African Centers of Excellence increase the pool of researchers



Since the initiative in 2014, the AAU has said News from academia.

Of the graduates, 25% are women and 25% are regional students from institutions outside the countries where the centers are based.

In addition, 16,000 students have benefited from short courses offered by the centers and have entered into 87 partnerships with other institutions and industries.

Dr Joshua Atah, director of ICT projects at the National Commission of Nigerian Universities, said the project has contributed to world-class research being carried out by the centers involved, among others, by providing funds for the acquisition of products. peak. art equipment needed for laboratories and the creation of conducive work environments for researchers in modern buildings.

In addition to this, researchers and students are trained to increase the pool of research base in Africa.

The significant investment that is being made in research and higher education in Africa, in general, has also provided opportunities in joint resource mobilization, teaching and learning as well as the sharing of infrastructure and other resources.

Atah said that by design each center responds to development challenges in specific thematic areas.

“In the area of ​​health, for example, we have seen centers of excellence in health, such as the West African Center for Cell Biology of Infectious and Noncommunicable Diseases, in Ghana, and the African Center of Excellence for genomics of infectious diseases, Nigeria at the forefront of COVID-19 research, ”he said.

“There are centers focused on agriculture that deal with post-harvest losses, and centers in Benin that deal with water and sanitation issues,” he added.

The centers were also able to generate US $ 38,437 million through some of their internal activities, such as competitive grants from other development partners, governments, tuition fees, joint research and research consultants. They were also able to raise funds through activities such as selling products and technologies.

Faculty members attached to the centers were also credited with 1,005 research publications.

In addition, 1,820 faculty members and students have benefited from graduate internship programs, different from the main graduate program.

The internship program is part of the training program in which students have the opportunity to complete internships in a relevant industry for a period of at least one month.

“For this project, we encouraged students to be placed in private companies, ministries and public services. The idea is to create an opportunity for hands-on practice as students finalize their degree training, ”said Atah.

Sustainable solutions

Funded by the World Bank and the French Development Agency (French Development Agency), with a budget of US $ 350 million over five years, the project started in 2014.

The first phase, ACE I, included 22 centers hosted by West African countries. ACE II included 24 centers of excellence in East and Southern Africa.

The West and Central African centers are based in Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti and The Gambia. The others are in Ghana, Guinea, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo.

The third phase, ACE Impact, which also aims to improve the quality, quantity and development impact of postgraduate education in selected universities through regional specialization and collaboration, is underway.

It focuses on West Africa and Djibouti and includes 53 centers in total: 17 in Nigeria, nine in Ghana, one in Gambia, two in Guinea, five in Burkina Faso, four in Côte d’Ivoire, three in Benin, three in Togo, three in Niger, four in Senegal and two in Djibouti.

ACE I has already been completed, but the ACE II and ACE Impact projects are ongoing. AUA oversees ACE Impact, while the East African Interuniversity Council oversees ACE II.


Although COVID-19 has disrupted educational activities and slowed down the activities of the centers, as many universities that host the centers have been closed, they have developed innovative ways to continue their work.

The African Center of Excellence in Infectious Disease Genomics, hosted by Redeemer’s University in Nigeria, was the first institution in Africa to successfully sequence SARS-CoV-2 genomes.

The Nigerian center has also developed a COVID-19 screening tool to measure the level of individual risk, working with the African Centers for Disease Control to sequence all variants of the COVID-19 virus in Africa.

The West African Center for Infectious Pathogen Cell Biology at the University of Ghana is also assisting in virus management through genome sequencing to strengthen surveillance for tracking virus mutations.

Other centers have also contributed by producing personal protective equipment such as face shields and ventilators, among others.

Sustained impact

As part of the ACE impact, project funding has also made it possible to strengthen institution-wide programs in schools or colleges of engineers at selected institutions (COEngg).

CoEngg or Fusion Centers are expected to increase undergraduate student enrollment (including female enrollment); achieve international quality standards; introduce new academic programs; promote project-based learning and innovative pedagogy; establish new laboratories; and enable technology transfer, business and entrepreneurship.

It also aims to establish links with company programs; and strengthen teaching and research capacities as well as promote institutional transformation in terms of policies and operations.

The AUA said sustainability beyond World Bank funding was a factor to be used to determine the future success of the project. Therefore, a key indicator of access to funds is the generation of external resources by the centers.

“As a results-oriented project, an acute monitoring and evaluation mechanism is implemented to ensure that the impact of the centers is sustainable,” AAU said in response to questions from News from academia.

Some centers have also created an endowment fund to ensure long-term stability, fiscal responsibility and financial sustainability.

In addition, networks (in the fields of health, digital education and development, water, mining, urban planning and transport and the environment) within the different thematic areas have been established. were created to strengthen inter-ACE collaboration for continued and sustained impact.

Coastal management center

The Director of the Coastal Management Center at the University of Cape Coast, one of the centers in Ghana, Professor Denis W Aheto, said News from academia that the center aims to achieve excellence in the postgraduate training of young African professionals in key areas of coastal management to cope with the deterioration of coastal and marine environments (ecosystems and biodiversity) and, thus, improve coastal resilience and promote policies through various strategies.

Aheto said the center has helped support its faculty members to publish 150 scientific papers in international and local journals and communicate on applied research at regional and international conferences and workshops during the project period. .

He said that since joining ACE, 88 students have enrolled in various university programs and 30 doctoral and 58 master’s students have graduated. The center also had 110 professionals who participated in short courses.

As with other higher education institutions, Aheto said, one of the main areas affected by COVID-19 was the reluctance of industries to hire students for internships.

“So the students couldn’t embark on internship trips as originally planned. In addition, the pace of research among staff and students has generally slowed down. The COVID-19 blocks and protocols have created some apathy among research respondents and user communities, ”he added.

In addition, the university implemented a shift system that limited the number of staff and faculty allowed in their offices at any given time.

This has dramatically reduced the efficiency of key offices within the university and, as a result, overall productivity. The rapid transition to online teaching and learning, internet data requirements and the (uncertain) reliability of internet services were additional constraints.

Therefore, said Aheto, the center is working to implement a hybrid teaching and learning system in which on-site and online platforms are explored to deliver academic programs and research.


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