STUDENT VOICES – Essohanam Djeki’s quest to redesign the use of ICT in Education across Africa

STUDENT VOICES – Essohanam Djeki’s quest to redesign the use of ICT in Education across Africa

Essohanam DJEKI is a Togo national and a Ph.D. student at the African Center of Excellence in Mathematical Science, Informatics, and Applications (CEA-SMIA), hosted by the Institute of Mathematics and Physical Sciences – University of Abomey-Calavi, Benin.  He received his master’s degree in Information and Communication Technology from the CEA-SMIA in 2020. His PhD thesis is being jointly supervised with in collaboration with the African Center of Excellence on Technology Enhanced Learning (ACETEL) of the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN). Curious, determined, organized, rigorous, persevering, and creative, Essohanam is passionate about Cybersecurity, Privacy, and Artificial Intelligence.

Why did he choose to pursue his entire academic career at CEA-SMIA?

Essohanam answers: “I chose CEA-SMIA because of the faculty’s expertise and the high-quality training that the center offers in computer science in the sub-region. For over three decades, the center has maintained its reputation as a Center of Excellence. As such, there is no need to travel to the Western or developed countries to have access to World-class, highly competitive graduate training.

Essohanam is now in the 2nd year of his Ph.D. studies addressing African distance learning spaces’ security within the COVID-19 context. His research aims to propose solutions to protect the privacy and personal data of participants (students and teachers) during online courses. He decided to focus on Digital Education because he finds it crucial and beneficial to enhance ICT use in higher education and education in general.

His motivation for Digital Education: “I remember using ICT to prepare essays and dealing with some examinations in my final year of high school. It helped me a lot! If I had discovered earlier that ICT was not only about social networks and could also be used for learning, I would probably be in a better position than I am today. I don’t want others to be late in discovering the benefits that IT could bring to education.” For his professional career aims to “carry out projects with socio-economic impacts and contribute to the adoption, integration and use of ICTs in African education.”

During his 1st year of studies, Essohanam successfully published five papers, three of which were published  in IEEE journal and conferences, and two in Springer journals. His first-year work covers Digital Education Security in general. One of his studies related to the quantitative analysis of Digital Education revealed that the research on E-learning Security and the contribution of African scholars and countries are incredibly scant. He also highlighted the security issues facing Digital Education, proposed protection solutions, and the best practices for online courses. Such productivity has resulted from his great motivation, the support of his supervisors and the Digital Science and Technology Network (DSTN). He claimed: “The inspirational advice and guidance of Prof. Jules DEGILA, Prof. Muhtar Hanif ALHASSAN and Dr. Carlyna BONDIOUMBOUY provided me with the necessary keenness, courage and motivation to persevere in my efforts even during the most difficult times.. DSTN organized training on research methodology and tools that pushed me into gear. My determination and perseverance also helped me to hold up my head over time and produce good quality research to show that it is possible to succeed as an African student living in Africa. I set myself an objective to give my best during this thesis and to be worldwide recognized in my field through my contributions.”

And then, what are you planning for 2022?

“This year, I plan to carry out studies that will be much more specific to African contexts and realities. This year’s main purpose is to understand African learners’ behavior during online courses, consider African students’ perception and desires, explore how ICT is used in education, and design African online learning spaces. I believe that it is by knowing users well enough that we will be able to propose a secure and suitable solution.”

As one of the first DSTN funded Ph.D. students, Essohanam said he is proud to be part of an interdisciplinary scientific network promoting collaborative research. Essohanam’s advice to young people, and especially to young Africans who are aspiring to or already pursuing their PhDs, is: “give the best during the Ph.D. so that you don’t have to regret what you could have done if you had given it all. Always be available to learn with humility. Accept constructive criticism to improve your research and skills. Being a Ph.D. student does not mean knowing everything. We never end learning. It is still the right time to learn and share! Always strive for excellence, do not compare yourself to others, compete only with yourself. Finally, be a partisan of a well-done job.”

Innovative research produces patented breakthrough product improving the economic status of women in Burkina Faso

Innovative research produces patented breakthrough product improving the economic status of women in Burkina Faso

Safiatou TRAORE, a national of Burkina Faso, is enrolled for her PhD studies at the Center for Training, Research and Expertise in Medicine Sciences (CFOREM) hosted by Joseph KI-ZERBO University.  She is currently in her 1st year of doctoral study in ‘Development of Phytomedicines’ and expects to graduate in 2023. She specifically chose to study with CEFOREM because of the high-quality teaching methods and the personal inspiration and guidance from Professor Rasmané SEMDE, who gave her the zeal and courage to not give up after successfully completing her Master’s. She appreciates the fact that she could balance her family life with her research work and studies.


