a blueprint for change. At its core is a proactive engagement with the private sector, marking a departure from conventional academia. He said, by involving industry leaders and investors in the research and innovation process, the project aims to identify opportunities for commercialization and foster partnerships to bring research outcomes to the market. He indicated that the project’s focus on key areas such as science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM), agriculture, health, environment, and education highlights its commitment to maximizing impact across borders and sectors.  

He underscored the ACE programme’s creation of a network of expertise and facilitation of knowledge sharing to encourage the development of innovative solutions and technologies that have commercial potential. Concluding his delivery, he mentioned that as the private sector plays a crucial role in bridging the gap between theory and practice, academia and industry, the ACE programme paves the way for a future where knowledge translates into real-world solutions, driving tangible impact and transformation across the African continent. 

The three-day Africa Centers of Excellence International Partnership Workshop underscores the collective commitment of all the stakeholders, from Africa, Europe and beyond to prioritise strategic partnerships to advance research and innovation on a global scale and drive transformative change for the benefit of societies worldwide.

ACEs Share Lessons on Sustainability at 10th Regional Workshop

Sustainability is a critical aspect of any higher education-funded project. Beyond securing initial funding, it is crucial to explore tactical avenues for long-term sustainability through strategic partnerships and collaboration, effective resource management, and the establishment of revenue-generating initiatives.

Now, more than ever, discussions on the sustainability of the centers of excellence under the Africa Centers of Excellence for Development Impact have become more crucial. The project has since 2019 been supporting 53 emerging and existing centers of excellence in West Africa and Djibouti. These centers with initial funding support from the World Bank have been committed to reshaping the African higher education landscape by offering high-quality programs that tackle developmental challenges.

Four (4) years into the project, the participating centers of excellence have amassed a remarkable array of success stories to share in terms of innovative solutions, robust training and programs, increased student enrollment, international accreditations, successful revenue generation from external sources, and community engagement.

During the 10th ACE Impact regional workshop held in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire on October 31, 2023, selected twelve (12) centers of excellence were given the platform to share some best practices that have contributed to the center’s successes as well as sustainability lessons across the ACEs with a focus on innovation, leadership, education, and financial integration.

Innovation and Sustainability

Leveraging innovations is one of the key areas that centers of excellence can capitalize on to sustain the project beyond the World Bank funding. Centers such as OAU ICT-Driven Knowledge Park (OAK PARK), the Center for Food Technology and Research (CEFTER), and the Center for Training and Research in Water Sciences and Technologies (CEA 2IE), are leading the charge in developing innovative solutions capable of attracting external revenue to sustain their respective centers of excellence.

During the workshop, the Center Director for OAK PARK, Prof. Sola Aderounmu outlined the Center’s strategic approach toward achieving sustainability through innovation. The center currently prides itself on a portfolio of about nine groundbreaking products that are projected to play a vital role in securing substantial income streams. These pioneering innovative solutions include the development of an Autonomous Robot that combines temperature reading, environment disinfection, and social interaction capabilities, the creation of a “Low-cost Android Phone,” and the establishment of a “Cyber Range” dedicated to simulating mission-critical systems for cybersecurity research, among other exhilarating endeavors. These innovative products are presently in various stages of the commercialization process, with the aim of transforming them into revenue-generating assets. The center’s efforts and commitment to attaining sustainability through innovative solutions is further driven by its existing network of five spin-off companies. These spin-off businesses have displayed admirable performance and are actively contributing to the financial support OAK-PARKs various activities and initiatives.

CEFTER stands as an exemplar of how innovation can be harnessed to ensure the sustainability of the Centers of Excellence. The center has spearheaded a multitude of student research projects that have received official recognition from Nigeria’s regulatory authority (NAFDAC), these solutions revolve around transforming cassava into innovative food products, such as high-quality cassava flour and biscuits. Following the commercialization of this innovation, CEFTER secured a large-scale government contract to produce 1.6 million cassava biscuits for students across Nigeria. The Center Director, Barnabas Achakpa Ikyo stressed the importance of community support, government endorsement, and effective branding in their endeavors. Notably, CEFTER’s alumni have extended their innovative impact, with one establishing a successful cassava flour business in Cameroon and another venturing into tomato cultivation and processing. This demonstrates the center’s outstanding capacity to launch profitable endeavors and encourage innovation outside of its walls, having a long-lasting, global influence.

