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In order to address regional development challenges, the World Bank said it spent $580 million in the three phases of its Africa Centre of Excellence (ACE) projects.

The projects cuts across 22 centres in West and Central Africa countries.

The Education and Capacity Specialist of the World Bank, Ekua Benti, said this at the 16th African Higher Education Centre of Excellence workshop in Abuja on Tuesday.

The ACE Project was instituted in 2013 by the governments of Burkina Faso, Republic of Benin, Ghana, Cameroun, Nigeria, Togo and Senegal, with support from the World Bank.

However, the scope has been widened to accommodate 54 ACE spots hosted in 22 centres across 12 countries. They include Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroun, Cote d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Ghana, Gambia, Guinea, Niger, Senegal, Togo and Nigeria.

The project was initiated to promote regional specialisation amongst universities in the participating countries within the West and Central African sub-regions, to address common regional development challenges and strengthen their capacities to deliver high-quality training and applied research.

It is aimed at addressing common regional development challenges and strengthening capacities to deliver high-quality training and applied research.

Ms Benti said the projects focused mostly on Masters and PhD students with some support for undergraduate students for specific centres.

“We have three different phases of ACE- Ace 1 for West and Central Africa which started in 2014 and it is closing in March 2020. We have ACE 2 for East and Southern Africa which started in 2016 and the third phase was launched in 2019.

”In overall, we have spent more than $580 million. World Bank sees human development as a key thing for Africa’s sustenance,” she said.

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According to her, in 2030, ”we are going to have an explosion of the youth and if we do not start investing in our human capital then Africa is going to suffer in the end”.

“We are investing to make sure there is quality in education, quality faculties, quality in terms of the facilities the student has and quality in the research that is being done in Africa universities. When we started, we had challenges but the centres have been very committed and we have seen a lot of results,” she said.

“One of the centres at the Redeemer University was able to develop a tool for identifying and diagnosing Ebola virus which helped Nigeria,” she added

She also said the researches done ”must have an impact and focus on sexual harassment policy”. She said opportunities will be created for more female students into the project.

”We want the centres to bring more female students, recruit them and retain them. We have centres that focus on mining water, energy, ICT, water, coastal resilience and environment.”

She said over 2000 PhD students and 9000 Masters students have benefitted from this programme.

Education ministry

Also speaking, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, Sonny Echono, said the project had continued to encourage the ”internalisation of students in the country with the enrolment of regional students”.

Mr Echono said that the federal government had allowed all Nigerian universities to participate in the ACE projects which shows that the present administration was key to the research development of the country.

Meanwhile, the Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC), Abubakar Rasheed, said the project was aimed at addressing common regional development challenges and strengthening their capacities to deliver high-quality training and applied research.

Mr Rasheed said the objective of the project was also to meet the labour market demands for skills within specific areas where there are skill gaps that affect development, economic growth and poverty reduction.

He said that the ACE1 Project in Nigeria had recorded a number of successes in the last five years.

He said the project has increased enrolment of regional students from West and Central African countries into the Nigerian University System and “developed the anti-snake venom vaccine known as COVIP-Plus.”

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