Breaking Barriers in Digital Innovation – The Story of Fatoumata Thiam

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Centre of Excellence in Logistics and Transport (CEALT) hosts a state-of-the-art creative space- an open access fab lab with advanced technology for project creation. Hosted at the University of Djibouti, the fab lab offers open-source software and hardware for prototyping and product manufacturing. Accessible to all, 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 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, 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. 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. 

The Africa Higher Education Centers of Excellence: A Pathway towards Sustainable Development – High-Level Meetings with Partners

In collaboration with the French Development Agency, AFD (co-financier of ACE-Impact), the French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development, IRD (facilitating ACEs’ regional networks), and the Association of African Universities, AAU (ACE-Impact Regional Facilitation Unit), the World Bank is organizing a two-day high-level event under the theme: “The Africa Higher Education Centers of Excellence: A Pathway towards Sustainable Development”The event took place at the World Bank Headquarters in Washington, DC, on October 17 and 18, 2022, and brought together the ACEs and the most influential decision makers in the development space to discuss the centers’ innovations and best practices at both national and regional levels, as well as their challenges and opportunities. Following the high-level event, the ACEs travelled on October 20 and 21, 2022 to Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University for peer-learning and partnership opportunities.

The event was co-funded by the World Bank, the AFD and the World Bank China Partnership Facility (CWPF).

Read More about this event

ACENTDFB Research Discovers Prevalence of Dengue in Northern Nigeria

Written By Murrjanatu Abba

Contrary to previous studies on the commonality of Dengue fever in some parts of Nigeria, a study by a Master’s degree student of the Africa Center of Excellence for Neglected Tropical Diseases and Forensic Biotechnology, (ACENTDFB) hosted by the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria Daniel Thakuma Tizhe found the presence of Dengue infection, as well as Dengue and Malaria co-infections with an overall sero-prevalence of 19.4% in Adamawa State. The study was supervised by Professor Jacob Kwaga and Dr. Grace Kia revealing that only Dengue virus serotype 1 isolates were found to be in circulation.

Dengue is a mosquito-borne viral infection that occurs in tropical and subtropical areas of the world such as Africa and Asia. The virus is transmitted to humans through the bites of infected female mosquitoes. The infection causes flu-like illness, and occasionally develops into a potentially lethal complication called Severe Dengue. The global incidence of Dengue has grown dramatically in recent decades and about half of the world’s population is now at risk. There is no specific treatment for dengue/severe dengue, but early detection and access to proper medical care lowers fatality rates from more than 20% to less than 1%. Dengue prevention and control depends on effective vector control measures. The control and management of Dengue remains the primary priority of public healthcare institutions in  many endemic countries.

A population-based survey was conducted in healthcare facilities in Adamawa State, Nigeria to determine the occurrence of dengue fever based on ELISA serological test, and the serotypes of the virus in circulation, using the highly sensitive Real-Time PCR technique.

Prior to this study, dengue had not been reported in the study location, but this survey found dengue infection, as well as dengue and malaria co-infections, across the study locations with an overall sero-prevalence of 19.4%. Surprisingly only Dengue virus serotype 1 isolates were found to be in circulation.

Based on the study’s findings, it was recommended that public healthcare professionals should consider other causes of febrile illnesses hence the need to conduct laboratory diagnosis to determine the possible causes of the infection.

ACEGID (Nigeria) Trains 100+ Scientists from Over 30 African Countries in One Year

Written By Mr. Fikayo Oyewale

In the last year, the African Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases (ACEGID) trained over 100 African scientists from more than 30 countries in next-generation sequencing of SARS-CoV-2 and other pathogens. This is part of the centre’s effort towards building genomics capacity across Africa. The workshops were held in-country, at ACEGID, Redeemer’s University, Ede, Nigeria, and at partner institutions in Cote D’Ivoire, Rwanda, Cameroon and Seychelles. The participants were staff of public health institutions drawn from countries such as Tunisia, Benin Republic, Togo, Liberia, Guinea, Djibouti, and other African countries. Participants receive hands-on sequencing and bioinformatics training facilitated by ACEGID’s pool of young doctoral and research fellows. These scientists demonstrated passion about sharing their expertise with others.