Ms TRAORE PhD research is a continuation of her research at Masters level. Her research title is “research and development of creams based on honey, shea butter and Burkinabè plant extracts for the treatment of burns”. She indicated that in Burkina Faso, 13.7% of children under the age of 5 are admitted in hospitals for burns (2015). The local treatment of burns is currently based on expensive imported products which are financially inaccessible to the majority of the population.

Safiatou aims to develop a stable honey-shea-butter cream for the local treatment of burns to help support those most vulnerable who cannot afford to purchased imported burn treatment creams. The two raw materials are proven to have healing properties and most importantly, are locally produced, readily available, and at a low cost. “This research will not only produce an affordable local treatment for burns, but will also create new outlets and commercial opportunities for the honey and shea butter producers, who are mainly women’s associations in Burkina Faso.”


The patent of this innovative and problem-solving research product has been registered with the African Intellectual Property Organization, an intellectual property organization headquartered in Yaoundé, Cameroon. The shea-butter-honey cream is already on high demand by Burkinabè clinicians and pediatric surgeons. The Joseph KI-ZERBO University incubation office has invested in this product, including it within their framework as a university start up business. A business plan has been developed for its commercial exploitation and expansion.


The African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO) defines a patent as “a set of exclusive rights granted by law to applicants for inventions that are new, non-obvious and commercially applicable”. Patents are important because they allow holders to commercially exploit their inventions on an exclusive basis. The global patent system is intended to inspire innovation by giving creators time-limited exclusive legal rights, thus assisting them to appropriate the returns from their innovation.


In the short term Ms TRAORE wishes to participate in the valorization of local Burkinabe natural resources. Medium to long term, she hopes to become a seasoned academic, continuing to share and pass on knowledge and experience to build the next generation of female scientists. Safiatou’s academic journey has made her a strong believer in developing research capabilities of Africa. “There is no need to aim to only enroll in PhD programs in western universities.” Many women find it challenging to leave their families for studies – thus eventually not pursuing PhDs. Ms TRAORE advises that opportunities do exist in Burkina Faso for quality doctoral training and research programs. As a special plea to women, she states “sometimes family conditions hold back the ambitions of women to pursue their doctorate studies. Through centers in Africa like CEFOREM, which create conducive conditions for their female candidates – it is now possible for female scientists to enroll for their PhDs.”


Safiatou tells us that “studying at CEFOREM has proved to be rewarding because of the availability of the supervision team, the accessibility of reagents and consumables, the excellent support provided to each student and the presence of foreign students that allows exchange of experiences.” The ACE for development impact centers are demonstrating that through student-led research it is possible to foster creativity and innovation for economic growth and development in Africa.

Expanding opportunities for young African female scientists to reimagine their dreams

Expanding opportunities for young African female scientists to reimagine their dreams

Jessica Nnenna Uwanibe is one of many young female scientists enrolled in a PHD/Master’s program at one of the ACE Impact II centers. Jessica is scheduled to complete her PhD studies in Molecular Biology and Genomics at the African Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases (ACEGID) hosted by Redeemer’s University in Nigeria. Her research work is focused on identifying and comprehending drug resistant patterns of Salmonella species in South West Nigeria, research she hopes will help treat thousands of people, reduce suffering, and save lives. Salmonella are types of bacteria that can cause diarrheal illness in humans, typhoid fever, gastroenteritis and other related illnesses. “This research will work to inform the proper diagnosis of Salmonella related diseases and suggest improved monitoring policies in Nigeria.”


As a young and upcoming African Scientist, Miss Uwanibe has always wanted to solve global health challenges through her research. Her career goal is to achieve this by enrolling for a Postdoctoral fellowship to focus on translational infectious diseases research. She aspires to lead large research projects to unravel the mechanisms by which pathogens cause diseases and develop novel therapeutics and vaccines to fight them.


