CEA MS4SSA and UNHCR Forge Strategic Partnership to Empower Nigerian Refugees in Niger

In a concerted effort to bolster inclusive higher education in Africa, the Emerging Center for Teaching and Learning Mathematics and Science in sub-Saharan Africa (CEA MS4SSA) has joined forces with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) to enhance the educational prospects of Nigerian refugees in the city of Diffa, Niger.

With funding support from the World Bank Group, French Development Agency, and governments of the 11 participating countries, and with implementation support from the Association of African Universities (AAU), the ACE Impact project, is designed to strengthen the capacities of participating universities to deliver high-quality training and research. ACE Impact aims to address specific regional development challenges, with CEA MS4SSA focusing on improving mathematics and science education in sub-Saharan Africa.

More specifically, the partnership between CEA MS4SSA and the UNHCR is a direct response to the long-standing challenge of extremely low refugee enrollment in higher education institutions in Africa. According to a UNHCR report published in 2023, only one out of 10 global refugees who have attained the university-going age range of between 18 and 24 years, get access to higher education. The report further attributes the worrying situation of refugees’ limited access to higher education partly to the general perennial problem of inadequate space in higher education institutions in Africa. Additionally, several inherent factors, including the lack of academic certification for admission into higher education institutions and the low numbers of graduating secondary school refugee students all impede refugees’ access to higher education. To tackle this challenge, the collaboration between CEA MS4SSA and UNHCR has initiated short-term vocational training programmes, as an alternative educational pathway of building the knowledge and skills of the teeming refugee population to become competitive in their quest to access higher education and in the rapidly evolving landscape of the 21st-century job market.

On its part under the partnership agreement, CEA MS4SSA trained and certified Nigerian refugee teachers in practical laboratory experiments in physics, chemistry, and life and earth sciences, covering the trainers’ living expenses.

Some Nigerian refugee participants of the CEA MS4SSA-UNHCR training undergoing practical sessions
Some Nigerian refugee participants of the CEA MS4SSA-UNHCR training undergoing practical sessions

The UNHCR, on the other hand, bore the transportation and accommodation costs of trainers outsourced from Niamey as well as provided training kits, among others, to facilitate the training sessions. These training sessions have equipped refugee teachers to deliver practical science education to secondary school students, enhancing their preparation for further studies and academic success.

The CEA MS4SSA and UNHCR partnership also set up examination centers close to refugee students living with their parents in the Diffa region to ensure they successfully take their end-of-year and other relevant examinations under acceptable conditions and enhance their chances of success. The training sessions, which encompassed the physical, life, and earth science areas, generally gave participants insights into how to set up and carry out practical experiments using conventional equipment, how to use digital and analogue measuring equipment and interpret the results of experiments, and how to design and make contextualized teaching materials from available local materials.

Some participants of the CEA MS4SSA-UNHCR training
Some participants of the CEA MS4SSA-UNHCR training

The immediate outcome of this thoughtful and timely intervention is evidenced in the record 73.29% pass rate the refugee students chalked in their Science Baccalaureate exam, which is equivalent to the Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination (SSCE) in the Nigerian educational system. By arming refugee students with valuable knowledge and skills, this initiative not only improves their prospects for higher education but also empowers them to contribute meaningfully to their communities. Looking ahead, expanding the scope of training programs and forging additional partnerships are essential for sustaining and scaling these efforts, ensuring greater integration of refugees into the African higher education landscape and reducing their susceptibility to joining extremist groups.

As the ACE Impact project approaches its conclusion in June 2025, CEA MS4SSA remains committed to exploring future opportunities for collaboration within the higher education sector. By continuing to promote educational inclusion and excellence, CEA MS4SSA aims to positively impact the lives of refugees and foster a brighter future for all.

