Africa’s Centres of Excellence Engage in Dialogue on AU-EU Innovation Agenda

The Africa Centers of Excellence (ACE) International Partnerships Workshop themed “Building Pathways Towards Sustainability through Collaborative Research and Innovation” was held in Mauritius from May 8-10, 2024. The first session was a panel discussion on the African Union (AU)/European Union (EU) innovation agenda that was jointly adopted in July 2023 by the AU and the EU. This session was given priority on the first day of the partnership workshop because of the potential opportunities that the AU/EU innovation agenda presents to the ACE Projects being implemented by 80 centers in more than 50 universities and in 20 African countries. The session held strategic significance as it addressed the pressing need to explore avenues for sustaining the ACE Projects. This involves fostering diverse partnerships, strategic collaborations, and seeking alternative financial resources to ensure the continuation of the commendable efforts of the ACEs beyond their current funding period (2025). To address the complex and interlinked challenges presented by public health, climate change, food security, energy, water, and others it is important to prioritize regional and cross-continental coordination and collaboration. It is expected that by teaming up with partners to capitalize on economies of scale, the ACE Projects can accelerate and enhance development and economic gains for the African countries involved.  

About the African Union (AU) and the European Union (EU) Innovation Agenda 

The AU-EU Innovation Agenda seeks to bolster collaboration in research and innovation (R&I) between the African Union (AU) and the European Union (EU), while boosting the innovative capabilities of researchers and innovators from both continents. This is hoped to be achieved by facilitating the transformation of research outcomes into concrete outputs like products, services, businesses, and employment opportunities. 

The priority areas of the agenda are namely – Public Health, Green Transition, Innovation and Technology, Capacities for Science, and Cross-cutting issues. The five additional key areas in which AU-EU agreed to strengthen their cooperation are: (a) development of innovation ecosystems (b) innovation management, (c) knowledge exchange, including technology transfer, (d) access to finance, and (e) human capacity development.  

Potential alignment of the AU-EU Innovation Agenda to the ACE program: 

The AU-EU agenda has made it a priority to set up AU-EU Centers of Excellence, aiming to pioneer innovative institutional partnerships with significant transformative potential. The ACE project has similarly focused on establishing more than 80 centers of excellence across West, Central, East, and Southern Africa, including Djibouti. 

Investing in research and innovation infrastructures as part of the AU-EU agenda aligns with the objectives of the ACE program, which prioritizes enhancing the impact and sustainability of cooperation. The ACE program has concentrated on fortifying research and innovation infrastructures by investing in top-notch laboratories, cutting-edge teaching facilities, and robust internet infrastructure and services. 

The AU-EU agenda is leading the way in promoting the successful ARISE initiative, which offers funding to exceptional African researchers at mid-career and senior levels. Likewise, the ACE Project has placed a premium on investing in academic mobility and training the next generation of academics, aiming to enrich the African higher education landscape.

Panel session deliberations 

Overview of the ACE Program 

The session moderator, Mr. Ian Forde, a Human Development Program Leader, with the World Bank Group, explained the AU-EU Agenda and discussed its alignment with the ACE Program. The ACE Impact and ACE II Program Managers, Dr Sylvia Mkandawire, and Professor Meshack Obonyo presented an overview of the ACE Program. 

The ACE is the first large-scale regional program in the Higher Education sector in Africa to be funded by the World Bank. It was described by Professor Obonyo as a series of regional Higher Education projects that aim to improve Education, Training and Applied Research at the post-graduate level in key priority fields, that include Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM), Agriculture, Health, Education and other related fields. “The program has provided technical and financial support to the higher education sector in Africa since 2014 (investing US$ 650 million with US$ 72 million in co-financing from AFD)”, added Professor Obonyo. 

Dr. Mkandawire emphasized the significance of the 16 ACE Regional Thematic Networks initiative, which has facilitated collaborative grant applications, joint research endeavors, and publications. It has also encouraged the sharing of specialized equipment and personnel, the development of courses through co-creation, student and faculty mobility between participating institutions, organization of regional and international research symposia, summer schools, and the cultivation of robust academic and industry partnerships. Since its inception in 2014, the ACE Program has trained around 77,000 students, published 9,000 research articles, established 126 internationally accredited programs, and generated an additional revenue of US$ 171 million. 