In Burkina Faso, CEA-2iE has dedicated close to a decade to fostering innovation and entrepreneurship as a cornerstone of its long-term sustainability. Beyond the ACE Impact project, the center has proactively invested in initiatives such as the establishment of a FabLab to nurture and bolster innovation. This commitment has resulted in tangible results, as the center has successfully nurtured a diverse range of innovations, including 3D printing, laser cutting, robotics, virtual reality, and more. Notably, CEA-2iE is currently engaged in the production of Geopolymer binders using local materials from Burkina Faso to stabilize compressed earth bricks, offering solutions to pressing societal challenges. Furthermore, the center’s vision reaches beyond immediate applications – it aims to utilize these innovations to ensure its own sustainability. This demonstrates its commitment to advancing society as well as ensuring its sustained success in the fast-paced world of innovation and entrepreneurship.

Leadership and Sustainability

The West Africa Center for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens (WACCBIP) serves as a shining example of the remarkable accomplishments attainable through effective leadership. In line with its mandate of developing home-grown African leaders. Young Scientists, Dr. Peter Quashie and Dr. Yaw Bediako assumed leadership roles during the COVID-19 research efforts, leading to groundbreaking results in sequencing Covid-19 genomes. These accomplishments not only contribute to financial sustainability but also foster valuable partnerships and collaborations for the center. Addressing the challenge of a limited female leadership pool in academia, the center has adopted an inclusive approach to actively empowering female scientists to take on leadership roles. The center has demonstrated its effectiveness in fostering the growth of young scientist Dr. Bediako, who successfully established the biotech company Yemaachi. These accomplishments highlight the importance of concerted efforts in inclusive leadership and sustainability, providing other project centers aiming for sustainability with insightful lessons.

Adding up to how leadership could be leveraged to attain sustainability, the Center Director for the African Center of Excellence for the Recovery of Waste into High Value-Added Products CEA VALOPRO, Prof. Benjamin Kouassi YAO emphasized that to initiate sustainability discussions, it is imperative for staff members to fully understand project requirements and gain the support of the host university’s administration and staff, all of which relies on strong leadership. The center’s leader highlighted effective strategies from CEA VALOPRO, including organizing training sessions to ensure the staff’s clear understanding of the project’s objectives, and further stressed the centers role in addressing the University’s needs through targeted initiatives, such as establishing a fitness room and refurbishing laboratories among others, which have improved the living and working conditions of staff

Research and Sustainability

Research can be very daring, however, if done thoroughly will attract partnerships, collaboration, and funding for sustainability. The presentation on the African Center of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases (ACEGID) brought to light some of the center’s achievements resulting from high-quality research, including the establishment of a globally recognized Early Warning System for Pandemic (SENTINEL). Furthermore, ACEGID has developed a rapid and precise diagnostic tool based on CRISPR technology for SARS-CoV-2 and has made strides in creating a vaccine for the management and control of the virus. To sustain the research agenda, the center invested in robotics to boost its throughput for human and pathogens sequencing, as well as in cutting-edge super high throughput Next Generation Sequencers and related equipment. It also started translating genomic information into products.

The Africa Center of Excellence in Coastal Resilience (ACECoR) , since its inception, has been dedicated to championing research-driven regional economic development. It delivers demand-driven scientific information to inform national and regional policy development as well as professional training initiatives that draw industry partners and other organizations to promote a sustainable ocean economy. Through quality post-graduate training, the center has amassed a total of 104 publications in a span of 5 years, with citations stemming from ten (10) countries in Africa. The significant contributions of these research results are highlighted by the grants and partnerships attracted by the center, including a sizeable $2 million grant from the West Africa Coastal Areas Management Program.

Education and Sustainability

While centers explore diverse means of attaining sustainability, offering quality education remains a priority . In terms of Education and Sustainability, the African Center of Excellence in Mathematics and ICT (CEA MITIC) has been announcing its relevance in Senegal through its robust training programs. It has been strengthening collaboration with the socio-industrial sector through the development of short training programs. Adapting to the evolving educational landscape since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the center has adopted a hybrid training approach, seamlessly integrating face-to-face and online components. To extend its impact, the center trains teacher-researchers in relevant fields such as project writing, as well as training of networks to support regionalization.