Impacting Refugee Lives: A Focus on CEFTER’s Transformative Efforts in Food Technology Education in Nigeria

The global refugee population, reported by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) at 36.4 million, primarily resides in low- and middle-income countries, including Africa. Despite their significant presence, access to higher education for refugee youth remains severely limited. UNHCR data indicates that only 7% of refugee youth globally are enrolled in higher education, with even lower enrollment rates in sub-Saharan Africa, while according to UNESCO’s findings, only 1% of refugee students worldwide have access to scholarships for higher education. These stark figures underscore the urgent need to address the systemic barriers hindering refugee education across the continent.

Against this background, the Center for Food Technology and Research (CEFTER) emerges as the beacon of hope, implementing life-changing interventions to transform the lives of refugees.  Hosted by the Benue State University, Makurdi, Nigeria, under the Africa Higher Education Centers of Excellence for Development Impact (ACE Impact) project, CEFTER is addressing the challenges associated with refugee education and making a substantial difference in the lives of refugee students.

Aligned with the ACE Impact project’s target of strengthening the capacity of the 53 participating centres to address regional challenges, and deliver quality training and applied research, CEFTER identified a key challenge based on its geographical location and proximity to Cameroon. This revolves around the lack of higher education access for Cameroonian refugees who seek asylum in Nigeria. Since 2016, CEFTER has been actively spearheading initiatives to tackle this obstacle and make a tangible difference in the lives of Cameroonian refugee students.

CEFTER’s Trailblazing Interventions in Supporting Refugee Education

Established in 2014 to address the challenges of post-harvest losses of food crops in the West and Central Africa sub-region, CEFTER has been promoting teaching, research, and extension in post-harvest sciences. This Centre of Excellence focuses on enhancing agricultural production and promoting the exposure of its students to industrial processing of food and food product development.   The primary thematic disciplines of CEFTER include the control of post-harvest food losses, physiology and management, food science, preservation and processing technologies and the socio-economic aspect of food research and technology.

With a huge influx of asylum seekers from Cameroon crossing over to Nigeria, issues around food access, food safety, nutrition safety and general health and safety were identified as critical by CEFTER as part of its needs assessment of the refugee population in Nigeria. The UNHCR’s registry of Asylum Seekers in Nigeria put the official figure of registered Asylum Seekers from Cameroon at 20,485 in 2018, with the 2023 data reporting an estimated figure of about 87, 000.

The Center for Food Technology and Research strategically intervened in the identified issues related to food, by taking its short-courses program, already being run across the country, to the refugee population to ensure their overall wellbeing.  Short courses related to food handling, food safety, food processing and packaging to promote the reduction of losses and safe handling of food were offered to this group.

Some certified participants of CEFTER’s short-term courses in food research and technology
Some certified participants of CEFTER’s short-term courses in food research and technology

Prof. Barnabas Achakpa Ikyo, the Centre leader for CEFTER reports that a total of 480 registered refugees have been trained by CEFTER and issued with certificates of competency in the respective capacity building areas. In certain instances, participants have been equipped with start-up machinery and essential raw materials to alleviate financial obstacles associated with start-up capital and to facilitate the launch of their food processing businesses immediately after the training.


Enhanced Refugee Employability through Skills Training

The skills training initiatives by CEFTER has significantly bolstered the employability of the refugees within the culinary industry and other food-focused sectors, making them economically independent, and empowering them to rebuild their lives. Moreover, several beneficiaries have successfully established their own enterprises, specializing in the processing and sale of various food products, thereby actively contributing to the local economy. Notably, the training programs on food processing have yielded remarkable outcomes in minimizing food losses and wastage, leveraging the abundant raw materials such as cassava and plantain available in farming communities, within which the refugee camps are located. These training sessions, led by a team of specialized experts and high-level delegates from CEFTER, including the center’s leadership team, continue to be tailored to address evolving needs. For instance, amidst the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021, the center swiftly responded by equipping a cohort of refugees with skills in producing high-demand products like hand sanitizers.