ACEGID was founded in 2014 with initial funding from the World Bank (over US$13 million including funds from the ACE Impact project), as one of the centres of excellence aimed at developing relevant human capacity to address Africa’s challenges through research and innovation. The centre continues to lead innovations in using genomics for surveillance, characterization and diagnosis of infectious diseases as well as for vaccine and drug development. The centre’s education and research missions is fused into a robust capacity building system targeted at young African scientists. ACEGID’s Director, Prof Christian Happi, discussed the rationale for the centre’s drive for capacity building on the continent and remarked saying: “We know that Africa has lots of pathogens that have pandemic potential. I think it is natural for Africa to be in the vanguard. Building capacity will enable Africa to be at the forefront of genomic surveillance, pandemic pre-emption and response” .

Scientists in public health institutions, who are responsible for their countries’ sequencing activities participated in the workshops. The participants expressed their thoughts about their experiences. “Frankly speaking, I don’t have enough words to express my gratitude for what you did for us. You took us from almost zero to a good level. Personally, I am very thankful and I wish to see you again,” said Jean Shimirwa, a participant in the training held at the Rwanda Biomedical Centre, Kigali, Rwanda.

Anissa Chouikha, Associate Professor at the Laboratory of Clinical Virology, Pasteur Institute of Tunis, said “This training is important to me because I am a virologist. It will help me monitor new variants and strains that are circulating in my country.” In recognition of the training and research efforts, ACEGID was recently awarded the Al-Sumait Prize for African Development for its continental capacity building effort, among others.

The Fight against COVID-19: How ACE-Impact health centres supported a stronger regional response through cutting-edge & innovative research

The Fight against COVID-19: How ACE-Impact health centres cutting-edge & innovative research supported a stronger regional response

Written By Mrs. Felicia Nkrumah Kuagbedzi

The African Continent, and by extension the world, suffered the brutal impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in its various sectors including the higher education sector.  This article profiles the impressive contribution of the Health Centres under the ACE Impact project, in responding to the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic on society.

Responses by the Centres, included the conduction of groundbreaking scientific research, technological innovations and sensitization of the general public.   Others included the provision of technical advice to governments and various national and continental level institutions on the management of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Key Interventions

The centres have been instrumental in conducting cutting-edge research to guide the development of new approaches to disease diagnosis, prevention, and control. During the heat of the COVID-19 pandemic, the African Centre of Excellence in Genomics of Infectious Diseases (ACEGID) hosted by the Redeemer’s University in Nigeria and the West Africa Centre for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens (WACCBIP) hosted by the University of Ghana were the first institutions in the sub-region to sequence the SARS-CoV 2 virus genomes to track mutations. In addition, CERHI and ACENTDFB (both in Nigeria) made available their ultra-modern laboratories in support of PCR tests for the COVID-19 virus.

The Conduction of Groundbreaking Scientific Research


Centres of Excellence in the fields of genomics and infectious diseases were instrumental in the genomic sequencing of the virus. Notable among the centres were ACEGID and WACCBIP The centres successfully sequenced genomes of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes Covid-19) and also tracked mutations of the virus leading to the discovery of the new variants in the respective host countries and the continent at large. ACEGID alone tested over 141,000 samples from Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Somalia, Rwanda, Gabon and Algeria, and was one of the first within the region to identify the Alpha, Beta, Delta, Omicron, 20A, 20B, 20C, 20G, among other variants of the virus. WACCBIP was also the only center to conduct nation- wide sequencing covering all the 16 regions of Ghana. Between 2020-2022, over 20,000 tests were conducted across Ghana, Nigeria and Burkina Faso. The center also identified the first cases of Alpha, Eta, Omicron, BA2, BA4 among other variants in Ghana.

Again, ACEGID developed a COVID 19 screening tool to measure individual risk levels. WACCBIP also developed a scalable test that can perform large scale screenings and rapidly test thousands to millions of samples at a given time as well as an affordable Antigen test developed in collaboration with the University of Southampton. Several research publications on mutations and management of the COVID-19 virus have been published by both centres including the first African manuscript of genetic analysis of SARS-CoV-2 variations published by WACCBIP.

