DAY 1 SUMMARY OF THE 9TH ACE IMPACT REGIONAL WORKSHOP

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

  • Project Steering Committee Meeting

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

 

  • Experts Meeting

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

  • Procurement Meeting

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

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

 

  • Financial Management

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

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

 

  • Safeguards

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

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

 

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

 

  • Monitoring and Evaluation

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

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

 

  • University Vice Chancellors and DLI 7 Focal Points

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

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

Building Towards a Vibrant Biotech Start-up Ecosystem in West Africa

Since 2018, WACCBIP began a series of efforts to engage local biotech industries. In the process, the Centre discovered that the biotech ecosystem in Ghana, and by extension, in West Africa, are less dynamic and had little capacity for the uptake of biomedical innovation originating from Ghana. Consequently, the Centre reviewed its strategy to focus on enabling the set-up of biotech startups within Ghana and West Africa. This led to the creation of a cancer immunogenetics start-up, Yemaachi Biotech, a brainchild of a WACCBIP research fellow, Dr. Yaw Bediako.  WACCBIP closely supported the start-up and has since partnered with Yemaachi in some of its COVID-19 studies. Yemaachi Biotech, which has raised over $ 4 million, in 2022 performed the first human exome sequencing in Ghana.   

To inspire and enable the next generation of the indigenous biotech industry, the Centre’s first step is the develop a Biotech Entrepreneurship programme in collaboration with the University of Ghana Business School (UGBS) Innovation Hub, and the Institute of Applied Science and Technology (IAST). The programme will encapsulate a training course, and a business incubation programme, run concurrently. In addition, the centre is implementing a small projects scheme to provide funding support to innovative, industry relevant research projects proposed and run by WACCBIP students and faculty: 

  1. The Essentials of Biotech Entrepreneurship Training Course- The Biotech Entrepreneurship Training Course is a one-month sessional course with at least 7 contact sessions. The course will have an in-person format with expert facilitators sourced from our training partners.  
  2. The Business Incubation Programme will be a 3-month business ideation and pitch development programme. Outstanding trainees from the training course, as well as other WACCBIP students and alumni with good business ideas, from the training course will be selected for the incubation programme. The incubation programme will provide advanced training in entrepreneurship, product development, finance, etc. Through the incubation process, trainees will develop their products and develop their business models under the mentorship of experienced scientists and biotech industry experts. At the end of the training programme, trainees will have prototypes and feasible business models, ready for execution. The final stage of the programme is a final pitch competition amongst the trainees, to select the most well-developed and feasible ideas for funding. Seed funding will be awarded to selected, outstanding business pitch ideas.   
  3. The ‘small projects’ scheme is a funding scheme for innovative, and industry-relevant research projects led by WACCBIP students and faculty. Each year, students and faculty members will be allowed to submit projects, which have the potential to be taken up by the industry. These projects will be screened, with the projects demonstrating the greatest potential, selected for funding.  

 Moreover, through several networks, WACCBIP is driving innovation in the West African sub region. The centre joins, lead and co-lead a number of projects aimed at enhancing South-South Collaborations and through these are helping to build the innovative capacity of other partners. Currently, WACCBIP is a vaccine development hub for the African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA), as well as a coordinating centre for the West African Network of Infectious Disease ACEs (WANIDA). The centre has leveraged these to train partner institutions in Ghana, Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Cameroon, Nigeria, Benin and Togo in next-generation sequencing techniques. 

CEALT Students Win 2023 AUF Hackathon for Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Students of the Centre of Excellence in Logistics and Transport (CEALT) hosted by the University of Djibouti once again emerged winners in the 2023 Hackathon organized by the Agence universitaire de la Francophonie (AUF). Represented by a team of five-  Mr Aboubaker Yassin Cheik-Frah (MSc Civil Engineering), Mr Kadar Youssouf Ahmed (MSc Civil Engineering), Mr Mohamed Saïd Mahamoud (MSc Electrical and Energy Engineering), Mr Abdi Omar Obsieh (MSc Electrical and Energy Engineering)
Ms Oumoukaltoum Youssouf Ahmed (DUT- Commerce, Option marketing technology), CEALT competed against Universities of Alexandria and Cairo in Egypt, and other universities in Lebanon.  

Noting the existing timing and scheduling challenges in the Djibouti public transport system, the CEALT team developed Baskaagi – an AI powered application that tracks and provides real-time bus routes, schedules and delays, while providing tailored planning features. 