Alumni Impact: CEFTER Empowers Refugee Futures Through MSC and PHD Degrees

Mrs. Agbor Evelyn Agbor, an MSC (Food Processing) graduate of CEFTER is a shining example of the impact these capacity building initiatives have had on the pathway to refugee self-sufficiency.  Her food processing company, AKA FOODs, in Cameroon and Nigeria has not only offered her a job and a source of income, but employed other youths. “I also regularly hold seminars to train youth groups in the community on various issues – including food processing and packaging” – she said.  Mrs. Agbor is currently a PhD student at the Centre for Food Technology and Research, Nigeria.  Her trajectory underscores the profound impact of CEFTER’s degree programmes on refugee empowerment.

Mrs. Agbor Evelyn Agbor, an MSc Food Processing Graduate from CEFTER and Founder of AKA FOODs, a food processing company with presence in Cameroon and Nigeria
Mrs. Agbor Evelyn Agbor, an MSc Food Processing Graduate from CEFTER and Founder of AKA FOODs, a food processing company with presence in Cameroon and Nigeria


As one of several refugees excelling following their participation in degree programmes at CEFTER, Mrs. Agbor’s story reflects the broader commitment of the Centre to empower refugee youth through education. Talented youth from refugee communities were actively encouraged to pursue higher education opportunities offered by the Centre. Through competitive selection processes, 39 refugees from Cameroon have embarked on their academic journeys at CEFTER, with 34 pursuing MSC degrees (comprising 17 males and 17 females) and 5 undertaking PhD programs (including 3 males and 2 females). This commitment to empowering refugee youth through education underscores CEFTER’s dedication to fostering inclusive and impactful academic pathways.

Leveraging Strategic Partnerships in Empowering Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons

CEFTER’s interventions in building the capacity of the refugees, have been possible through its continued engagement with various development partners to support its specialized interventions. Currently, its main sources of funding the refugee MSC and PhD students have been the ACE Impact Project – funded by the World Bank, AFD, and the Federal Government of Nigeria. The DAAD also acknowledged CEFTER’s unique model and offered scholarship to some students for a three-year duration.

Beyond the support to refugees from its neighboring country, CEFTER also partners to implement various strategic interventions to internally displaced persons, especially children.  Under this scheme, CEFTER offers products of its spin off factory, such as their soya milk yoghurt, cassava-based biscuits, and other nutrition dense foods to this group of people.

Overall Impact made by CEFTER on the Refugee Population in Nigeria

Through its targeted interventions and holistic approach to addressing the challenges faced by refugees, the Centre for Food Technology and Research (CEFTER) has had a profound impact on both the refugee population and the communities in which they reside. By leveraging its expertise in post-harvest sciences and food technology, CEFTER has not only provided essential training and educational opportunities but has also catalyzed economic empowerment and improved public health outcomes.

CEFTER’s commitment to capacity building is exemplified by its robust Masters and PhD programs, which have provided advanced training and education to refugee students from Cameroon. By offering opportunities for higher education, CEFTER has empowered these individuals to acquire specialized skills and knowledge in food processing and technology, positioning them as leaders in their respective fields. The successful graduation of 39 refugees, including Mrs. Agbor Evelyn Agbor, demonstrates the transformative impact of such capacity-building initiatives in fostering self-sufficiency and socio-economic development.

One of the most significant achievements of CEFTER’s intervention has been the marked reduction in food poisoning cases within refugee camps. Through targeted training programs on food handling, safety, and processing techniques, CEFTER has equipped refugees with the necessary knowledge and skills to mitigate foodborne illnesses and ensure the safety of food supplies. This has not only improved the overall health and well-being of the refugee population but has also alleviated the burden on healthcare facilities and resources.

Key Challenges Faced by CEFTER and Recommendations to Deepen Its Support to Refugee Students

One of the primary challenges CEFTER faces is the difficulty in managing the unexpected high turnout of participants during training sessions. While the center, for instance, could plan for only 50 attendees, they often end up accommodating over 100 individuals, straining the available limited resources.  A lack of proper documentation for refugee students is another challenge the centre faces. This includes issues related to verifying their academic credentials, residency status, and eligibility for scholarships or educational programs, inhibiting their access to higher education opportunities. Moreover, funding initiatives aimed at supporting start-ups established by refugee beneficiaries pose a challenge due to limited financial resources. While CEFTER strives to empower refugees to establish their own businesses, securing adequate funding to sustain and scale these initiatives remains a persistent challenge.