According to Prof. Daouda MAMA, the Center Director of the Center of Excellence in Water and Sanitation (C2EA), one of the significant challenges encountered at the beginning of the project was the low number of female enrollments and regional students in short courses. Currently, the center has attracted a remarkable female enrollment across its degree programs with women now comprising 30% of Ph.D. students and 27% of Master’s students. This achievement is in line with the ACE Impact project’s objective of gender inclusivity. As a result, C2EA has experienced an uptake in enrollments, enhancing its prospects for forming valuable partnerships and collaborations, and further reinforcing its dedication to sustainable growth and development in terms of education.

WACCI – Financial Diversification

During the Workshop, Centers were urged to prioritize endowment as a key approach for achieving sustainability, as big ideas attract implementing and scaling partners​. The center director for the West Africa Center for Crop Improvement (WACCI), Prof. Eric Yirenkyi shared valuable insights, mentioning that his center has initiated discussions with ETH Zurich to explore opportunities for mobilizing African centers of excellence into entities capable of securing funding.

WACCI’s compelling results, including the release of 279 crop varieties, 3 successful public-private partnerships for seed scaling, $62 million attracted by alumni, and the training of nearly 6,000 individuals, have positioned it well to attract funding and form strategic partnerships. Prof. Danquah highlighted that financial diversification and sustainability could be achieved by expanding partnership networks and collaborating with influential figures and policymakers to present innovative ideas. This approach has already drawn attention and support from development partners, practitioners, and researchers globally.

University Integration

In the ACE Impact project, universities are the backbone of every Center of Excellence, and the centers rely on university support for their sustainability. Integration of the center into the university is essential to ensure long-term viability. ACEDHARIS sets a notable example by placing its staff and research fellows on the university payroll, sharing postgraduate program fees equally, offering paid online course delivery, and establishing a commercial unit within the center, all contributing to its sustainability and strong university partnership.

The ACE Impact regional workshop provided a platform for Centers to exchange invaluable insights on sustainability. The lessons learned and best practices in innovation, leadership, education, research, financial diversification, and university integration will not only ensure the project endures beyond its initial funding but also make significant contributions to Africa’s education and beyond.

ACE Impact Project Recognised for Key Role in Training Africa’s Next Generation of Leaders and Researchers

The Minister of Higher Education of Cote d’Ivoire, who hosted the 10th ACE Impact Regional Workshops, reiterated the role of the Africa Centres of Excellence as global and international institutions playing an essential role in educating Africa’s future leaders, innovators, and researchers. In a statement delivered on his behalf during the workshop’s closing ceremony on November 3, 2023, Professor Adama Diawara emphasized that Africa is currently undergoing economic and social transformation, with higher education institutions, particularly ACEs, serving as the heart of sustainable growth. He urged African governments, technical and financial partners, and universities to invest in the ACE model and higher education in general. Professor Diawara stressed the significance of capacity building, infrastructure development, and robust partnerships to enhance and advance the impact of these institutions.

Professor Diawara underscored the need for closer collaboration and constant adaptation to effectively address global challenges and overcome the obstacles hindering progress. Prof. Arsene Kobea, the Director of Cabinet of the Minister of Higher Education representing the Minister of Higher Education and delivering the Minister’s speech, paid a glowing tribute to the Association of African Universities and its Secretary General, Prof. Olusola Oyewole, for the unwavering commitment and dedication to championing the advancement of higher education in Africa.

The ACE Impact team, led by the Task Team Leader – Dr. Ekua Bentil from the World Bank Group, and Dr. Sylvia Mkandawire, Senior Programme Manager from the Association of African Universities, received accolades for their efficient management of the project’s activities. As Prof. Kobea aptly put it, ‘We don’t change the winning team’.

The World Bank Group, French Development Agency (AFD), and the French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development (IRD), were recognised for their pivotal contributions to the ACE Impact project’s success.  The workshop’s success was also attributed to the support from various national level institutions in Cote d’Ivoire, including the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Health, Tourism, Interior, Planning and Development, Economy and Finance, Budget, and State Portfolio.  The local organising team, led by Prof. Arona Diedhiou and Prof. Kone Tidiani were also acknowledged, as were the Technical Advisors to the Ministers, present at the closing ceremony.  The government of Cote d’Ivoire presented project team members, including the Steering Committee Members, Focal Points, and Centre Leaders with traditional souvenirs as a token of appreciation for their monumental contributions.

The address highlighted how peace and stability across Africa serve as a facilitator for realising the fundamental goals and objectives of higher education functions, projects, and institutions.