Baskaagi aims to make life easier for citizens by giving them access to real-time information on bus services and optimising their routes to save users time, while improving their travel experience. In the long term, Baskaagi could be a widely used application across East Africa, benched on cutting-edge technologies to help improve transport infrastructure and create new economic opportunities for the local people.

Baskaagi represents a promising initiative to solve public transport problems in Djibouti and across East Africa, using technological innovation and artificial intelligence to improve the accessibility and efficiency of public transport services. 

The Hackathon provided a unique opportunity for the teams to create innovative projects that explored possibilities offered by Artificial Intelligence to respond to key challenges in the priority areas of Logistics and Transport, Health, Economy and Education. The teams were selected following a competitive and rigorous selection process including idea pitching.  The selected teams also benefited from training and coaching sessions held to nurture their ideas and potential.  

CEALT’s sterling performance at the Hackathon is worthy of note since it is not the centre’s first win. In 2022, the centre’s EcoLAIR project was announced as the winner at the AUF Hackathon. Aimed at promoting waste recycling, the EcoLAIR- an air conditioning system was created from recycled bottles.  

CEALT continues provides quality training relevant to producing the next generation of engineers and IT specialists needed to bridge developmental gaps through research and innovations. 

Empowering the Next Generation of Innovators: The CEALT creative space- Fablab (Djibouti)

The Centre of Excellence in Logistics and Transport (CEALT) at the University of Djibouti hosts a state-of-the-art creative space- an open access fabrication lab (fab lab) with advanced technology for project creation. The fab lab offers open-source software and hardware for designing, prototyping and product manufacturing. Accessible to the university community and CEALT’s external partners, it allows for a fast concept-to-creation process for the students at the University of Djibouti. 

Aimed at unlocking students’ potential and creativity, the Fablab empowers students with digital design skills, prototyping tools, and new digital technology access for entrepreneurship and research project development, as well as providing a hands-on, accessible environment. The fab lab has been instrumental in fostering the next generation of entrepreneurs and leaders. Key activities of the fab lab include research projects, conferences and workshops, intellectual support for students and teachers as well as exhibitions. 

Since its establishment in 2019, over 150 students have received training and mentorship with more than 50 training workshops and other activities organized each year. In line with bolstering entrepreneurship, four start-ups were established in 2022 to further nurture students’ innovations. Two awards (Hackathons) have been won from the Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie (AUF) and Africa Innovations Week in recognition of ground-breaking innovations from the fab lab. The fab lab is not made accessible only to the university community, however, other individuals with a keen interest in technology are allowed to cultivate their interests through visits and trainings. Over 100 high school students have visited the fab lab to explore activities undertaken.

The CEALT fab lab is part of a global consortium of 1750 fab labs working collaboratively to offer the necessary resources and tools to enable a digitally dynamic and growing world. Other strategic partnerships have been established to further propel the activities of the lab as well as provide technical backstopping when necessary. These include: 

  • Technical partnership with the National Union of Djiboutian Women in the framework of the awareness campaign against Female Genital Mutilation and HIV AIDS 
  • Partnerships with the Ministry of Digital Economy and Innovation (MENI) and the World Bank in the implementation of the National Innovation Strategy 
  • Training and research collaboration with the American Embassy via Morgan State University. 

The Centre of Excellence in Logistics and Transport (CEALT) is one of the 53 centres of excellence established to address developmental challenges in priority areas in the region. With over 30% regional students’ population, the centre is dedicated to equipping its students with specialized training and research tools and knowledge in contributing to improving transport and logistics in the region. 

WACCI (Ghana) Establishes Kofi Annan Enterprise Hub to Unlock Students Entrepreneurial Skills

Background 

The Africa Higher Education Centres for Development Impact project aims to propel entrepreneurship and innovation. Through disbursement linked indicator 5.3 (DLI 5.3), ACE Impact Centres are expected to prioritize innovation and entrepreneurship as part of their activities. Entrepreneurship and innovation are related concepts that go hand in hand. IThrough support from the ACE for Development Impact project, the West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI) runs postgraduate programmes to train Plant Breeders at the PhD level at the University of Ghana focusing on Agronomy, Pathology, Entomology, Genetics and Plant Breeding, Post-harvest Technology, Horticulture, Agribusiness and Entrepreneurship and Agricultural Extension. WACCI aspires to become an African Centre of Excellence for Agricultural Innovation and Entrepreneurship and is committed to quality assurance and is guided by the core values of excellence, integrity, commitment to people, culture of mentoring, accountability, and shared governance.  Through the establishment of the Kofi Annan Enterprise Hub for Agricultural Innovation (KAEHAI) in 2019, the West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI) has achieved great strides in strengthening entrepreneurship and innovation in its programmes.    