Some participants of CEFTER’s low-level capacity-building training in food handling
Some participants of CEFTER’s low-level capacity-building training in food handling


To address the challenge of limited resources and capacity, CEFTER continues to prioritize building strategic partnerships with other organizations, governments, and philanthropic entities, as collaborative efforts are key in helping to sustain and expand the academic support provided to refugees.  ‘Institutions with aligned vision and willing to collaborate with us to deepen our support to the refugee community, are encouraged to get in touch with us to support scale up CEFTER’s intervention to this critical group’ – appealed Prof. Barnabas Achakpa Ikyo, the Centre leader for CEFTER.

Looking ahead, CEFTER aims to collaborate with relevant stakeholders to organize safe return and settlement programs for refugees who wish to return to their home countries voluntarily. These programs will offer support in reintegrating into their communities, accessing education and employment opportunities, and rebuilding their lives.

Again, CEFTER remains available to be engaged by other stakeholders to enhance and diversify the CEFTER model to cater to a broader range of needs within refugee communities. This could involve expanding the scope of training programs to include additional skill sets and areas of expertise relevant to refugee livelihoods and economic empowerment.

Most importantly, increased funding is essential to enable CEFTER to reach more refugee beneficiaries and expand its impact. The center therefore invites international donors, government agencies, and private sector partners to support educational initiatives, start-up ventures, and capacity-building programs for refugees.

Overall, the Centre for Food Technology and Research (CEFTER) aims to continue to deepen its impact on the lives of refugee communities in Nigeria and beyond, through collaboration and sustained efforts.

World Bank, UNHCR, AAU deliberate to deepen support for refugee students through the ACE Impact project

In a joint effort to champion inclusivity, The World Bank Group, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), and the Association of African Universities (AAU) have come together under the African Higher Education Centers of Excellence for Development Impact (ACE Impact) project, to create the platform for Africa’s higher education stakeholders to discuss the enhancement of the sector’s support to refugee students.

A cross section of Cameroonian refugees in Nigeria
A cross section of Cameroonian refugees in Nigeria


The ACE Impact project, being spearheaded by the World Bank since 2019, operates in collaboration with the governments of 11 African countries. Implemented by the AAU, the project aims to empower African higher education institutions to specialize and enhance capacities in key academic fields—STEM, agriculture, environment, health, and education—identified as pivotal drivers of Africa’s development.

ACE Impact-UNHCR Webinar Participants
ACE Impact-UNHCR Webinar Participants


A pivotal moment in this endeavor unfolded during a webinar jointly convened by The World Bank, UNHCR, and AAU on Wednesday, February 7, 2024. The event, attended by over 80 participants from the ACE Impact community, underscored the urgent need to prioritize refugee education and inclusion in Africa’s higher education landscape.

Dr. Sylvia Mkandawire, the Senior Programme Manager for the ACE Impact project, highlighted that this webinar aligns with the project’s proactive partnership drive, previously announced by The World Bank during the 10th ACE Impact stakeholders’ regional workshop in Cote d’Ivoire from October 30 to November 3, 2023. Guided by its objectives, the webinar provided the platform for: (1) Gaining insights into the distinctive capacity needs of refugee students (2) Exploring collaborative opportunities with the UNHCR (3) Learning from direct experiences of ACE Impact Centres that have hosted refugee students (4) Gaining insights from successful models and innovative practices to shape current and future initiatives and create a meaningful impact in the lives of refugee students.

In a compelling presentation, Frankie Randle, Higher Education Specialist at the UNHCR, provided a comprehensive global overview of higher education for refugees. Randle delved into the critical barriers impeding refugees’ access to higher education, shedding light on the perspectives and challenges faced by universities. Offering proactive solutions to address refugee challenges, the presentation also spotlighted inclusive practices implemented by several higher education institutions.