Collectively, ACEGID and WACCBIP supported over 30 other African countries in terms of genome sequencing, training of scientists, and guiding government policies in terms of managing the spread of the virus. These countries include Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo Republic, Cote D’Ivoire, Djibouti, DR Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Liberia, Mali, Morocco, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Seychelles, Somalia, Sudan, among others.

The contributions of these centres have been acknowledged by governments of the host countries, continental and international bodies -including the World Health Organization and the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, media houses and various stakeholders within and outside the science fraternity. In addition, WACCBIP and ACEGID received funds from various donors and development partners to strengthen COVID-19 research among other research activities of the centres. ACEGID received over US$ 58million from the Rockefeller Foundation, ELMA Philanthropies, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as well as the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, among others. WACCBIP also benefited from over US$6 million in funds from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the ACE-partner Programme through the WANIDA Network, K FCDO Ghana Partnerships Beyond Aids Programme, WELLCOME/FCDO Grant, the Rockefeller Foundation, among others.

Other centres such as the Centre of Excellence in Reproductive Health Innovation (CERHI) and the Africa Centre of Excellence for Neglected Tropical Diseases and Forensic Biotechnology (ACENTDFB) both in Nigeria also availed their centres’ laboratories for further relevant research.

Technological Innovations

Some of the non-health thematic ACEs came up with technological inventions which contributed greatly to the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. The Centre for Mathematics, Computer Science, and ICT (CEA-MITIC), Senegal developed a software for the electronic management of COVID-19 patients’ files and an application (app) for self-screening. The app is used to assess user symptoms and exposure to determine their risk of infection. In addition, ACEGID developed a COVID-19 vaccine candidate, which showed over 90 percent effectiveness during preclinical trials. The centre for the Teaching & Learning of Math and Science for Sub-Saharan Africa (CEA-MS4SSA) produced solar-powered hand washing equipment for institutions in Niger. Given that power supply is intermittent in many places across Africa, such solar-powered handwashing equipments are highly essential, as they ensure a smooth and uninterrupted operation process, thus facilitating frequent hand washing, and curtailing the spread of Covid-19 in many communities and environments.


Public Sensitization and Mass Production of Protective Items

The Centres worked closely with their host universities to raise awareness about the need for heightened hygiene practices. This was achieved using different channels such as posters, digital campaigns, memos and publication in the media. ACEs such as the Centre for Public Health and Toxicological Research (ACE-PUTOR), Centre of Excellence for Population Health and Policy (ACEPHAP), Africa Centre of Excellence for Drug Research, Herbal Medicine Development and Regulatory Science (ACEDHARS), engaged in diverse sensitization campaigns to enhance knowledge of the public on the pandemic. These centres contributed greatly to the production of protective items for use in their respective countries

TRECK enhances it’s centres digital infrastructure to expand online training & regional access

TRECK to Employ Digital tools for Traffic Data Collection and Monitoring: The Africa Centre of Excellence (ACE) – Regional Transport Research and Education Centre Kumasi (TRECK) has acquired various digital tools to provide hands on training for its graduate students.  Since November 2019, TRECK annually embarks on training workshops for students aimed at mainstreaming the use of digital tools for traffic data collection and project monitoring in Kumasi. The studentsare able to setup, retrieve data, and conduct analysis with various tools including a) speed measurement and monitoring using the radar and laser speed guns, the pneumatic tube and counter for vehicle classification, spot speed measurement, headway and other video-based equipment including monovision counters. Another aspect of the training involves the use of Unmanned Ariel Vehicles or drones for traffic monitoring, Construction project monitoring, use of drones for geographical data for design of roadway alignment and area wide traffic congestion surveillance and software for the design of road infrastructure.

Senior PhD students teaching newly enrolled MSc student in Drone piloting

TRECK Sets up Studio and Embarks on Digitization of Courses: TRECK has also acquired studio equipment to enable its staff to offer hybrid courses, webinars and provide online teaching. The Centre is currently embarking on a driver to digitize its MSc Transport Leadership course to enable participants to take over 60% online classes and only 30% residential on campus activities. Property management cleaning can be a lucrative option for experienced and qualified cleaning experts and cleaning companies in California. This will make its courses accessible to more participants across the regional countries, reduce the time spent off work to attend graduate school classes, and make individual courses accessible to the working class.