The ACE Program identifies potential synergies and partnerships in student and faculty exchanges, research and innovation collaborations, engagement with scientific advisory boards, joint seminars, and workshops, as well as partnerships with industry and non-academic stakeholders. There is an increasing interest and ample opportunities for ACEs to broaden partnerships with European Universities. ACEs have already initiated collaborations with several European universities and consortia, indicating a promising avenue for further expansion. 

Contributions from the panelists 

Dr. Laurent Bochereau, the European Union Science Counsellor to the African Union participated in the panel virtually to provide more information on the joint AU-EU Innovation Agenda which is a flagship Initiative of the Global Gateway Africa – Europe investment package. He encouraged the participants to learn more about the agenda from the AU-EU innovation interface 

Dr. Bochereau also expanded on the opportunities under the International Cooperation within the Horizon Europe program that has three pillars. Pillar 1 supports Excellent Science and involves the European Research Council, Marie Skłodowska-Curie and Research Infrastructures. Pillar 2 is centered on addressing Global Challenges and enhancing European Industrial Competitiveness. It backs research clusters spanning Health; Culture, Creativity, and Inclusive Society; Civil Security for Society; Digital, Industry, and Space; Climate, Energy, and Mobility; and Food, Bioeconomy, Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment. Pillar 3 is dedicated to fostering an Innovative Europe and encompasses the European Innovation Council and the European Institute of Innovation & Technology. 

Dr. Bochereau introduced the second opportunity, known as Africa Initiative 2, featured in the second Work Program of Horizon Europe spanning 2023-2024. It builds upon the successes of the initial Africa Initiative 1 outlined in the Horizon Europe Work Program for 2021-2022. This initiative has a total budget of about 300 million euros and funds about 30 topics under calls for proposals to boost EU-Africa cooperation on Research & Innovation. In concluding, Dr. Bochereau encouraged the ACEs to visit the following useful links: 

  • EU-Africa Cooperation in Research and Innovation – long-term research and innovation policy priorities to strengthen Africa-Europe cooperation 
  • AU-EU Innovation Interface – mapping of AU-EU R&I projects to connect stakeholders and ecosystems at the interface between Africa and Europe to bring value to the impact of the Innovation Agenda 
  • EURAXESS Africainformation about research in Europe, opportunities for research funding, international collaboration and trans-national mobility 
  • Horizon Europe Funding & Tenders’ Portal – funding and calls for proposals for STI projects 
  • EU-Africa Global Gatewaythe Africa-Europe Investment Package, on sustainable investments in infrastructure (digital, energy, transport), health, education and skills, as well as climate change and environment 

Dr. Daniel Dulitzky, Regional Director of Human Development at the World Bank, emphasized the organization’s dedication to eradicating extreme poverty and fostering institutional resilience to shocks. Given the intricate interconnectedness of global issues, innovative solutions, partnerships, and sustained support are essential. Addressing today’s challenges necessitates coordinated, multi-sectoral approaches. Leveraging Africa’s demographic strengths, there’s a crucial emphasis on enhancing the delivery of health and education services. The World Bank is prioritizing support for improved teaching and learning methodologies, infrastructure development, and initiatives in health and education. 

Professor Kiran Bhujun, Director of Tertiary Education & Scientific Research in the Government of Mauritius, highlighted Mauritius’ robust higher education landscape, comprising 41 institutions offering 500 accredited programs. The country boasts an impressive gross tertiary enrollment ratio of 49/50%, reflecting a thriving research and higher education environment. With one-fifth of its students hailing from international backgrounds, Mauritius’ strategies align closely with the AU/EU agenda. The government actively facilitates academic exchanges for African faculty and offers generous scholarships to African students. However, research funding remains relatively low, prompting interest in participating in regional research initiatives and expanding diaspora engagement. Mauritius also aims to achieve a 60% transition to sustainable practices.

Mauritius and Africa as a whole face several challenges, including effectively engaging collaborators, establishing databases of researchers and their interests, limited capacity in navigating fund application processes, developing micro-credit schemes, fostering unity, and collaborating with mainland Africa to address issues like coastal erosion. 

Moderated Q&A session  

The aim of the question-and-answer session was to facilitate an interactive discussion regarding the context, objectives, and future actions of the AU-EU Innovation Agenda. There was a particular emphasis on exploring how the partnerships formed during the week could contribute to advancing the agenda’s goals. 