Mr. Randle’s statistics revealed a staggering 36.4 million individuals are currently displaced globally – surpassing the population of Ghana, the second most populous country in West Africa. Highlighting a critical demographic, he pointed out that approximately 13.31% of these refugees, totaling around 4.8 million, fall within the typical age range for university students, which is 18 to 24 years old. Furthermore, Mr. Randle underscored the significant burden on low- and middle-income countries, as a staggering 75% of the 36.4 million refugees, totaling 27.3 million, find refuge in these nations.

Mr. Frankie Randle, UNHCR’s Higher Education Specialist, addressing the webinar
Mr. Frankie Randle, UNHCR’s Higher Education Specialist, addressing the webinar


For the UNHCR, even though refugee higher education enrolment rate has since 2019 increased from 1% to 7%, it is still way below even the 42% average higher education enrolment of all youth globally. And thus, more needs to be done to raise the figures much higher. The UNHCR, supported by its research-based data, also presented about a dozen unfavorable factors that, according to it, come together to contribute to these low numbers of refugee enrolment.

Some of the barriers the UNHCR reported are: (1) Pressure on the youth refugees to contribute to household finances (2) Limited scholarship opportunities for refugees (3) Long distance to higher education institutions, compounded by refugees’ movement restrictions, in some cases (4) Limited financial stability for refugee families to fund higher education and (5) Higher international students’ fees. Others included (6) Refugees’ lack of academic certification required for admission in host countries (7) Lack of reliable power and connectivity for connected higher education programs (8) Low numbers of graduating secondary school refugee students, particularly girls and (9) Barriers that disproportionately affect female refugee enrolment.

Expanding on his insights, Mr. Randle clarified that the challenges mentioned earlier are just a fraction of the numerous obstacles that individuals, refugees and non-refugees alike, encounter while striving for higher education, whether within their home countries or abroad. Under a strategy dubbed “15 by 30,” participants were informed that the UNHCR is targeting to achieve a 15% refugee enrolment in global higher education by the year 2030. To achieve this, the refugee agency outlined its five-point strategy – “The 5 Pillars of Refugee Access to Higher Education –, namely (1) assisting refugee enrolment into national universities, (2) giving them relevant technical and vocational education and training, (3) giving them scholarships to study in third-party countries, (4) Working with many partners in many countries to bring higher education to refugees where ever they are hosted, through a Connected Higher Education program, and (5) providing bachelor-level scholarships to refugees, through the UNHCR Tertiary Scholarship program (DAFI), which has been running for over 30 years now.

To enhance its effort even further, the UNHCR highlighted that it will soon launch what it calls, Each One Take One. Under this initiative, the refugee agency has designed a plan to inspire, motivate, and incentivize tertiary education institutions to create at least one scholarship for one refugee.

During the webinar, the ACE Impact project took center stage with the dynamic representation of two pivotal centers among the 53 actively participating centres of the project. The Center for Food Technology and Research (CEFTER), based at Benue State University in Makurdi, Nigeria, and the African Center of Excellence for Innovative Teaching/Learning of Mathematics and the Sciences for sub-Saharan Africa (CEA-IEA-MS4SSA), hosted by Université Abdou Moumouni in Niger, showcased their approaches and significant contribution in supporting the refugees’ trainings.

The CEA-IEA-MS4SSA, as submitted by its leader, Prof. Saidou Madougou, hosts Nigerian refugees, following the disturbing activities of the Boko Haram insurgent group in Nigeria. According to Prof Madougou, the center has despite several challenges been deliberate about serving the interest of these Nigerian refugees to enable them to complete their programs of study, rather than indulge in nefarious activities now or in the future.

A practical laboratory session of the CEA MS4SSA-UNHCR training
A practical laboratory session of the CEA MS4SSA-UNHCR training


He disclosed the center also trains pre-tertiary refugees to use digital and analogical tools, for example, for measuring electrical current of bulbs. Prof Madougou said trainers from the center have been helping trainees in the refugee camps to use both conventional and non-conventional ways to undertake their experiments and organizes several training sessions per year to help the students prepare for various examinations, resulting in a 73.29% pass rate in their Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination (SSSCE), for example.

