Representatives from the World Bank Group, the French Development Agency, the Association of African Universities, and the Ministry of Higher Education of Cote d’Ivoire have formally launched the ACE Impact at 10 (ACE@10) celebrations.
This pivotal launch event took place at the Latrille Events, Abidjan, as part of the official opening of the 10th Africa Higher Education Centres of Excellence for Development (ACE Impact) Regional workshop, currently underway in Cote d’Ivoire – from October 31 – November 3, 2023.
Guided by the theme ‘A Decade of Advancing Postgraduate Education Excellence in Africa’, the celebrations will spotlight the enormous impact and key achievements realised under the ACE Impact project, while positioning and mapping out its future of endless possibilities for transforming Africa’s higher education landscape.
Dr. Ekua Bentil, Senior Education Specialist at the World Bank Group provided an insightful overview of the Africa Centres of Excellence Project. She stated that for nearly a decade, the World Bank has invested over $650 million in Sub-Saharan Africa through the ACE Program to enhance the quality of higher education to solve developmental challenges in the region. Dr. Bentil took participants down memory lane to 2012 when the World Bank, in consultation with African governments, recognised the need to support the strengthening of various universities and their teams to drive Africa’s transformation and champion development within the sub-region.
The engagements and partnership led to the launching of ACE I in the year 2014, which featured 22 centres from nine countries in west and central Africa – Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo. ACE II followed in 2016, supporting 24 centres in eight countries in Southern and Eastern Africa, specifically, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.
Following the significant successes achieved by the two phases of the project, the World Bank Group and the French Development Agency (AFD), in collaboration with African governments, launched the ACE Impact Project in 2018, to strengthen post-graduate training and applied research in existing fields, whilst supporting the development of new fields essential for Africa’s economic growth. ACE Impact is being implemented in 11 countries, with 53 centres, including 18 renewed from ACE I. Aside from the funding by the World Bank, Dr. Bentil highlighted the financial support provided by the French Development Agency (AFD), including €72 million to support Benin, Cote d’Ivoire and Nigeria, under ACE Impact. The AFD has also contributed an additional €6 million to support the ACE Partner Project, an initiative aimed at promoting the influence and collaboration of thematic research networks between African Centres of Excellence, key actors in quality education and research, mobilised around national and regional developmental issues.
Dr. Sylvia Mkandawire, Senior Program Manager of ACE Impact at AAU, outlined the plans for the celebrations. These include the generation of articles documenting the project’s key achievements over the 10-year period, profiling innovations and research breakthroughs, highlighting students’ research and alumni impact, and producing documentaries on the project’s journey, among others. The pinnacle of the celebrations will be a project-level celebration event scheduled to take place in Ghana in 2024.
Country teams were encouraged to make plans to mark the ACE@10 celebrations at the local level and to spotlight the tremendous achievements of the project. Groundbreaking and lifesaving research have been consistently produced by these centres of excellence, on many occasions when Africa and the world have faced global pandemics and crisis. The development of innovative solutions and nurturing of high-level human capacity have remained at the forefront of the project and will continue to be key focus of African universities in the years to come.