Professor Jan Palmowski, Secretary General of the Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities, emphasized that ARISE serves as an excellent platform and pathway for research and innovation exchanges within Africa and globally. He highlighted its significant contribution to sustainable and inclusive development, economic growth, and job creation. In the current pilot phase, ARISE supports close to 600 early- to mid-career researchers across Africa, under the guidance of 47 principal investigators, spread across 38 African countries. 

Other questions revolved around strategies for academic and research institutions to enhance innovation and secure increased government funding. 

Dr. Bochereau, the EU representative, highlighted the opportunities presented by the Intra Africa mobility program and reiterated aspects of the Horizon Europe initiative. 

Professor Bhujun emphasized the necessity for creativity to be accompanied by prioritization. He also underscored the correlation between limited funding and the attractiveness of research. Prof. Bhujun urged higher education institutions to focus on problem-solving research and to showcase the tangible impact of their research endeavors. 

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

African Ministers of Higher Education & Key Stakeholders Meet in Banjul for the 8th ACE Impact Regional Workshop



African Ministers of Higher Education and Key Stakeholders Meet in Banjul for the 8th Africa Higher Education Centers of Excellence for Development Impact (ACE Impact) Regional Workshop

Accra, Ghana (November 8, 2022) – Stakeholders of the Africa Higher Education Centers of Excellence for Development Impact (ACE Impact) project will be convening in Banjul, The Gambia, for the 8th bi-annual meeting to be held from 14th-17th November 2022. The meeting will bring together Ministers of Higher Education and project government representatives from the 11 participating African countries, the leaders of the fifty-three (53) Centers of Excellence, subject matter experts, key higher education stakeholders, policy think tanks, and partners such as the World Bank, the French Development Agency (AFD) and the Association of African Universities (AAU).

The workshop fosters an environment of knowledge sharing and networking between the centers and relevant agencies, providing in-person collaborative opportunities for the exchange of regional knowledge. The necessary tools and guidelines to facilitate effective project implementation and sustainability are shared with all centers, strengthening partnerships and networks whilst ensuring quality standards are maintained. The meeting seeks to provide implementation support and share global best practices with centers on the project objectives, especially development impact, entrepreneurship and innovation, gender initiatives, digital transformation, and institutional impact activities.

In line with students’ participation in this high-level meeting, winners of the maiden edition of the Student Innovation Research Award (SIRA) will be recognized. At least the best 15 ACE Impact students competitively selected for the SIRA will be awarded during the closing ceremony for outstanding competitive projects that offer solutions and innovative ideas in transformative research and interdisciplinary collaborations. Furthermore, students from the University of Applied Science, Engineering, and Technology (USET) in The Gambia will be given the opportunity to share their innovative research outputs through a poster exhibition to be held on November 15, 2022.

All activities, including the Opening and Closing ceremonies will be held (or hosted) at the OIC Conference Centre in Banjul, The Gambia. Virtual participation is available for stakeholders that may want to join online. The opening and closing sessions of the workshop will be held on the 15th and 18th of November, respectively, at 8:00 GMT. The special guest-of-honor for the opening session is His Excellency Adama Barrow, the President of the Republic of The Gambia.

The workshop will be preceded by a closed-door Ministerial/Steering Committee meeting on 14th November 2022. The Ministers of Higher Education and project government representatives from the 11 participating countries together with key partners will take stock of the progress made thus far and make recommendations towards the sustainability of the project.

The ACE Impact project remains committed to training the next generation of experts in priority areas such as Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM); Agriculture, Environment, Applied Social Science, Education, and Health with the aim of promoting sustainable growth and development in Africa.


Please visit the event website for details of the meeting Agenda among other relevant information.

– END –


For further information, contact

The World Bank: Hadijja Jawara,

The AAU: Millicent Kyei,

The Gambia: Maya Faal,


Background Information

The Africa Higher Education Centers of Excellence (ACE) is a World Bank initiative in collaboration with governments of participating countries to support higher education institutions specializing in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), Agriculture, Health, Environment and Social Science/Applied Science and Education. It is the first World Bank project aimed at building the capacities of higher education institutions in Africa through the promotion of regional specialization among participating universities in areas that address specific common regional development challenges. It further 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 first phase (ACE I) was launched in 2014 with 22 Centers of Excellence in Nine (9) West and Central African countries; Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, and Togo. The second phase (ACE II) was launched in East and Southern Africa with 24 centers across Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia. Based on the initial successes, the World Bank, and the French Development Agency (AFD) in collaboration with the African governments, launched the ACE Impact Project in 2019 to further strengthen post-graduate training and applied research in existing fields and support new fields that are essential for Africa’s economic growth. Under ACE Impact, there are 53 ACEs specializing in the broad thematic areas of STEM, agriculture, health, environment and social/applied science and education. For more information on the ACE Impact Project, visit