Reflecting on the Project and Charting the Way Forward

Dr. Ekua Bentil, the ACE Impact Project’s Task Team Leader, provided crucial updates on the project’s progress. Topics covered included the restructuring exercise, disbursement projections, institutional impact, environment and safeguards, and the importance, as well as challenges of accreditation of programmes by the centres. Dr. Bentil called on the Steering Committee Members to duly follow up with their respective country Ministers in finalising key agreements.

ACE Impact centres were encouraged to elevate their celebrations for ACE@10, organising high-level events and bringing the necessary stakeholders, including Ministries, to the table to celebrate 10 years of the ACE programme. They were also advised to leverage the celebrations to showcase the project’s remarkable successes.

Touching on various partnerships currently in the pipeline with potential partners such as the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and the European Union, centres were encouraged to continue to establish quality mutually beneficial partnerships to foster the achievements of their goals.  The various networks established under the project were also urged to continue the conversations started under the Morrocco/Tunisia partnerships.

Dr. Bentil expressed her appreciation to the government of Cote d’Ivoire and the centres of Excellence for a highly successful workshop. She assured the centres that ongoing technical support will continue to be provided, announcing the line up of a series of workshops soon to commence.

This workshop reaffirms the ACE Impact Project’s target of nurturing Africa’s next generation of leaders, innovators, and researchers, setting the stage for a brighter and more sustainable future for the continent.

Regional Networks and ACE Impact Centers: A Sustainability Conversation

One of the key objectives of the ACE Impact Project is to promote regional collaborations and offer scholarships with the goal of catalyzing the growth of these regional partnerships, thereby amplifying the impact in achieving the project’s development objective. The Association of African Universities (AAU) and the French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development (IRD) are supporting the strengthening of the ACE thematic networks among the ACEs and their relevant partners. The goals of these thematic networks are to advance collaboration in cutting-edge research and broaden the ACE Centers’ contribution to the knowledge economy.

Through these regional thematic networks, the ACE Impact Centres can contribute towards accelerating scientific research activities anchored in world class academic practices, strengthen the interlinkages between specialized research centers across ACE Institutions, and deepen partnerships among ACE Impact Centres and collaborators across the continent. There are a total of 12 regional thematic networks supported by both the IRD and The World Bank.  These networks cover a range of focus areas, including Agriculture, Health, Education, Energy, Urban and Transport, Environment, Sustainable Mining, Water, Digital Science & Technology, and a network specifically dedicated to Colleges of Engineering. The IRD-supported networks are managed under the IRD’s PARTNERs initiative.

On Friday 3rd November 2023, Dr. Chantal Vernis, the Director of the Department of Research Capacity Building and Innovation for Development at IRD, chaired over the panel discussion concerning sustainability and regional networks.

The panelists who participated  were Dr. Gaoussou Camara, who serves as the Coordinator of the Digital Science and Technology Network (DSTN) at Alioune Diop University of Bambey; Dr. Peter Quashie, representing the West African Network on Infectious Diseases (WANIDA) at the University of Ghana, Professor Fifatin François-Xavier, from the University of Abomey Calavi, West Africa Sustainable Engineering Network for Development (WASEND) and Professor Jibrin Jibrin, a member of the Food for West Africa Network (FOOD4WA) at Bayero University.

The objective of the session was to provide an interactive discussion on leveraging regional networks to increase sustainability of the ACE Impact Centres. The moderator posed questions on the value addition of the network in increasing the sustainability of the participating centres and the challenges faced by the networks.

The value addition of the networks in increasing sustainability of the participating centres.

As articulated by Dr. Gaoussou Camara, the African proverb “alone we go fast but together we go further” forms the basis for explaining the enhanced value provided by the regional thematic networks. For instance, conducting collaborative capacity building programmes in research, innovation, entrepreneurship, and technology transfer has proven to be more effective when approached from a network-oriented perspective. This approach offers cross learning opportunities and allows for the leveraging of high-quality trainers, leading to greater effectiveness. These collaborative efforts enable pooling of financial resources, leading to more sustainable impact and efficient utilisation of the limited resources.

Network members appreciate the networking opportunities as they can establish deeper connections with one another, fostering additional collaborative engagements that contribute to the sustainability of the networks. The collective initiatives organized by these networks facilitate profiling the participating centres and empower effective advocacy in garnering support for the work of their centres.