KAEHAI was established by WACCI, and the University of Ghana with the aim of contributing to food and nutrition security in Africa by delivering innovations to agricultural value chain actors especially farmers and creating employment opportunities to empower the youth. The Hub also partners with strategic local and international organisations to drive agricultural transformation in sub-Saharan Africa through entrepreneurship. KAEHAI was named after His Excellency Kofi Annan for his instrumental role in giving visibility to youth-empowering projects while serving as Board Chair for the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), the institution that provided initial funding for the establishment of WACCI.   

Activities undertaken by KAEHAI 

KAEHAI has launched 4 impactful programmes since its inception, and these are:

  1. WACCI-MIT Global Startup Labs 
  2. Conversations on Agricultural Innovation and Entrepreneurship 
  3. KAEHAI-ECE Entrepreneurship Training Programme 
  4. KAEHAI – KGL Foundation Incubator Programme 

WACCI-MIT Global Startup Labs

KAEHAI partnered with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA to organize a five-week Summer Entrepreneurship Programme at WACCI in 2019. The initiative, dubbed “Global Startup Labs (GSL) Entrepreneurship Programme”, was an intensive course designed to take students through the process of starting a company, to expose them to relevant entrepreneurship lessons and to improve their technical skills. The GSL programme was founded by MIT to cultivate young technology entrepreneurs all over the world and the curriculum was modelled after incubator courses at MIT and covered two major topics, namely (1) Entrepreneurship & Business Skills and (2) Technical Skills. Out of over 100 applications, 29 applicants were competitively selected and invited to participate in the programme at no cost. At the end of the period, the teams pitched their innovative ideas to a panel of judges consisting of potential investors from the Greater Accra Agricultural and Entrepreneurship communities. 

Conversations on Agricultural Innovation and Entrepreneurship

As part of conversations on agricultural innovation and entrepreneurship KAEHAI hosted Mr. Alhassan Andani, CEO and Executive Director of Stanbic Bank Ghana Ltd, during its maiden edition in October 2020. This first edition featured theaward-winning journalist (Mr. Joseph Opoku Gakpo) as host of the discussion between Mr. Andani and Professor Eric Danquah, Director of WACCI, on the topic: Funding Agricultural Entrepreneurship and Scientific Innovations: The Role of the Private Sector, Government and Philanthropic Organizations. The programme forms part of a series of planned agricultural policy dialogues initiated to host agribusiness executives, policymakers, politicians, the diplomatic corps, and other influential stakeholders to discuss issues on the transformation of agriculture in Ghana.  

KAEHAI-ECE Entrepreneurship Training Programme

KAEHAI in collaboration with the Erasmus Centre for Entrepreneurship (ECE) from Rotterdam, the Netherlands, organized a five-day Entrepreneurship Training Programme in 2021.  This programme was developed with the aim of introducing the basic principles and concepts underlying the entrepreneurship process to empower students, young graduates and new entrepreneurs to apply these to their entrepreneurial projects and startups.  The curriculum was developed by select faculty from the WACCI, University of Ghana Business School, Crop Science and Agribusiness and Agricultural Economics Departments of the University of Ghana in collaboration with the ECE and the Dutch Centers for Entrepreneurship (DutchCE) following a six-week virtual Entrepreneurship Skills “Train the trainer” workshop. Twenty-four students from the above-mentioned units of the University of Ghana participated in the programme. The programme wrapped up with a Pitch Day competition, during which nine teams pitched innovative ideas before a jury panel comprising academics from the University of Ghana and representatives from entrepreneurial support organizations active in Accra. 

KAEHAI – KGL Foundation Incubator Programme

The KAEHAI – KGL Foundation Incubator Programme is a 5-year project to be launched in 2023. The project seeks to address the challenge of youth unemployment by bringing together like-minded individuals from the private and public sectors to provide training and support to students. The model will create opportunities to mentor participants to become entrepreneurs with relevant and appropriate ideas, networks, and support services. This will help trained youth to drive innovation and new product development for agricultural transformation in Ghana. This will be achieved by operationalizing an incubator programme at KAEHAI, in partnership with the KGL Foundation, to train a critical mass of young agribusiness entrepreneurs. It is anticipated that there will be at least 20 agribusiness startups successfully established by the end of the project, providing job opportunities for the youth in Ghana.  