Jessica chose to study her PhD at the Redeemer’s University African Center of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases as she found the field of Molecular Biology and Genomics to be “new, exciting, and innovative.” She tells us how science and engineering centered subjects always had low female participation rates and she wanted to see this change, inspiring the next generation of young women. “ACEGIDs vision really resonates with my own personal vision for using science and research to improve everyday people’s lives.”


As a PhD fellow at ACEGID, Jessica says the aspect she enjoyed the most was being exposed to innovative research and cutting edge molecular tools. This access afforded her the ability to serve Nigeria during this time of crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic, which has been “such a life changing opportunity and experience.” She is looking forward to her graduation in September 2021 after four years of intense, but fulfilling research.


Knowledge and resource sharing are at the core of all ACE Impact centers. Miss Uwanibe has benefited from the expertise of her mentors whilst participating as a member of the ACEGID team involved in the pioneering and innovative COVID19 research, led by Professor Christian Happi. “I am so proud to be part of the first team in Africa to successfully sequence the genome of SARS-CoV-2 and share it with the international science community.”


ACEGID has proceeded to identify 10 distinct lineages of SARS-CoV-2 in circulation within Nigeria through genome sequencing and this work has been helpful in steering Nigeria’s public health response. The experiences of being part of the ACEGID team handling the COVID-19 diagnosis and sequencing have given Miss Uwanibe the confidence to reimagine what is possible in the field of health research in Africa moving forward.


Miss Uwanibe’s advice to young people and particularly young women aspiring to do their PhDs is that they must “persevere, be patient, tenacious and be mentally prepared.” Jessica is just one example of the high-quality postgraduate students being trained under the Africa Centers of Excellence for Development Impact Project. The project is positively improving the quality, quantity, and development impact of postgraduate education in sub-Saharan Africa by supporting regional specialization in thematic areas that address regional challenges.

ACE for Impact Centers respond to COVID19


The life-threatening nature of the COVID19 pandemic has been felt globally – its influence on global education systems is also being felt in Africa. Activities in African higher education institutions (HEIs) were suspended by various governments in order to contain the spread of the virus. Many of these institutions are host universities of the Africa Centers of Excellence for Development Impact project (ACE Impact) and as a result, activities of these Centers were slowed down. However, as part of their objectives to address regional developmental challenges, the ACE Impact Centers initiated measures to support the containment and management of the virus in all 11 participating countries within the West African sub region.

What is an Africa Center of Excellence for Development Impact (ACE for Impact Center)

These are largely competitively selected faculties, schools or colleges within an African University. The ACE Impact Centers focus on STEM, Agriculture, Environment, Health and applied Social Sciences / Education thematic areas. As part of the ACE for Development Impact project they are mandated to deliver quality undergraduate and post-graduate programs, promote regional academic mobility, address national and regional problems through research and promote best practices to their entire university systems.

Challenges faced by the ACEs for Development Impact Centers

The Association of African Universities, which is the Regional Facilitation Unit for the ACE Impact project,  in collaboration with the World Bank conducted a survey to understand steps taken by the ACE for Impact Centers in addressing the pandemic to ensure continuous teaching and learning. Subsequently, a virtual meeting was held with the Centers to validate information collected through the survey.  The survey results indicated challenges faced by the Centers and they pertain to infrastructure ; skills ; e-Platforms; limited time to plan and implement alternative solutions; limited commitment of staff and students to online learning; funding challenges and infection risks.

A review of how the ACE for Development Impact Centers in West Africa are responding to COVID19

Even though the ACE Impact Centers are facing numerous challenges, they are still contributing their quota in helping countries within the West African sub-region manage the crisis. The Centers have so far responded to the COVID19 pandemic by using technology for teaching, learning and research; engaging in innovative and groundbreaking research activities and participating in community outreach activities and services.

  1. Notably, there has been groundbreaking research going on in different centers to provide immediate solutions that can support the management of the pandemic. The researches have so far led to the sequencing of the virus, abilities to carry out massive testing and online screening of individuals’ risk levels, among others.
  2. In line with the ACE for development impact project objective to contribute to regional development through applied research, the centers are doing research to address societal needs. These efforts have included the production of personal protection equipment such as  face shields through 3D printing,  manufacturing of ventilators, production of nose masks, production of alcoholic gels and hand sanitizers and manufacturing of hand washing equipment for communities in their respective countries.
  3. Several Centers have also created mathematical models to help assess and predict the spread of the virus and the possibility of confinement in certain cities.