A regional thematic network must bring value that centres don’t have without the network”, said Dr Peter Quashie from the WANIDA network. The WANIDA network has linked the participating centres to expertise that they lack, fostering robust relationships between colleagues from both Anglophone and Francophone backgrounds. Involvement in a regional thematic network encourages the centres to participate in events and activities that ordinarily they would not do alone, for example the WANIDA startup competition.  The WANIDA network has played a pivotal role in enabling student and academic mobility across the network, with support for students attending conferences and publishing their work.

Dr Professor Fifatin François-Xavier explained that through the WASEND network the visibility of the participating centres had been increased. Other value additions of the network included mobility of technicians, mentorship in the research areas, strengthened peer learning among students, learning of foreign languages by students and staff and sharing of digital resources for the benefit of doctorate students.

Professor Jibrin Jibrin said that the FOOD4WA network was registered in Togo as a legal entity to enable it to mobilize resources on behalf of the members. The FOOD4WA network is addressing food security issues and assisting governments with the development of agricultural policies. A recent international conference held in Kano, Nigeria significantly elevated the profile of FOOD4WA network and the participating centres by showcasing their ongoing activities. Professor Jibrin Jibrin further mentioned “We are currently developing inventories of equipment available and research experts available in the network – and this will help us leverage the equipment and expertise resident within the network”.

Challenges faced by regional networks.

Enhancing the governance of the networks to ensure their long-term sustainability emerged as a key focal point in discussions. Establishing a governance structure would facilitate the development and execution of long-term, economically viable funding models for the networks. The absence of a funding model posed challenges for certain centres in securing the financial resources necessary to align their 4-year PhD programs with the project’s 3-year funding for PhD students.

Certain networks have encountered difficulties in coordinating and reaching a consensus on primary activities, particularly in relation to aligning with the ACE Impact project’s timelines and determining the feasibility of various initiatives. The research culture in most African Universities is recently emerging which poses a challenge when expertise in specific areas is required. challenges are being addressed through the provision of translation and interpretation services. This approach is a valuable lesson networks have taken from the ACE Impact project, which consistently provides translation and interpretation support for meetings and associated materials. Networks face challenges with capacity building for researchers in specialized areas such as green hydrogen and others.

Questions from the audience

The audience posed questions that revolved around various aspects including the rationale behind the one-year rotational leadership within the FOOD4WA network. They also enquired about strategies for fostering complementarity among networks instead of fostering competition. Furthermore, questions were raised about the sources of funding for the networks beyond the support from the World Bank and IRD, and methods networks should employ to secure long-term funding.

Responses to questions from the audience

Participants were informed that the annual rotational leadership was informed by the ACE Impact project duration. The funding Models that the networks are using include leveraging funds from other projects, enumerating the successes of the network to justify investments by development partners, centres paying for expert services provided by the networks and developing funding proposals that incorporate overheads for running the networks. The networks also aligned their activities to the ACE Impact project disbursement indicators so that they could earn funds for delivering on those DLIs. Other potential sources of funding include leveraging patents/IPR and charging annual membership fees the member Centres.

The Secretary General of AAU shared that the AAU had established the African Research and Development Networks and Universities to bring together several peer African institutions and researchers that are willing to work together, with a view to generating a critical mass that could more effectively support development initiatives in the continent.

Summary and key recommendations

To create balanced participation by all the Centers within a network there’s a need to cultivate teamwork, clarify roles and responsibilities, assign roles to different centres, consider rotating leadership of the network, and consider full time administrative employees at the network’s secretariat.

To address the challenges faced by the networks, they must amplify everything that they do to create high visibility and attract partners and funders. The goal must be for the networks to be recognized at continental and global levels.

The regional thematic networks must focus on the relevance of what they do. It requires effort to have an efficiently run network and it is possible!

ACE Impact Experts Deliberate Strategies for Enhancing Sustainability and Bolstering Center Support to Attain Key Milestones by December 2025

The ongoing ACE Impact 10th Regional Workshop in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, featured an Experts Group meeting where thematic experts supporting the Centres of Excellence engaged in critical discussions and exchanges of experiences, to enrich their strategies and reinforce their support to the centres, as the project approaches its culmination in 2025.

The thematic expertise of the group encompasses the areas of Engineering, Energy/Environment, Water, Mining, Urban/Transport, Education, Health, Agriculture, ICT and Education, in alignment with the key focus areas of the ACE Impact Project.