Evidence of the impact of KAEHAI through the WACCI-MIT Global Startup Labs

Mr Evans Larbi participated in the WACCI-MIT Global Startup Lab (GSL) programme in 2019 and described it as a ‘life-changing experience’. Prior to the programme, Evans worked as a smallholder farmer in Agomeda, Accra. During the training, he and his team were ranked second during the final business plan pitches. He then proceeded to use the knowledge he gained to establish the Beit Farms Company together with a group of young graduates who had been exposed to agricultural innovations and agribusiness. In his own words, Evans tells us how the WACCI-MIT GSL platform enabled him to develop practical skills,

I have been able to build more networks and reach more customers, as well as develop innovative initiatives that will help transform and scale up businesses along the entire agricultural value chain”.

Beit Farms currently employs 20 field workers and 4 permanent staff working on his 25-acre vegetable farm in Agomeda, where he produces onions, tomatoes, cabbages, lettuce, cucumbers, carrots, okro, chilli pepper and sweet pepper. In 2021 Beit Farms won the Bizz Hybrid Excellence Award by the World Confederation of Businesses.   

Evans also received additional training through the National Smallholder Farmers’ Summit at WACCI, and the WACCI Maize Workshop – and had the opportunity to share his experiences with other farmers and key stakeholders along the maize value chain. After the maize workshop Evans created DUAPA a mobile app to help farmers in Ghana and Africa to have access to ready markets, creditors, advisories and information on farm research activities.  Following the various trainings, Evans has also registered a cooperative group called the Beit Smallholder Farmers Association with a membership of over 60,000 farmers across Ghana and 80% being women and youth. Since its establishment a little over 3 years ago, the Kofi Annan Enterprise Hub for Agricultural Innovation (KAEHAI) is clearly demonstrating great strides towards advancing entrepreneurship and innovation skills for students at the University of Ghana and for youth in Ghana as a whole. Entrepreneurship and innovation skills development are critical in solving the unemployability challenges faced by youth in Africa.  KAEHAI is also a clear demonstration of how WACCI is delivering on the important disbursement linked indicator 5.3 as is expected under the Africa Higher Education Centres for Development Impact Project.

CEA-MITIC (Senegal) Promotes Green Technology Through Transformative Research

The Centre of Excellence in Mathematics and ICT (CEA-MITIC) hosted by Gaston Berger University (UGB) of Saint-Louis in Senegal actively develops human capital through its Masters and PhD ICT degree programmes and short courses, strengthening research capacities in the areas of secure networks and systems with mobility (including the Internet of Things); modeling of complex systems; materials-components-systems; mathematics and modeling; and computer systems and knowledge (including artificial intelligence). MITIC aims to develop strong and relevant research activities that can solve developmental challenges  impacting Africa, produce knowledge and innovative solutions connected with the productive sectors of agriculture, environment, health, and the digital economy. 

MITIC  is spearheading the Saint-Louis Digital 2025 project. The project engaged all departments at UGB, as well as local authorities in the Saint Louis region, to develop the city as an industrial center based on digital technology.    

Green technology and climate have also incresingly become key areas of research pursued at MITIC. In an article published on the EARTH.ORG website, green technology is defined as “the type and use of technology that are considered environmentally friendly based on its production process or its supply chain, which as a result reduces our carbon footprint“. 

The April 2022 climate change report on mitigation of climate change by the Working Group III of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s appropriately emphasized that: “Digital technologies can promote large increases in energy efficiency through coordination and an economic shift to services …”. 

MITIC has produced several impactful research outputs toward promoting green technology and climate change adaptation and mitigation. 

