Centres of Excellence Explore More Effective Ways to Accelerate Development Impact in the Region
To propel the overarching goal of the Africa Higher Education Centres of Excellence for Development Impact (ACE Impact), and to ensure that the research outputs of higher education institutions address national and regional challenges, the Disbursement Linked Indicator (DLI 2) was instituted. The DLI2 indicator measures the development impact that Centres are having, both nationally and regionally in terms of the extent of their contribution to their respective sectors/industries. It supports the advancement of applied research, training of quality post graduates, industry linkages and innovativeness aimed at tackling societal challenges. Its evaluation criteria include the number of student internships recorded by a centre, number of graduates hired in the sector, number of short courses delivered in response to sectoral stakeholder requests and an evaluation of Sectoral Advisory Board annual reports, as well as feedback obtained from interviews with sectoral stakeholders. The DLI 2, is coordinated by Technopolis in close collaboration with the Regional Facilitation Unit -the Association of African Universities and the World Bank.
At the ongoing 7th ACE Impact Regional Workshop, a session on Development Impact was held to provide the opportunity for an interactive discussion on how the centres are progressing towards achieving development impact in line with the project objectives. Chaired by Dr. Joshua Atah, the Focal Member for Nigeria, the session benefited from panel discussions involving Prof. Gordon Awandare from the West Africa Centre for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogen (WACCBIP), Prof. Emenike Ejiogu, Center leader for Africa Center of Excellence for Sustainable Power and Energy Development (ACE_SPED) and Prof. Daouda Mama, Center leader for the Africa Center of Excellence for Water and Sanitation (C2EA).
A presentation by the main speaker, Ms. Anneloes de Ruiter, a Senior Consultant with the Technopolis Group, noted that the primary goal of the ACE Impact project to enhance regional capacity and to produce high-quality research for sustainable solutions to solving the challenges within the region, has heightened the need to assess the key and long-term effects of centres achievements and activities. She provided insights to observations made during the verification of centres for the DLI 2 prior to the 7th regional workshop. She emphasized that some centres have well-established academic and industry connections; distinct research, innovation, and education policies; adaptable and flexible responses to the pandemic as well as excellent understanding of the added value and positioning in the international/ regional/national research landscape. She further added that using existing opportunities, the ACEs must fully engage their alumni and include grooming them to serve as ambassadors, future faculty, and collaborators. She encouraged centres to forge partnerships for collaborative efforts toward making effective impact.
Highlighting WACCBIP’s strategy for public and community engagement, Prof. Awandare explained that the centre prioritized the establishment of a communication and public engagement unit to facilitate research communication and interactions with the public and the media. He noted that the unit has been a major game-changer in enhancing the centre’s visibility. Some key activities have included communicating complex research outputs in simple and relatable language that is easily digestible by the public. In addition, the unit has been at the forefront of organizing fora, press engagements and community outreach programs aimed at publicizing the centre’s research outputs.
Speaking on impact, Prof. Ejiogu noted that ACE-SPED’s impact has focused on its immediate environment- the university. He emphasized the centre’s efforts to tackle power challenges at the University of Nsukka, Nigeria through extensive research and prudent measures. He added that the centre has leveraged partnerships with local power and energy companies to access internship opportunities for students. In terms of regional partnerships, ACE-SPED had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the West Africa Power Pool – a specialized agency of ECOWAS targeting the generation of a self-reliant regional power market which delivers abundant affordable electricity to all member states.
Prof. Mama emphasized C2EA’s partnerships with both the public and private sectors. He stated that the centre’s partnership with the Water Management Authority in Benin enables them to conduct research and share its findings to advise policymakers on water and sanitation.
Additionally, panel members also shared challenges faced by their centres in addressing developmental challenges. Key areas of concern were related to procurement delays, financial and administrative bureaucracies, lack of effective policies to facilitate scientific research and the timely acquisition of science equipment.
Centres were advised by Ms. De Ruiter to ensure that their activities are strategically executed to provide a sustainable long-term impact that transcends the academic community. In addition, centres were encouraged by the panel members to invest in high-quality staff, foster regional and international collaborations and empower young people in their teams as well as maximize the potential of their strengths to achieve their goals.
In his closing remarks, the Chair entreated centres to put in place efficient measures for project sustainability beyond the World Bank funding.
Written By: Millicent Afriyie Kyei, ACE Impact Communications Officer