These initiatives are all key towards preventing the rapid spread of the coronavirus.

DOWNLOAD Table that profiles individual ACE for Impact Centers’ Efforts towards responding to COVID 19

About the Africa Higher Education Centers of Excellence Project       

The Africa Higher Education Centers of Excellence (ACE) Project is a World Bank initiative in collaboration with governments of participating countries to support Higher Education institutions in specializing in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), Environment, Agriculture, applied Social Science / Education and Health. It is the first World Bank project aimed at the capacity building of higher education institutions in Africa. 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 Project aims to promote regional specialization among participating universities in areas that address specific common regional development challenges. It also aims to strengthen the capacities of these universities to deliver high quality training and applied research as well as meet the demand for skills required for Africa’s development. 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 2018 to strengthen post-graduate training and applied research in existing fields and support new fields that are essential for Africa’s economic growth. There are 43 ACEs (25 new ones and 18 from ACE I); 5 Emerging Centers;1 “top up” center in Social Risk Management; and 5 Colleges and Schools of Engineering. The new areas include sustainable cities; sustainable power and energy; social sciences and education; transport; population health and policy; herbal medicine development and regulatory sciences; public health; applied informatics and communication; and pastoral production.

Dare to be different! Universities told by a leading tertiary education expert

Dr Jamil Salmi captivated participants from 56 African Higher Education Centres of Excellence (ACE) attending the annual ACE 1 and ACE IMPACT meeting in Dakar, Senegal from 23-27 September 2019.

During the plenary session on institutional impact for ACE IMPACT held on the 25th September 2019 at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Dr Salmi implored the Vice Chancellors to “dare to be different” in terms of how they led their universities.

He underscored the importance of building synergies across institutions and disciplines, breaking away from the structures and procedures of the past, building an enabling environment for creativity and innovation and promotion of genuine autonomy and full empowerment of staff.

Dr Salmi said that the road to academic excellence involved Vice Chancellors constantly challenging themselves and their teams – and continuously seeking to renew their institutions to keep improving. A very strong sense of urgency must be cultivated in order to make African universities stronger.

Disbursement Linked Indicator 7 (DLI 7)

The objective of this plenary session was to stimulate institutional engagement with Vice Chancellors/Rectors/Presidents and their ACE IMPACT Center, on disbursement linked indicator 7 (DLI 7) which focusses on Institutional Impact. The ACE IMPACT Project is results-based and tracks seven results that are connected to financial disbursements earnings. DLI 7 tracks four sub-results, namely:

  1. Meaningful university-wide regional strategy
  2. Open and merit-based selection of the head of university, head of department or dean
  3. Institution-wide International Accreditation
  4. Participation in PASET benchmarking exercise

DLI 7 gives flexibility for the ACE institutions to develop milestones based on their institutional needs and goals. University leadership is responsible for the implementation of DLI 7 and between 10-15 % of the ACE budget will be used to support institutional impact strengthening activities. Institutions with multiple centres are expected to develop a joint and coordinated plan for DLI 7.

The road to academic excellence….

Dr Salmi described the characteristics of a World-Class University as abundant resources (public budget resources, endowment revenues, tuition fees and research grants); concentration of talent (students, teaching staff and researchers) and favorable governance (leadership team, strategic vision, culture of excellence, autonomy, academic freedom and supportive regulatory frameworks). When these conditions are met, this leads to the production of top graduates, world class universities, leading-edge research and dynamic knowledge & technology transfer.

Are we investing enough?

The endowment of Harvard University is reported to be at US$35.7 billion – while 113 countries have Gross Domestic Products lower than Harvard’s endowment. Some US research universities receive up to 1 billion dollars in research grants annually. The situation is very different for the majority of African Universities – they are poorly funded.

Requirements to accelerate world-class African universities

Dr Salmi restated that inspirational leadership, vision and passion were vital to achieving academic excellence. Transformational leaders should facilitate capacity building through internationalization. African universities must become niche institutions offering niche programs. Attention must be paid to curriculum, pedagogical and managerial innovations. Strategic planning and benchmarking must be prioritized.

Words of caution

Dr Salmi warned against constructing the teaching facilities before designing the curriculum – the facilities must match the curriculum needs. University leaders must put in place favorable conditions to attract and keep talent because it is the people that will make a university world class. Leaders must avoid creating islands of excellence in a sea of mediocrity – excellence must be an institutional culture. It is important to invest with sustainability in mind – because projects come and go but the institution’s impact strategy must be sustained. Leaders must keep an eye on international rankings – whether we like it or not they affect us. Lastly leaders must avoid the danger of imitating other universities – they must remember that their institutions are unique.