The core topics guiding these discussions included sustainability, centre networks, and a dedicated focus on reviewing the newly established Moroccan partnerships since the last ACE Impact workshop in Morocco in May 2023.

The significant timeframes for the upcoming project period, which extends from present until December 2025, marking the deadline for the completion of all activities, were emphasized. Each expert was tasked with ensuring that their centres strictly adhere to these pivotal schedules and collaborate closely to accomplish the core targets. A detailed schedule was provided for the completion of all civil works, procurement, and other vital aspects of the project.

The essential sustainability aspects, which encompass economic, organizational, and environmental factors, were carefully discussed, and strategies to promote sustainability as a priority within the center-level activities were underscored. Methods for generating funding to support the centers related costs, such as research and innovation costs, education expenses, and operating costs were suggested. Emphasis was placed on promoting university cost-sharing and involving industry as part of the centre’s sustainability strategy.

Key revenue streams outlined to be pursued by the centres as part of their sustainability measures included grants, commercialised services, philanthropic contributions and partnerships with development and private sectors aligned with national and regional priorities.  It was reiterated that host institutions should serve as the primary source of funding for the centres, as they are the overall institution facilitating the activities of the centres.  The importance of visioning in terms of resourcing was underscored, helping to guide well budgeted plans and activities, in line with the goals and vision of the centres.

Concerning the key success factors contributing to the ongoing excellence and sustainability of the centres, it was emphasized that strong leadership, specialized programming or institutions, innovative curriculum and pedagogy, as well as a commitment to quality and gender inclusivity, are all indispensable. International partnerships, groundbreaking research, and innovations were recognized as core features of the typical centers of excellence brand, which should be vigorously pursued beyond the current project’s funding phase.

 

The Value of Networking as a Sustainability Measure

The expert meeting also featured an engagement session with the French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development (IRD), focusing on the ACE Partner Project. This initiative aims to promote the influence and collaboration of thematic research networks between African Centres of Excellence, and key actors in quality education and research, mobilised around national and regional developmental issues. It is an institutional collaboration between the World Bank, the Association of African Universities, the French Development Agency (AFD), the IRD, and Inria.

Currently, four networks are being supported under this project: Digital Science and Technology (DSTN), West African Network for Infectious Diseases ACE (WANIDA), Responsible Mining and Sustainable Development (AMR2D), and Sustainable Water Management (RES’ EAU). These networks have played a pivotal role in enhancing the research capacities of centers, promoting entrepreneurship and innovation, and focusing on the sustainability of the centers.

The meeting emphasized the significant value of the connections and platforms created for the centers to engage with each other through these thematic networks. Such platforms have yielded positive outcomes and fostered partnerships among the centers, leading to collaborative research, student exchanges, and various impressive initiatives.

As the Network’s funding under the IRD Project approaches its conclusion in 2024, the team discussed key lessons learned and the measures that contributed to the successes recorded by the networks.  The experts stressed the need for the networks to diversify their engagement and promote cross collaborations between the networks to further strengthen the quality impact being made. They also highlighted the importance for all partners, including themselves, gradually withdrawing from the role of facilitating the networks’ activities to promote self-sufficiency.  The proposal to engage in scenario planning to establish measures for expanding the networks and ensuring their effective operation beyond the funding period was stressed as a critical step.

In conclusion, the experts stressed the importance of ensuring that the networks’ activities complement those of the Centers of Excellence. They also encouraged the team to launch a campaign to effectively communicate the story, value proposition, and remarkable successes achieved by the Networks. Team members were also briefed by the IRD on a survey being conducted to elicit information for this campaign. The team received updates from the World Bank regarding the key goals to be achieved as the project concludes in 2025.

Vice Chancellors meet to explore lessons from international accreditation and impact evaluation

On the 1st of November 2023 Eunice Yaa Brimfah Ackwerh the Senior Education Specialist from the World Bank moderated a session for at least 40 Vice Chancellors and DLI7 focal persons to deliberate on key lessons from international accreditation exercises and the recently completed nimble impact evaluation of all the Africa Centres of Excellence – ACE 1, ACE 2 and ACE Impact.