  1. MITIC is involved in the following green technology research: reduction of energy consumption of electronic devices through implementation of biodegradable electronic circuits and devices; energy recovery from agricultural residues by gasification for electricity production; and has installed a pseudo-gasification reactor to champion waste to energy technologies.
  2. The case of incomplete meteorological data: To mitigate climate change and green technology MITIC analysed missing meteorological data from the Senegal databases. Climate change studies and mitigation require complete and reliable meteorological databases to analyse climate indications, monitor its evolution, and accurately predict future variations. MITIC evaluated 5 methods and found that that the missForest method was able to reconstruct temperature data most accurately. The significance of this study on green technology and climate change mitigation was that the Senegal meteorological data from 1973 to 2020 could be reconstructed to support the readiness of Senegal to alleviate climate change impacts. 
  3. Malaria community-based early-warning systems and adaptation strategies:
    Illnesses that are transmitted by organisms that act as routes such as mosquitoes, flies, ticks are sensitive to climate and weather conditions. MITIC examined malaria data from the Senegal National Malaria Control Program and outputs from climate data and compared these data sets. The findings revealed that seasonal malaria transmission was closely associated with the variation of the rainfall. This study revealed that the peak of malaria takes place from September to October, with a lag of around one month from the peak of rainfall in Senegal. These results indicated that the southern part of Senegal was at the highest risk of malaria epidemics. The conclusions in the paper are projected to guide community-based early-warning systems and adaptation strategies in Senegal. These strategies would strengthen the Senegal national malaria prevention, response strategies, and care strategies that are tailored to the needs of local communities.
  4. Weather forecasting using the Ensemble machine learning model.
    Machine Learning is one of the technologies used in agriculture for weather forecasting, crop disease detection and other applications. Machine learning entails computers learning from data provided so that they carry out certain tasks. MITIC conducted research to develop Machine Learning-based models designed to handle daily weather forecasting for rainfall, relative humidity, and maximum and minimum temperature in Senegal. In this research, MITIC compared ten Machine Learning Regressors with their Ensemble Model. These models were evaluated based on mean absolute error, mean squared error, root mean squared error and coefficient of determination. The results showed that the Ensemble Model performed better than the other models. The importance of this study affirmed that the Ensemble machine learning model could support the protection of the environment through accurate weather forecasting in Senegal.
       
  5. An IoT based system for pollution prediction and assessment. 
    MITIC developed a distributed and intelligent system to assess and predict pollution in Southern Senegal. The Internet of Things (IoT) intelligent platform assesses the impact of incineration in public dumps of households and similar waste, as well as the impact of burning sugar cane on the health of populations. The system collects data on the type of atmospheric pollutants resulting from the incineration of garbage in the communities of Saint Louis and Richard Toll. The research also analysed the possible links between types of pollutants (that is, CO, CO2, NO, NO2, PM10, PM2.5, PM1, black carbon, and volatile organic compounds) and respiratory diseases (Asthma, Acute Respiratory Infections, and Meningitis). The platform is an IoT Fog/Edge network that distributes computation, communication, control, and storage closer to the end users along the cloud-to-things continuum. The relevance of fog/edge is entrenched in both the inadequacy of the traditional cloud and the emergence of new opportunities for the Internet of Things, fifth generation cellular network standards (5G) and embedded artificial intelligence. This MITIC study demonstrates the use of high-end computer science technologies to address pollution challenges and associated health challenges.
  6. Energy Efficiency related research
    MITIC is also involved in research on “low energy consumption” by studying the reduction of energy consumption of electronic devices through implementation of biodegradable electronic circuits and devices. MITIC is also working on energy recovery from agricultural residues by gasification and the evaluation of the potential of different crop residues. The research also evaluated the gasification systems for electricity production and tested / optimized the selected models. MITIC has installed a pseudo-gasification reactor to champion waste to energy technologies. MITIC has optimized biogas production from residues obtained after the processing of fish products. This research aims to solve the problem related to waste management, in particular fish product residues. The goal is to develop a biogas production industry from fish waste. 

The research by MITIC clearly demonstrates their leadership in the areas of green technologies and climate change mitigation through high-end research. Green technologies based on internet of things, machine learning and artificial intelligence have been developed by MITIC to improve weather forecasting, assess pollution and develop energy efficient devices. Through quality research MITIC has also supported the reconstruction of Senegal’s meteorological data and developed malaria early warning systems. 

CEFTER, Nigeria Tackles Post Harvest Loss in the Sub-region through Improved Technologies

The lack of adequate capacity and technologies to protect harvest in the Africa sub-region have resulted in an annual post-harvest loss estimated between 35-50 percent of food produced (Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Network (FANRPAN), Globally, ending poverty, increasing food and nutrition security, and promoting responsible consumption and production are part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 1, 2 and 12 respectively.  

Inspired by their mandate as empowered by the World Bank ACE program,  the Centre for Food Technology and Research (CEFTER) has committed significant resources in the direction of propelling intellectual contributions towards the ultimate control of post-harvest losses in west and central Africa. CEFTER is rewriting the continent’s history with its innovative research outcomes.  These efforts have resulted in the production of life-changing technological innovations targeted at rural farmers to enhance the agricultural value chain and strengthen food security generally within the sub-Saharan Africa. 