In conclusion Dr Jamil Salmi emphasized that university leaders must “take the long view”, i.e. think about the things that might happen in the future rather than only about the things that are happening now. He also probed leaders to reflect on what they could learn from top soccer teams in terms of how they are run. He reminded the participants about a quotation from Daniel Lincoln that says: “excellence, like all things of abiding value, is a marathon, not a sprint”.




The ACE 1 Project has kept its promise!

In her opening remarks at the ACE 1 and ACE IMPACT Regional Workshop in Dakar on the 24th September 2019, Mrs. Himdat Bayusuf, Task Team Leader of the Africa Centers of Excellence (ACE1), stated that the “The ACE project has delivered on its promise with excellent results on the ground. The ACE project has succeeded is expanding post graduate education with at least 2000 PhD and 11000 MSc students enrolled in key priority sectors such as infectious diseases, maternal health, neglected tropical diseases, dry land agriculture, food security, water, climate change, sustainable mining, climate change, statistics; information and communication technology, materials science and engineering, just to name a few. Just as importantly, at least 30 percent of these students are females, signaling the importance of increasing female representation within the scientific fields and 30 percent of the students are from other countries within the region, highlighting the success in addressing regional higher education delivery. ACE has pushed the boundaries in terms of quality and relevance with at least 60 programs achieving international accreditation , up from a baseline of 3 at the start of the project. The ACEs have also shown the relevance of the science with centers achieving leveraging over $50 million from global competitive research grants and consultancies for their applied research work, clearly signaling the quality and relevance of the research topics being undertaken. Finally, we are proud to note that students at many of the ACEs will now benefit from state of the art labs, smart classrooms and new teaching and research equipment and resources.”

Madame Sophie Naudeau the Head of the Human Development Program in the Senegal World Bank office also added that the “ACE 1 project had kept its promise”. Madame Naudeau said that since its creation ACE 1 had improved regional integration, supported dynamic African Higher Education Institutions, achieved quality international standards, stimulated resource mobilization, promoted dynamism, innovation and progress for the African continent’s Higher Education sector.

The Africa Higher Education Centers of Excellence (ACE) project is a results-based initiative of the World Bank being implemented in partnership with selected African governments to improve the quality of African Higher Education. The financing of the project is through a grant from the International Development Association – which are soft loans competitively provided to African countries whose universities meet the stringent criteria for selection. This ACE phase 1 project was launched in 2014 and focuses on 22 centres in 8 west and central African countries. Since then ACE phase 2 was launched for east and southern African countries – managed by the Inter-University Council of East Africa. This year phase 3 of the project (referred to as ACE IMPACT) was launched in Djibouti to include more countries in western and central Africa. The Association of African Universities is the regional facilitating Unit for both ACE 1 and ACE IMPACT. The role of the AAU is to support and monitor the implementation of the ACE 1 and ACE IMPACT projects in collaboration with the World Bank, the participating governments and universities. Earlier this year the French Development Agency (AFD) has joined the World Bank to provide funding to selected centres of Excellence under the ACE IMPACT Project.

When the ACE 1 project was conceptualized, the African Higher Education experts and partners agreed that ‘a regional approach to higher education in Africa’ offered the best way to build and sustain excellence. The argument was that a regional approach enabled ‘focusing on a few dynamic institutions with pockets of quality faculty that had already been responding innovatively by offering quality, fee-based, courses to students across west and central Africa’.


What was the promise of ACE 1?

In 2014 when the ACE 1 project was launched it promised to enhance regional specialization among participating west and central African universities in the areas that address regional challenges and strengthen the capacities of these universities to deliver quality training and applied research.

The ACE 1 project also promised to strengthen post-graduate programs for a regional student body; offer specialized courses for industry professionals in the region; establish a regional faculty body; improve faculty and attract additional top level faculty; provide learning resources, labs and minor rehabilitations of existing facilities;  establish linkages with companies, government agencies and research centers for work-place learning input into the curricula, consultancies and joint research and collaborate with partner institutions to share the benefits of the investments, for example through training of faculty, sharing of curricula and sharing of learning resources.