Use of digital Apps to Improve the Transport System in Ghana: Researchers at the Africa Centre of Excellence – Regional Transport Research and Education Centre Kumasi (TRECK) of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana have developed a Mobile App which gives detailed route guidance and location identity for travel planning in Twi (a local Ghanaian language) and English. It also has a Twi travel dictionary, local business database, cultural and social information and uses popular landmarks to provide location information based on data collected through in-depth research conducted by the team. Read more about the MyTroski App.  The App is available on Google play store.


KNUST and TRECK Unveiled myTroski Mobile App: the smart way of finding places and planning your travel in Ghana

Researchers at the Africa Centre of Excellence – Regional Transport Research and Education Centre Kumasi (TRECK) of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana have developed a Mobile App which gives detailed route guidance and location identity for travel planning in Twi (a local Ghanaian language) and English. It also has a Twi travel dictionary, local business database, cultural and social information and uses popular landmarks to provide location information based on data collected through in-depth research conducted by the team. Speaking at the launch of the MyTroski App in Kumasi, Ghana, the Pro Vice-Chancellor Prof. Ellis Owusu Dabo, who was represented by Prof. Charles Marfo, Provost of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, indicated that MyTroski would benefit businesses, schools, public transport users, security services, fire service, municipal revenue collection, national disaster management organization, Ghana Police service, and the Municipal authority. Present at the launch were representatives of the Ghana Private Road Transport Union (GPRTU), Progressive Transport Owners’ Association (PROTOA), National Disaster Management Organization (NADMO), Bolt, Ghana Fire Service, Ghana Police Service, KNUST Security services, the Chief of Boadi, among others.


The innovation was developed by Dr. Gift Dumedah, Prof. Charles Marfo, and Dr. Samuel Ato Andam-Akorful. In his introductory remarks, Prof. Charles Adams, Centre Leader for TRECK expressed joy that the interdisciplinary applied research of the Centre is yielding dividends and this is a good example of collaboration between the College Humanities and Social Sciences, and the College of Engineering. He hinted that myTroski would become a spinoff business of TRECK to extend the project to other municipalities in Ashanti region and Accra Metropolitan Area. He called on stakeholders and partners to provide support through the downloading and use of the App. The stakeholders were awed with the innovation and reiterated the benefits it will bring to their work. MyTroski is downloadable from the website, or directly at Google play store. MyTroski is at its initial stage and is available for only Android phones, and it is yet to be made available on Apple devices.




Otuekong Ekpo (at the left) with Joseph Atta Yeboah (at the middle) and Solomon Dodoo (at the right)

The 2021 National Cyber Quiz Competition was organized by the Institute of Compliance and Cyber Studies to create awareness about Cyber-Security and its related issues. The maiden edition of the quiz lasted for five days and was launched on Monday 18th October 2021, concluding on Friday, 22nd October 2021 at Knutsford University, East Legon.

Competing schools were Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, University of Ghana, University of Cape Coast, Lancaster University, Academic City College, Valley View University, Central University and Ghana Christian Heritage University.

KNUST was ably represented by Joseph Atta Yeboah, Otuekong Ekpo and Solomon Dodoo Attoh, postgraduate students of the Cyber-Security and Digital Forensics programme from the Department of Computer Science. These students are also part of the KNUST engineering Education Project (KEEP), a project which seeks to deliver high quality postgraduate courses and applied research focused on addressing development challenges related to industrialization, digital development (ICT), energy systems, renewable energy, manufacturing, exploration and development of oil and gas industry.

The quiz competition featured questions in information security, cyber ethics, cyber law, emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, and blockchain.

KNUST made history by lifting the trophy for the maiden edition of the cyber quiz competition.  KEEP scholars won a cash prize, certificates and a sponsorship for a compliance and cyber analyst course in January 2022.