Specifically, CEFTER has powered game-changing innovations aimed at improving soybeans cultivation and processing for optimal market efficiency such as the introduction of soya oil, and soya milk. Based on the innovative research findings from the center, the formulation of nutritional yoghurt from soybean was birthed. Subsequently, CEFTER has set up a factory for yoghurt production, contributing significantly to enhancing the livelihoods of target farming communities.  

Through the centre’s Post Graduate Hub, resources have been mobilized to coordinate the design and fabrication of a thermal solar dryer for vegetables and fruit processing. This innovation provides a healthy and fast method of drying food items like yam, cassava, and potatoes, amongst other crops and others.  

With intentions of commercializing the initiative, a pilot-scale consumer-based study has been carried out to enable the Centre to review notes and launch the commercial version in significant quantities. This version when completed will be used by the Center’s agricultural extension team to sensitize farmers and prepare the market to accommodate the technology in line with the expected outcomes of the project. The machine was exhibited at the National Technology Innovation Expo in Abuja in March 2021.  

Cassava is a food item that is produced in large quantities across west and central Africa. In Nigeria over the years, the demand for this multi-purpose product has been far below the supply, thus leading to a significant waste of this all-important food product. To help situate efforts in this regard, Cassava Cookies, CEFTER-sponsored research by Dorcas Nguemo Kundama student, on the use of cassava flour for the production of cookies was introduced through rigorous laboratory tests. This has been subsequently approved for production in commercial quantities. Through this research, a highly nutritious cassava-based cookie has been formulated by our students. The cookies are being supplemented as part of homegrown feeding programmes for pupils under the Federal Government of Nigeria, thus yielding good revenue for the Centre. 

Some other notable innovations produced by the CEFTER include: Freeze drier, Fish processing machine, Motorized groundnut shelling machine and threshers, fruit juice pasteurizer, Ohmic heating system and pulsed electric field equipment for pasteurization of milk and juice, solar driers, as well as integrated energy driers.  

In strict compliance with conventional digital trends, CEFTER recently launched the e-agricultural extension network to fill in the gap and mediate between other relevant agricultural agencies whose activities directly impact rural farmers. To this end, over 300 volunteer e-extension workers were trained on various aspects of the project, connecting farmers to relevant information that would enhance agricultural practices and inspire the application of agricultural research findings. 

To end the constant frustrations that rural farmers and other stakeholders in the agricultural businesses face in the hands of middlemen in agro-business, CEFTER in collaboration with other partners, launched the CEFTER e-commerce Platform for small, medium, and large-scale farmers, with customers comprising of wholesalers, retailers, and consumers. The technology has the central objective of making agribusiness simple, fast, secure, and affordable. The technology has been deployed and the experiential testimonies from both farmers and consumers are heartwarming. Farmers get value for their products, waste is significantly reduced, and buyers can be easily located on the platform,  

Another area of impact is the short-term courses developed by the centre. So far, about 1437 participants have benefited from these courses, stretching from national and regional communities. 65 people benefited from a regional training on Basic Food hygiene and safety was organized in 2021. Southern Cameroon is in crisis with a large majority of it’s population displaced due to drought and food scarcity. The people living in displaced communities and internally displaced peoples (IDP) camps are vulnerable to food-borne diseases and contaminations. The training created awareness among the IDPs and refugees to be able to innovatively store and process food in better hygienic conditions. The training further covered topics such as the processing of Yam and Plantain, as well as the making of Sanitizers.

Pushing the Frontiers of Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Africa’s Higher Education Eco-System

Globalization and internationalization, amongst other factors, have modified the role African universities play in society. Universities are now expected to be highly innovative and entrepreneurial; commercializing their research outcomes and spinning-out new knowledge-based enterprises, collaborating closely with the private sector, and offering advisory services, among a host of other key actions.  The reduction in countries public funds, coupled with the lean government budgets for higher education, demand that higher education innovate and generates external funding to supplement its budget and facilitate meeting overall goals.   