About the Organizers

Association of African Universities (AAU): The Association of African Universities is an international non-profit, non-governmental organization created by African Universities to promote cooperation among them on the one hand, and between them and the international academic community on the other. Created in 1967, the AAU is the Voice of Higher Education in Africa. AAU aims to improve the quality of African Higher Education and to strengthen its contribution to Africa’s development by supporting the core functions of Higher Education Institutions and facilitating critical reflection and consensus building on issues affecting Higher Education in Africa. The AAU is the Regional Facilitation Unit of the Africa Higher Education Centers of Excellence for Development Impact project.

World Bank Group: The World Bank Group is a multilateral development institution that works to reduce poverty and boost shared prosperity. Its subsidiary IDA (International Development Association) finances the Africa Centers of Excellence series of projects. The World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA), established in 1960, helps the world’s poorest countries by providing grants and low to zero-interest loans for projects and programs that boost economic growth, reduce poverty, and improve poor people’s lives. IDA is one of the largest sources of assistance for the world’s 74 poorest countries, 39 of which are in Africa. Resources from IDA bring positive change to the 1.3 billion people who live in IDA countries. Since 1960, IDA has provided $458 billion to 114 countries. Annual commitments have averaged about $29 billion over the last three years (FY19-FY21), with about 70 percent going to Africa.

French Development Agency (AFD): For more than 75 years, the French Development Agency (AFD) has been fighting global poverty by supporting policies and investments that benefit the poorest populations. Strengthening the social link between individuals, groups, and territories are now at the heart of its actions in education, health, employment, urban planning, climate, and biodiversity. The French Development Agency (AFD) is the ACE Impact project co-financier.

Strengthening Agricultural Research and Partnerships through ACE Impact Project

Strengthening Agricultural Research and Partnerships through ACE Impact Project

Agriculture and its importance to Africa 

 Considered to be the backbone of economic systems of developing countries, agriculture is the mainstay of several African economies, underpinning their food security, export earnings, rural development, and economic stability.  Given the enormous importance of Agriculture to Africa’s economic development, the ACE Impact project prioritizes agriculture and has it as one of the five broad thematic areas being supported by the project.  

According to a report by the World Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) 2020, agriculture’s contribution to GDP in Africa is at an average of 35%. Additionally, Africa achieved the highest rate of growth in agricultural production value (crops and livestock), the highest in the world, expanding by 4.3% per year between 2000 and 2018. This figure is roughly double that of the prior three decades (AGRA, 2020). Again, across Sub-Saharan Africa, the agricultural sector employs a proportion of the labor force and supplies the bulk of basic food, as well as provides subsistence and other income to a fraction of the population. It is noted that significant progress in promoting economic growth, reducing poverty, and enhancing food security cannot be achieved in most developing countries without enhancing the potential human and productive capacity of the agricultural sector and enhancing its contribution to overall economic and social development. A strong and vibrant food and agricultural system thus forms a primary pillar in the strategy of overall economic growth and development.    

Extensive research continues to be conducted, examining ways of enhancing the agricultural sector as a means of improving its socio-economic benefits. In line with this, current trends in agricultural research have focused on plant breeding, food security and technology, agribusiness, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), animal science, among others.  

The African Union’s New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) posits that the Agric sector offers the greatest potential for poverty and inequality reduction, as it provides sources of productivity from which the most disadvantaged people working in the sector should benefit. As a result, national and private investments are being directed toward the development of agriculture within the region.   


ACE Impact Contributions to Agriculture 

 The project has seven Agric-oriented centers in six countries (Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo) focusing on areas including Food Security and Nutrition, Livestock and Poultry Science, Food Technology and Research, Dryland Agriculture, Crop Improvement, Climate Change/ Biodiversity, and Agricultural Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Click here to see ACE Impact agriculture centres:  

Food Technology and Research(CEFTER); Regional Center of Excellence on Poultry Sciences (CERSA); African Center of Excellence in Agriculture for Food and Nutrition Security (CEA-AGRISAN) based at Cheikh Anta Diop University; West African Crop Improvement Center of Excellence (WACCI), Legon University, Ghana; – The Centre of Excellence Centre for Dryland Agriculture (CDA) at the University of Bayero, Kano, Nigeria; African Centre of Excellence on Climate Change, Biodiversity and Sustainable Agriculture (CEA- CCBAD) of the University Félix Houphouët Boigny; ACE: Pastoral Productions: Meat, Milk, Leather and Skins, Université Abdou Moumouni. 