Again, in a cost-sharing approach, according to Prof Madougou, the center collaborated with the UNHCR to provide trainers to train refugees from Nigeria, achieving a number of results.

On his part, CEFTER leader, Prof. Barnabas Achakpa Ikyo, who described the engagement and possible partnership with the UNHCR as welcome news, shared key experiences in hosting refugee students and some of the centre’s outreach activities to the refugee camps. CEFTER is hosted by Benue State University in Benue State, Nigeria. According to 2023 UNHCR data presented by Prof. Ikyo, Benue State alone hosts about 10% (8,797) of the 87,000 refugees in Nigeria, owing to the State’s closeness to Cameroon, from where most of these refugees have fled.

Prof. Barnabas Achakpa Ikyo, Center Leader, Center for Food Technology and Research (CEFTER)
Prof. Barnabas Achakpa Ikyo, Center Leader, Center for Food Technology and Research (CEFTER)


As part of its activities geared towards refugees, the center has, since the beginning of its engagement in 2016, trained hundreds of refugees in their camps and certified some on basic nutrition, food safety, food processing, packaging, and value addition. CEFTER has even gone ahead to provide start-up capital and logistics to some entrepreneur refugees. Through this, not only has the center helped protect the raw food materials from going waste, but it has also helped improve the hygienic conditions of refugees’ setting and empowered them to obtain jobs in restaurants and set up businesses within the food value chain.

CEFTER’s achievements have not gone unnoticed, as the DAAD has acknowledged the center’s effective model and offered yearly funding for more beneficiaries in Africa for three years to study master’s and PhD programmes. So far, 39 refugees from Cameroon are enrolled in the center’s post graduate programmes. Out of the number, 34 of them (17 females and 17 males) are pursuing MSc programs, while 5 of them (2 females and 3 males) are pursuing PhD programs. The center has also trained 65 Cameroonians in short-term courses. A total of 489 refugees, comprising 339 females and 150 males, have undertaken CEFTER’s short courses.

Indeed, these results have been achieved not without challenges. One biggest challenge projected by the two centers during their presentations at the webinar is the lack of sufficient funding to sustain the great capacity building and academic support initiatives and the start-up funding for refugees to consolidate the gains made so far. It was thus suggested that centers foster sustainable partnerships that will ensure sustainable cashflows, expand the academic support to refugees, organize effective return programmes for refugees, and improve on the ACE model in general.

In the next phase of the initiative, Dr. Ekua Bentil, Senior Education Specialist and task team leader for ACE Impact at the World Bank, made a compelling appeal to the two centers. She urged them to contemplate expanding their support for refugees within their existing funding or to explore alternative avenues to bolster this commendable initiative.

Dr. Bentil shared with the audience that her team was actively looking into potential funding opportunities within The World Bank’s refugee window. This strategic move forms part of a dedicated effort to elevate the inclusion of refugees in Africa’s higher education landscape.


ACECoR (Ghana) inaugurates its multipurpose building, marking a significant milestone

In line with the Africa Higher Education Centres of Excellence for Development Impact’s (ACE Impact) goal of enhancing the quality and quantity of Africa’s postgraduate education, the Africa Center of Excellence in Coastal Resilience (ACECoR) has commissioned its ultra-modern, multi-purpose building complex.

This milestone signifies ACECoR’s accomplishment of a significant performance indicator (Disbursement Linked Indicator 4.3 – provision of enabling teaching and learning environment) within the ACE Impact project initiated by the World Bank. The building is designed to offer a congenial environment for faculty and students to continue producing cutting edge, research-based knowledge in coastal resilience and environmental sustainability.