In response to this need, the ACE Impact project is strengthening innovation and entrepreneurship activities in  35 participating universities, while actively contributing to the creation of a pool of highly innovative universities, a crucial group needed to champion Africa’s economic transformation agenda.  Since its inception in 2019, the project has supported the 53 ACE Impact centres to develop robust implementation plans in three core areas – 1) strengthening of technology transfer 2) development of institutional innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem and 3) innovation-oriented cooperation of research infrastructures.  The prioritization of these key areas is congruous with the Disbursement Linked Indicator 5.3 (DLI 5.3), included in the project to track the successes and results of participating centres in meeting pre-agreed milestones under the critical themes of innovation and entrepreneurship.   

Under this DLI (DLI 5.3), the project, working alongside experts, supported the centres to develop plans and implement activities related to innovation and entrepreneurship.  A thorough review process of centres implementation plans revealed they were at different levels in terms of their institutional innovation ecosystem. centres were advised and empowered to measure their technological institutional readiness for innovation and entrepreneurship.  The centres have been equipped with the requisite tools and information to facilitate the engagement of authorities in their institutions and at the country levels to prioritize innovation.  

The senior consultant and expert in entrepreneurship and innovation at the World Bank, Dr. Danica Ramljakan, provided very pertinent feedback to the centres following the review process, including the recommendation that the centres need to have appropriate Science Technology Innovation (STI) policies in place and ensure its effective implementation. Centres were charged by her to ensure that institutional capacity building for STI management and governance were in place, in addition to establishing efficient models for knowledge transfer to prioritize capacity building.  

The ACE Impact project also charged the centres to define their research and development priorities, develop a roadmap for research infrastructure, and provide sustainable support for innovation development.  Equally important to fostering innovation and entrepreneurial activities were the recommendations to attract the private sector to collaborate and invest in higher education Institutions’’ research and development (R&D), strengthen international collaborations, and inform the general public about the importance of the Centres’ work. 

Centres have already begun to implement key interventions and have recorded significant improvements.   

The Centre of Excellence for Food Technology and Research (CEFTER) at the Benue State University, Nigeria, for instance, has established a new Technology Transfer Office (TTO) and appointed a Technology Transfer Officer, as part of its intervention to strengthen the management of innovation and promote entrepreneurship/commercialisation. CEFTER has also instituted a startup grant scheme, to accelerate good business ideas and drive innovation forward. Already, 10 startups with commercialisable ideas have been selected to benefit from this scheme, following a competitive process involving 1,080 applicants. They are set to undergo a three (3) months incubation (booth camp) during which they will interact with experts in different fields for technical support, as well as undergo training on important subjects, including market research, product development, testing and validation, financial modelling, innovator business branding among others.  

The ICT-Driven Knowledge Park (OAK-PARK) at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria developed a non-credit unit course ETR 700 (Engineering Entrepreneurship Process) and offered this course to its postgraduate students, dentistry students and faculty members of the Centre. The centre’s recently established Incubation Centre and ICT Garden were commissioned in December 2022 by Nigeria’s Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Professor Isa Ali Ibrahim, who also gave a lecture on the topic ‘Research, Innovation and Sustainable Development’, as part of a lecture and commissioning event organised by the centre to bring its stakeholders together to engage with the topic of innovation.   

Centres under the ACE Impact project have also been creating important platforms to engage key stakeholders from industry, government and the general public through the organisation of innovation weeks and research fares. In November, 2022, CEFTER hosted the West and Central Africa Post Harvest Congress and exhibition in Abuja, where most of its innovations were exhibited and in February 2023, it hosted its annual food week (innovation week) during which Masters and PhD students showcased different food processing and packaging technologies they had innovated.  The Centre Leader, Dr Barnabas Ikyo, concludes that the project has positively impacted the University in various areas, citing an example that its company – CEFTER Foods Nigeria Ltd, established in line with the centre’s entrepreneurial activities, produces water, cassava-based cookies and bread in commercial quantities to serve both the university and external community members. He adds that as result of ongoing research by the Centre, the State Government released seventy (70) hectares of land to the university to build a College of agriculture, cultivate model farms and to carry out other innovative research activities. 

Memorandum of Understanding (MoUs) to support entrepreneurship and innovation, and commercialization of research have also been entered into by some centre’s of excellence and various strategic partners to facilitate implementation and engagement on various fronts.  

Looking ahead, the Centres of Excellence are optimistic about pushing the frontiers of innovation and entrepreneurship in Africa’s higher education eco-system and deepening their engagement and impact in this topical focus area.  From viable businesses, the take-off of spin off companies, the registration of patents, introduction of resourceful products and technologies, and strengthening of appropriate systems, partnerships and the entire innovation eco-system, the Centres current efforts are soon to reach maturity for Africa’s benefit. 

