Nineteen university-based African Centers of Excellence (ACE) across seven African countries will be receiving a combined grant of $150 million (around R1.6 billion) from the World Bank to help in the advancement of STEM education on the continent.

ACEs in Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, Benin, Burkina Faso, Gambia, Togo and Cameroon will receiving funding to provide training and higher education to students, faculty and civil servants, equipping these young Africans with new scientific and technical skills.

“I am excited to support these pioneering centres of excellence because they will be another step in building and nurturing specialized world-class higher education institutions on the continent,” said Makhtar Diop, World Bank Vice-President for Africa. “I can think of no better way to grow African economies, create jobs, and support research in Africa, than educating young graduates with expertise in high-demand areas such as chemical engineering, crop science, and the control of infectious diseases.”

According to the World Bank, Africa needs its own research and innovative solutions to tackle its development challenges including climate change, which calls for urgent measures to increase yields in agriculture; and infectious diseases, which continue to exact a heavy toll on families and economies. The problem is, the researcher-to-population ratio is very low in African countries.

The new Bank-financed ACEs offer a regionally integrated way to increase high-quality research and development services that will help meet these challenges, yet are efficient and economical given limited public budgets.

“Students in West and Central Africa urgently need high-quality science and technology programs to compete in their own regional job market as well as the global economy, but not a single university from this part of Africa features in rankings of the world’s top 500 universities,” said Peter Materu, World Bank Education Manager for West & Central Africa. “The African Centers of Excellence project is a win-win initiative—it will help these young people achieve their aspirations without leaving Africa, and it will help firms to find advanced skills and knowledge domestically and to compete more effectively in international markets.”

[Main image: World Bank]