KNUST College of Engineering (Ghana) awarded CAD $1 Million grant

KNUST College of Engineering (Ghana) awarded CAD $1 Million grant

The Vice Chancellor of KNUST, Prof. (Mrs.) Rita Akosua Dickson (in the middle) with Pro Vice Chancellor of KNUST, Prof. Ellis Owusu-Dabo (2nd from right) with Dean of Faculty of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Prof. Abdu- Rahman Ahmed (right) with Provost of the College of Engineering, Prof. Mark Adom-Asamoah (2nd from left) and the Principal Investigator and Scientific Director for RAIL, Prof. Jerry John Kponyo (left)

The College of Engineering, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) , the KNUST Engineering Education Project (KEEP), one of the nine Centres of Excellence  in Ghana has been awarded a grant to fund the establishment of a Responsible Artificial Intelligence Lab (RAIL) under the Artificial Intelligence for Development (AI4D) Africa Multidisciplinary Labs project initiated by International Development Research Centre (IDRC). RAIL has been envisioned as a Maker Space that would develop talents in Data Science and Machine Learning to help bridge the widening skills gap needed to champion the Digital Economic Transformation agenda of Ghana and the Sub-Region.

The activities in this Innovation Centre are aligned with the KNUST Engineering Education Project (KEEP) digital development technologies thematic area, specifically set to promote the digitalization of products, processes, and services via innovative toolbox development for Renewable Energies, Health, Agriculture, Climate Change and close engagements with local Small and Medium-Scale Enterprises (SMEs) and governmental bodies.

The CAD $1 Million Lab would be networked centrally and  decentralized to allow intelligent, flexible, and future-oriented collaboration across multiple sites using common IT equipment. The Faculty of Electrical and Computer Engineering would host this centrally networked lab infrastructure, which would provide computing, research, training, and expertise transfer to Universitée Alioune Diop de Bambey (Senegal), The University of Cape Verde, and The Gambia Technical Training Institute.

Prof. Jerry John Kponyo, the Principal Investigator (PI) and the Scientific Director of the Lab and the Deputy Project Lead for KEEP, in his initial reaction to the news of the grant award is grateful to IDRC and GIZ for jointly funding the setup of the Lab. He stressed the “need to adopt collaboration and a multidisciplinary approach to solving the peculiar challenges in the sub-region.” He is of the view that Artificial Intelligence holds the key to leveraging technologies to unlock the potential of highly talented young innovators in the sub-region. The PI also sees the funding as a mustard seed through which multiple initiatives could be developed to realize the African dream.

The Dean of Faculty of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Prof. Abdul-Rahman Ahmed, was also happy that the team he constituted to respond to the funding call with the help of the Office of Grants and Research (OGR) has worked diligently to make the RAIL project a reality. He further indicated that the RAIL project reinforces the faculty’s vision of developing strategic collaboration between academia, SMEs, and government actors to enable transfer-oriented cooperation between applied research, skills development, regional industry, entrepreneurs, and service providers, to empower more players to engage in technology-based innovations in the sub-region.

The Provost of the College of Engineering, Prof. Mark Adom-Asamoah was excited about the prospects of the Lab and encouraged all key actors in the project implementation to work together to realize the ultimate objectives of the Lab Vice-Chancellor of KNUST, Prof. (Mrs.) Rita Akosua Dickson, in congratulating the team indicated that the grant couldn’t have come at a better time. She urged the team to keep working hard to win more grants.

The project team is made up of Prof. Jerry John Kponyo (PI), Dr. Isaac Acquah, Dr. James Dzisi Gadze (HoD of Telecommunications Engineering), Dr. Eric Tutu Tchao, Mr. Andrew Selasi Agbemenu, Mrs. Christiana Selorm Aggor, Dr. Mrs. Eunice Akyereko, Dr. Henry Nunoo-Mensah, Mr. Benjamin Kommey, Prof. Francis Kemeausuor, and Dr. Christopher Appiah.

KEEP will provide a Laboratory space for setting up the Responsible AI Lab. The Lab will be supported for three years to set up and run short courses in disruptive technologies and a master’s programme in Data Science and Machine Learning. RAIL would also provide research support to PhDs, advisory and extension services, policy formulation, and agenda-setting around Responsible Artificial Intelligence use.

Click here for more information on KEEP

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