Students at STEE (Gambia) Champion Energy Efficiency Through Invention of the SmartHouse App

With the global climate crisis, energy conservation is crucial now more than ever to the promotion of energy efficiency.  Given power challenges across the sub-Sahara African region, resources have been invested, leading to the advocacy and formulation of policies to adequately address this challenge. The Gambia is one of the many countries in West Africa struggling to keep from a total power breakdown.  struggling to keep at bay total power breakdown. To combat this challenge, students at the Science, Technology and Engineering for Entrepreneurship (STEE) at the University of Science, Engineering and Technology (USET), The Gambia developed the SmartHouse app as a tool to propel energy conservation in the Gambia. USET hosts the Gambia’s first school of engineering, supported under the ACE Impact project.

Led by Maimuna Jallow, a third-year female electrical engineering student of USET, the SmartHouse app was designed to give home owners greater control of their energy usage, thereby enhancing the safety and security of homes in their absence. The app is designed in a way that appliances can be automatically controlled remotely using a networked device, with select appliances installed to be user-friendly. all one needs to do is to download the app for free.  

The Smart House app consist of a simple technology that entails components of Civil and Electrical Electronic Engineering. The students made use of light dependant resistor (LDR) and Node MicroController Unit (NODEMCU) to control lamps, fans, and sockets in the house, as well as detecting darkness without the involvement of a person during black outs. The SmartHouse app was launched in November 2022 at the 8th ACE Impact Regional Workshop, which was opened by the President of the Gambia, in Banjul, among other student innovations including a smart bin, electric car and scooter, and solar water pumping system. The students announced that this was a pilot and with appropriate funding could be expanded and commercialised. Pamela Bass, a third-year student and member of the team noted that “If we are supported, we can do installation of houses with our app and customers can be paying us monthly or annually.” 

The ACE Impact project is committed to highlighting the innovative and creative abilities of students, encouraging participation in the application of the acquired knowledge, skills, and abilities to solve problems pertaining to national and global development. 

World Bank and its Partners to Assess the Regional Impact of the Centre of Excellence Projects

The Africa Higher Education Centres of Excellence (ACE) project is pleased to announce the launch of the Impact Evaluation for the ACE series of projects. The evaluation will assess the progress of the ACE series of projects- ACE 1, ACE 2, and ACE Impact. Co-funded by the World Bank and the AFD, the evaluation will be conducted by independent experts and commenced in Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Nigeria, although key analytical work will be applied to measure the impact in all participating countries.

 

The Africa Higher Education Centers of Excellence (ACE) is a World Bank initiative in collaboration with governments of participating countries to support higher education institutions specializing in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), Agriculture, Health, Environment and Social Science/Applied Science and Education. It is the first World Bank regional project building the capacities of African universities to address specific common regional development challenges and meet the demand for skills required for Africa’s development through high-quality training and applied research.

The first phase (ACE I) was launched in 2014 with 22 Centers of Excellence in Nine (9) West and Central African countries- Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, and Togo. The second phase (ACE II) was launched in East and Southern Africa with 24 centers across Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia. Based on the initial successes, the World Bank, and the French Development Agency (AFD) in collaboration with the African governments, launched the ACE Impact Project in 2019 to further strengthen post-graduate training and applied research in existing fields and support new fields that are essential for Africa’s economic growth. Under ACE Impact, there are 53 ACEs specializing in the broad thematic areas of STEM, agriculture, health, environment, and social/applied science and education.

 

The Impact evaluation will therefore provide a defined pathway toward subsequent implementation of the ACE model and further guide the design of future national and regional higher education projects.  More specifically, the impact evaluation would:

  • Identify and highlight key lessons to-date from the ACE projects, discussing project design and implementation concerning quality, relevance, access, governance, and financing and how these relate to training of higher education students and research outputs.
  • Assess the impact so far at the sectoral level (STEM, Health, Agriculture, and Education fields), higher education national/institutional system level, and within local/regional communities -focusing on the four target countries; and
  • Develop overall and country-specific policy recommendations culminating from the findings, focusing on the higher education sectors at the institutional and national levels.

 

To commence the assessment process, interviews will be scheduled in centres hosted in the pilot countries.  The preliminary findings will be presented at the ACE Impact bi-annual regional workshop to be held in May 2023. In addition, the first draft of deliverables will be shared in June for further review and feedback by key stakeholders.

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