Eunice Yaa Brimfah Ackwerh at the 10th ACE Impact Workshop
Eunice Yaa Brimfah Ackwerh speaking at the 10th ACE Impact Workshop

Three organisations dealing with international accreditation participated in this session, the Accreditation Agency for Study Programmes in Engineering, Informatics, Natural Sciences and Mathematics (ASIIN), the High Council for Evaluation of Research and Higher Education (HCERES) and the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA). Dr Zakia Mestari and Dr Pierre Courtellemont represented HCERES virtually, Dr. Iring Wasser from ASIIN attended the meeting in person and Dr Chris Bland from QAA participated virtually.

Lessons learned during the international accreditation processes.

Several important lessons were shared regarding international accreditation processes, and among these, it was emphasized that financial gain from disbursement linked results should not serve as a primary motivation for international accreditation. The motivation must be associated with the vision and strategy of the university to offer internationally accredited programs that facilitate student mobility and attract fee paying students from the region and beyond to ensure the sustainability of ACE Impact Centres.

Dr Iring Wasser conveyed additional insights which included the necessity for universities to engage in comprehensive preparation, the significance of accrediting teams showing cultural sensitivity, the importance of standardizing terminology, the need for universities to showcase ACE Impact Centres on their websites, the value of presenting concise and specific information and not voluminous data, and finally universities’ willingness to embrace innovative teaching methods.  The potential to create an African database containing internationally accredited programs and courses was identified. Such a database could serve as an integral part of a legal framework aimed at facilitating students’ mobility not only within Africa, but also on a global scale. The European Ministers of Education have approved a whitelist database of internationally accredited European programs to facilitate academic mobility among European countries.

What is the value of international accreditation?

The Vice Chancellors restated that international accreditation was a key ingredient in building trust in the national accrediting systems because of the global benchmarking. The University of Djibouti Vice Chancellor, Professor Djama Hassan Mohamed, said that his university had benefited from the international accreditation assessment process because it got all the university stakeholders involved. “The international accreditation process enables our students to present their credentials in other countries and empowers us as a university to progress towards maturity in terms of offering high quality programs and services.” – said Professor Djama Hassan Mohamed, the University of Djibouti VC.

Accreditation as a method of sustaining the ACE Impact Centres

International accreditation represents a viable strategy for ACE Impact centres to ensure their sustainability. This is because both institutional and program accreditation enhances the visibility and global recognition and acceptance of universities and programs among students, faculty, potential partners, and funding sources. An institution or program that holds international accreditation is better positioned to generate revenue through its academic and research offerings. There are opportunities for strengthening the relationship between national accreditation agencies and international accreditation agencies – especially around capacity building and keeping abreast of global accreditation trends. Emerging areas of accreditation include the certification of lifelong learning and micro-credentialing.

Nimble evaluation of the African Centers of Excellence and the need for long-term sustainability

Dr. Jamil Salmi, a World Bank Higher Education Consultant, led the Vice Chancellors through a reflection on the prospects for the sustainability of the ACE Impact centres and defining strategies for financial sustainability. “Much of the Centres had made impressive progress – sustainability was still a major concern because the majority of the centers operate primarily as project units and lack stable staff complements and durable institutional basis” – cautioned Dr Jamil. He also warned that “the pressure and need to generate resources may cause some centers to compromise their core teaching and research missions”.

Dr Jamil also advised the Vice Chancellors that “sustainability must be viewed as a shared responsibility involving the host institutions, governments, donor community and the ACE Impact centres. All actors must work together, there must be institutional autonomy, financial management must be aligned, and planning is of utmost importance from the outset”, added Dr Jamil.

A vibrant question and answer session followed Dr Jamil’s presentation and the inquiries included what the key characteristics of sustainable Centres were? What must universities do when governments reduced funding to universities that had high revenue generation profiles? What was the ACE Impact program sustainability strategy during the design of the project? Why should academics become business experts when their role is seeking knowledge for knowledge’s sake? Why do we focus on research commercialization and not on engaging the market before commencing in research activities?

The discussions concluded that projects such as the ACE Impact may not always be able to resolve national policies that are not functioning effectively. Instead, university leadership should maintain an ongoing dialogue with a broad spectrum of national stakeholders to address the policy challenges. Solving real industry problems is certainly the way towards arriving at demand driven products and services that would be easily commercialized. Some centers have developed their capacities for revenue generation and that of their host universities – however global experiences demonstrate that we need to take a long-term view of the time needed for the transformation of universities / centers.

Contact: smkandawire@aau.org | Association of African Universities | P. O. Box AN 5744,
Accra-North, Ghana | Tel +233-547-728975 All Rights Reserved © 2022