Africa’s economic transformation hinges on high-level skills


World Bank spending on education in sub-Saharan Africa has increased over the past decade and tripled from $400 million to $1.2 billion between 2018 and 2021 in West and South Africa. Center, with a significant contribution to the higher education sector.

“The education sector is high on the World Bank’s agenda,” said David Malpass, president of the bank.

He was speaking at the headquarters of the World Bank in Washington, DC, USA, during a high-level meeting on October 17-18 on the theme “Centres of Excellence in Higher Education in Africa: a path towards sustainable development.

About $600 million of the World Bank’s investment has gone into the Africa Centers of Excellence (ACE) program, a bank initiative created in 2014 focused on advancing science, technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) at postgraduate level, in particular to increase the number of MScs and PhDs in the fields.

The centers, Malpass said, contribute to the continent’s effort to produce a “critical mass of highly skilled workers”. [human resources] and research results” needed to meet the challenges of local and regional development in different priority sectors.

“Africa’s economic transformation depends on the skills of its workforce and its ability to accelerate the pace towards building an effective innovation ecosystem,” he noted.

Building coalitions

ACEs, said Malpass, are a great example of how building coalitions for change can help improve higher education in Africa. He spoke of an important step in the centers training more than 61,000 students, more than a third of whom are women.

Other examples of the initiative’s success have been demonstrated by the focus on quality, which has led to the international accreditation of 90 university programs, “high-impact research” on critical issues such as diseases infections, food security, the energy crisis and climate change, and the production of nearly 7,000 peer-reviewed journal articles, Malpass said during a session of the meeting.

He said, “The regional solutions created by ACE projects offer effective opportunities for a more resilient Africa, by leveraging economies of scale, harmonizing talent and increasing partnerships.

Malpass revealed that the bank has entered into a memorandum of understanding with six historic Black American colleges and universities (HBCUs), focused on sharing knowledge and talent among development and learning institutions, to advance “a development social and economic more inclusive and sustainable”. .

This could greatly benefit Africa as HBCUs were very interested in STEM students from the continent, HBCU students studying in Africa, as well as research exchanges and “cross-fertilization”.

Training effect”

The ACE project has had enormous “spillovers” which, among other things, have led to the replication of the ACE model, as well as attracting financial partners such as the French Development Agency (French Development AgencyWhere AFD), to collaborate on its third phase, also known as the ACE Impact project, observed Olusola Oyewole, Secretary General of the Association of African Universities.

This was in 2019, and it was done in order to increase the impact of existing ACEs by expanding the program to more centers.

As a result, a total of 53 centers in 35 universities from 11 countries, namely Benin, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Djibouti, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo, are now participating in the project, he said.

Some participating countries have also copied the CAE, he noted, giving the example of Nigeria, which has established national centers of excellence inspired by the CAE concept and framework.

“Furthermore, the success of this collaboration has contributed to the creation of the ACE Thematic Networks which support collaboration between centers in terms of training and research,” Oyewole added.

The ACE project has exceeded expectations, with 30 universities benefiting from the training of the next generation of experts in various disciplines, to provide a conducive teaching and learning environment through the provision of infrastructure, including laboratories and state-of-the-art equipment to drive applied applications. to research.

In total, it has supported over 80 centers in over 50 universities in 20 countries in Africa with thousands of students enrolled in postgraduate programs.

Other Higher Education Funders

Other higher education funders were also part of the meeting. For its part, the U.S. National Science Foundation believes that science knows no borders and will continue to support research collaborations with African institutions, revealed Dr. Wenda Bauchspies, Program Director, Office of Science and of the foundation’s international engineering.

The foundation was open to partnerships on fundamental scientific research as long as the applicant entities had an American collaborator.

“If you don’t have an American collaborator, you have to find one to get our funding. We have the mechanism to do it. You can also bring your networks to work with us,” she said.

Unlike the World Bank and several other donors, the Carnegie Corporation of New York has contributed to humanities in African universities, said Claudia Frittelli, program manager for higher education and research in Africa at the the company’s international program.

The company has also invested in, among others, the African Diaspora Scholarship Program which connects African universities with the African academic diaspora. Now 10 years old, it has proven hugely popular, receiving more than double the requests for available places.

The society will continue to “deliberately” fund higher education policy in Africa, Frittelli added.

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