Overall, the ACE Impact Agric focused centres have been undertaking impactful research (leading to the publication of 343 Research findings in high impact journals, and still counting), collaborating with international, regional and national institutions to innovate and to strengthen Agriculture’s contribution to their national and regional economies, among others.  Below are some key achievements of the Agric ACEs:

Food for West Africa Network 

In line with strengthening Inter-ACE collaborations, various thematic networks have been created under the ACE Impact Project. The Food for West Africa (FOOD4WA) is one of eight thematic networks established with the aim of advancing collaboration on cutting-edge research, to address food insecurity challenges within the region. The network’s objectives are:  

  1. To establish a network between faculty and students from the participating ACEs 
  2. Create a coordination of research on priority themes related to food security 
  3. Communicate the results of research and innovation through conferences and symposia involving key actors in the agricultural sector 
  4. Create a digital platform  

The network is expected to involve agriculture stakeholders within the region to strengthen food security, improve quality in agricultural products, train to increase the number of skilled agricultural workers and researchers and to develop innovative agricultural techniques to improve agricultural yields. 





Country                      Regional / Ghana

Project Title               Africa Higher Education Centers of Excellence for Development Impact (ACE Impact)

GRANT No.                D4293

Project ID No.             P164546

Assignment Title:      Consultancy Services for the engagement of Environmental and Social Safeguards Specialist at the Regional Facilitation Unit of the Association of African Universities

Reference No.:           GH-AAU-81649-CS-INDV


The Association of African Universities has received financing from the World Bank toward the cost of the First Africa Higher Education Centers of Excellence for Development Impact Projects (ACE Impact 1 and intends to apply part of the proceeds for consulting services.


Objectives of the assignment

The main objective the consultancy is to support and strengthen Safeguards due diligence of the Regional Facilitating Unit in ensuring compliance with World Banks Safeguards Policies and relevant National Environmental and social laws of participating countries of the ACE Impact Project.


The consultant shall provide clear, comprehensive and practical guidance to the RFU, country focal points (government representatives responsible for coordinating at the national level) and universities on integrating an environmental / social due diligence process from the prepared ESMF and site specific ESMPs during the specific ACE project implementation.


The detailed Terms of Reference (TOR) for the assignment can be found by clicking on the link below: 

The Association of African Universities now invites eligible individuals (“Consultants”) to indicate their interest in providing the Services.


Competency and Expertise

Interested Consultants should provide information demonstrating that they have the required qualifications and relevant experience to perform the Services.


The shortlisting criteria are:

  1. At least Masters’ degree in Environment or Natural Resources Management or Social Sciences or related disciplines
  2. At least ten (10) years’ working experience in environmental and social assessment for development projects
  3. Possession of relevant professional qualifications in Environmental issues
  4. Familiarity World Bank’s safeguard policies and procedures
  5. Fluency in English and French and ability to write and present in these languages.


The attention of interested Consultants is drawn to Section III, paragraphs, 3.14, 3.16, and 3.17 of the World Bank’s “Procurement Regulations for IPF Borrowers” July 2016 and revised in November 2017, and August 2018 (“Procurement Regulations”), setting forth the World Bank’s policy on conflict of interest available on this link .


Individual consultants will be selected will be selected in accordance with the World Bank’s “Procurement Regulations for IPF Borrowers” July 2016 and revised in November 2017, and August 2018 (“Procurement Regulations”).


Further information can be obtained at the address below during office hours 0900 to 1700 hours.


Expression of Interest

Interested individual Consultants must provide information (Detailed CV, cover letter and relevant educational and professional qualification documentation) indicating that they are qualified to perform the services for the specific position described above.