The high-level impact promised by the project was to meet the labour market demands for skills within specific areas where there are skill shortages affecting development, economic growth and poverty reduction.

Key indicators have been tracked since 2014 to measure progress towards achieving the Project Development Objective. These include:

  • Number of national and regional students enrolled in new specialized short-term courses, and Master and PhD programs – to measure strengthened capacities
  • Number of regional students enrolled in new specialized short-term courses, and Master and PhD programs – to track regionality
  • Number of internationally accredited education programs – to track the quality of the training programmes
  • Number of students and faculty with at least 1-month internship in companies or institutions relevant to their field – to track training quality and address challenges
  • Amount of externally generated revenue by the ACEs – to track training and research quality

Evidence that the ACE 1 Project has kept its promise

During the September meeting in Dakar Mrs Adeline Addy, the Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Officer from the Association of African Universities secretariat reported that there was a positive outlook on performance & grant disbursements as the ACE 1 project approaches closure in March 2020. Sixteen centres of excellence have earned above 80% of their total grants – the target being that by March 2020 all the grant funds would be fully disbursed. Four out of five project development objectives have been achieved and these are 30,259 total number of students trained; 12,062 number of regional students trained; 212 number of accredited programs and US$50,636,317 total external revenue mobilised by the participating centres.

Undoubtedly, the 22 ACE 1 centres have enhanced regional specialization in west and central Africa in the areas of agriculture, health, science, technology, engineering and mathematics to address regional challenges. These centres have been strengthened as regional centres in a diversity of fields of specialization that include, but are not limited to, genomics of infectious diseases, mines and environment, information and communication technology, poultry science, cell biology, materials science and climate science.

The capacities of the participating universities have been strengthened to deliver quality applied research – the evidence to support this is that on average, 25% of ACE publications are within the highest Cite Score percentile, indicating the high quality of the publications.

The capacities of the participating universities have also been strengthened to deliver quality training – this is evidenced by the fact that 57 internationally accredited programmes have been registered among the participating centres of excellence. In addition, 155 programmes have been accredited at either national or regional levels.

The reported number of 30,259 trained across the 8 participating west and central Africa countries leads us to infer that the ACE 1 project has significantly contributed towards the west and central Africa labour market demands for skills within specific areas where there were skill shortages affecting development and economic growth.

A pilot graduate students’ tracer study was recently conducted, and it received responses from 9 ACE 1 and 4 ACE 2 centres. The results further allude to the positive impact of the ACE initiative. The study focused on graduates’ satisfaction, relevance of the ACE programs and employability of the ACE graduates. The findings revealed that 96% of the respondents were satisfied with the quality of ACE teaching & learning. 88% were satisfied with the relevance and adequacy of internships programs. Concerning the relevance of the ACE programs, 98 % of the respondents indicated that the ACE programmes were relevant to labour market demands and 83% said that they would recommend ACE programs. Concerning employment, it was heartening to note that there was a 74% employment rate for ACE Graduates – with 46% ACE Graduates in full-time or related employment. 78% respondents said that they were satisfied with their jobs.


Even though more still needs to be done to support the strengthening of higher education institutions in west and central Africa – the ACE 1 project has meaningfully contributed towards responding to several challenges that were identified 2014.

Higher education in West and Central Africa was previously found to be under-developed and had been a low priority for the past two decades. Through the ACE 1 project, 8 countries have demonstrated their re-commitment to developing their higher education institutions.

The countries faced a shortage of human resources and capacity within Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) as well as agriculture and health disciplines. The ACE 1 project has strengthened specializations in the areas of agriculture, health and STEM, with 30,259 trained in these priority areas.

There were limited investments in higher education – and this meant that higher education institutions in west and central Africa were not capable of responding to the immediate skills needs or supporting sustained productivity-led growth in the medium term. The ACE 1 project has led to total investments of over USD250 million into the west and central Africa higher education sector.

Higher education in west and central Africa (and Africa as a whole) faced severe constraints in terms of attaining a critical mass of quality faculty. The ACE 1 project has facilitated the training of 3,583 faculty and 30,256 MSc and PhD students as well as delivering short courses.

A key lesson is on the importance of devising means of sustaining the financing for higher education through engagement of development partners, the private sector and governments. Governance and leadership have proved to be integral to the development of higher education systems that respond to the needs of the west and central African economies.

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