During the inauguration, Mr. Sajid Anwar, an environmental specialist at the World Bank, acknowledged ACECoR’s contribution to the ACE Impact project and pledged the World Bank’s continuous support to elevate ACECoR to a globally acclaimed center of excellence. He highlighted ACECoR’s forward-thinking approach, especially in the context of developing sustainable and inclusive blue economies. “As we look into the future and beyond coastal resilience and recognize the growing importance of developing sustainable and inclusive blue economies, this is an area where I must admit that the great minds at ACECoR have a step ahead of the World Bank,” he said.

Mr Sajid Anwar, Environmental Specialist, The World Bank Group

Mr. Anwar added, “Through the West African Coastal Areas Management Programme (WACA), the World Bank is happy to support ACECoR with financing for the next five years as part of the WACA resilience investment project.”

Emphasizing sustainability, Mr. Anwar commended ACECoR’s efforts to address Ghana’s coastal and environmental challenges, recognizing the center as a home for future knowledge on coastal resilience. He highlighted ACECoR’s partnerships with the University of Tokyo in Japan and the Netherlands for innovative research on integrated settlement management and nature-based solutions in West Africa, aligning with the World Bank’s sustainability agenda.

Mrs. Eunice Ackwerh, World Bank Senior Education Specialist, highlighted ACECoR’s collaboration with NGOs in Ghana and the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences at the University of Cape Coast as a key sustainability achievement.

Ms. Eunice Ackwerh, Senior Education Specialist, The World Bank Group
Ms. Eunice Ackwerh, Senior Education Specialist, The World Bank Group

The Association of African Universities (AAU) which is the Regional Facilitation Unit of the ACE Impact project represented by the Senior Project Manager, Dr Sylvia Mkandawire, underscored its commitment to ensuring an expansive and inclusive Africa higher education. Dr Mkandawire described the ACECoR building as a product of that commitment. “The AAU has been actively working with various universities and ACECoR’s building is a testament to the organization’s dedication to fostering academic excellence across the African continent.” she said.

Dr Sylvia Mkandawire, Senior Program Manager, ACE Impact Project, AAU
Dr Sylvia Mkandawire, Senior Program Manager, ACE Impact Project, AAU

Dr. Edmund Aalangdong, Head of Policy and Planning and Focal Point for the ACE Impact project at GTEC, affirmed GTEC’s unwavering commitment to continued collaboration with the AAU and World Bank. He assured them of GTEC’s persistent dedication to academic excellence and the pursuit of sustainable, impactful development in Africa. Dr. Aalangdong also highlighted GTEC’s preparedness to assist all Ghana centers, including ACECoR, underscoring the Commission’s commitment to offering continuous support for the center to attain additional milestones and celebrate further successes.

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

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

Also speaking at the ceremony was Prof. Johnson Nyarko Boampong, Vice-chancellor of the University of Cape Coast, which hosts ACECoR. He underscored the critical role ACECoR plays in shaping the future of maritime research and conservation at the university. He thus described the project as having the potential to become a beacon of academic excellence to significantly contribute to the university’s global standing in sustainability research and conservation efforts.

On his part, ACECoR Director, Prof. Denis Worlanyo Aheto, expressed gratitude for the funding support from the World Bank, implementation support from the Association of African Universities (AAU), collaborative support from the Government of Ghana, and the UCC community’s unwavering support.

Mr Sajid Anwar (2nd from left), Mrs Eunice Ackwerh (2nd from right), Dr Sylvia Mkandawire (3rd from left), Prof. Aheto (right)
Mr Sajid Anwar (2nd from left), Mrs Eunice Ackwerh (2nd from right), Dr Sylvia Mkandawire (3rd from left), Prof. Aheto (right)

The building complex hosts sophisticated research facilities, well-ventilated lecture halls, a contemporary library, and a state-of-the-art scientific laboratory, addresses the office space deficit at UCC’s Center for Coastal Management.

Attendees at the event, who were privileged to tour the facility, admired the potential the building holds for fostering interdisciplinary research and nurturing the next generation of scholars and expressed optimism for a secure future of Africa’s coastal environment.

UG@75: WAGMC supports with 75 laptops

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

Combating cybercrime: ACETEL partners Digital Footprints to train security personnel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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) 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. 

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.

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