Expressions of interest must be delivered by registering using this link by Tuesday July 28, 2020



Sylvia Mkandawire (Dr.) Program Manager ACE Impact

Association of African Universities

African Universities House, Trinity Avenue, East Legon, Accra, Ghana

P. O. Box AN 5744, Accra-North, Ghana

STEE Produces Hand washing Equipment to Prevent COVID-19 Spread in the Gambia

Institutions under the Africa Higher Education Centres of Excellence for Development Impact (ACE Impact) are contributing in diverse ways towards management of the COVID 19 pandemic. These contributions are in the form of production of personal protection equipment, sanitizers, hand washing equipment as well as scientific and transformative research. The Centre for Science, Technology and Engineering for Entrepreneurship (STEE) hosted by the Gambian Technical Institute Gambia has invested in the production of hand washing equipment for various institutions in the Gambia.
The equipment is named “Sawer” which in Wolof dialect means “Your Health.” An indication that hand washing is key to staying safe and healthy during these unsafe times of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The initial production of “Sawer” commenced with about 100 hand washing equipment to serve various institutions such as the Offices of the President and First Lady, the Ministries of Water Resources, Petroleum, Basic Secondary and Higher Education, among other notable institutions.
Sawer is a contact free mechanical equipment with unique features, easy to use and suitable for all ages. It is manufactured from quality and durable raw materials.

The Africa Centre of Excellence for Science, Technology and Engineering for Entrepreneurship (STEE) is one of the 53 academic centres in West Africa. The centre aims at improving Science and Engineering education within the sub region.

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.

Vacancy- Project Coordinator

The African Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases (ACEGID) hosted by the Redeemer’s University, Nigeria is recruiting for the position of Project Coordinator.

Centre Overview
The African Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases (ACEGID), based at Redeemer’s University Nigeria, is driving biomedical innovation at the leading edge of pathogen surveillance, diagnostics, and outbreak response. Established in 2013 and supported by the Human Heredity and Health in Africa (H3Africa) consortium and the World Bank, the ACEGID platform is building genomics pipelines, advancing our understanding of microbial threats, and training the next generation of African scientists how to identify, manage and control these pathogens.

Project Overview
ACEGID conducts clinical and laboratory research activities including the protocol on Severe Infectious Disease: Surveillance, Detection, Risks and Consequences in West Africa which develops descriptive, epidemiological results with sufficient host, pathogen, vector, and interaction information to allow hypothesis generation. Some of these studies involve the enrollment and follow-up of research participants.

Position Purpose
The Site Project Coordinator will be responsible for providing support, managerial oversight and coordination of the projects and ensure its smooth day-to-day operation. The incumbent will provide sufficient update of the operations, logistics and laboratory activities ongoing at the site. He/She will track the project milestones and manage the relationship between the project team, the leadership and the hospital management. The project coordinator will relate cordially with the study PIs, and ensure all potential risks and timelines are managed.

Key Responsibilities
Work with project staff to document and facilitate understanding of project plans and goals related to project scope, quality, timeline, and cost
Anticipate obstacles and implement mitigating strategies
Create plans for monitoring and reporting progress. Includes preparation periodic review reports for funding agencies and collaborators
Plan and track logistics for performance of studies
Actively work with collaborators to improve project infrastructure and management
Prepare, submit, and keep up-to-date all IRB/MTA/DUA approvals for projects
Oversee and keep up-to-date lab safety and human subjects certifications for research study staff
Oversee sample and data management and other project documentation
Implement and maintain quality control and assurance measures at the site
Monitor procurement and maintain financial oversight of on-site project spending

Key Requirements
University degree in a relevant field
2-3 years of site (facility) level coordination experience required
Must have excellent written and verbal communication skills
Must have the ability to interact with an interdisciplinary group including international collaborators,global health researchers, research scientists, and data analysts
Experience in global health or genetics desired
Experience in managing funder/sponsor relations desired

How to Apply

Attach a cover letter, a CV and any other relevant documents as a single file in pdf format titled with your full name, and send in a mail with ‘Site Project Coordinator’ as its subject to

For more information, kindly visit

Daily Summaries of ACE Events in Dakar

The Africa Higher Education Centres of Excellence (ACE) Project organized its 11th and 2nd ACE I and ACE Impact workshops respectively. The events took place at the King Fahd and Radisson Blu hotels in Dakar, Senegal from September 24- 27, 2019. The workshop was preceded by Project Steering Committee meetings held on September 23 at the World Bank Office in Dakar. Below are summaries of the daily happenings.

Click to read  September 23 & 24 summaries (English)

Click to read September 23 & 24 summaries (French)

Click to read  September 25 summary (English)

Click to read September 25 summary(French)

Click to read  September 26 & 27 summary ( French)

Click to read September 26 summary (English)

Click to read September 27 summary (English)

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