World Bank commits $580m to ACE project in varsities ― Official

We will sustain ACE project in Nigeria ― FG

The World Bank has committed over $580 million to the African Centres of Excellence project in Nigerian universities and other 11 African countries to bridge the skill gaps and boost research in the continent.

Education Specialist, World Bank, Dr Ekua Bentil, made this known on Tuesday at the African Centres of Excellence (ACE1) Regional and 3rd ACE impact workshop in Abuja.

She disclosed that the project has led to graduation of over 9,000 Masters degree students as well as PhD students from various programmes in the 22 Centres in the first phase of the project that started in 2014.

Nigeria was lucky to host 10 out of the 22 centres in the ACE1 project that would close in March 2020.

Bentil explained that there were three phases of the ACE programmes- first phase, ACE1 for West and Central Africa, started in 2014 and would and be closing March of this year; ACE2 for East and Southern Africa, which started in 2016 and then the 3rd phase which was launched in 2019 for West and Central Africa.

She said on the overall, the World Bank has invested over $580 million in the programmes in order to produce skilled manpower that would provide a solution to the challenges of the continent.

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She recalled that of the Centres at Redeemers University, Ede, Nigeria, had during the Ebola crisis was able to develop a tool for identifying and diagnosing an Ebola Virus in six minutes that helped the country in containing the spread of the epidemic among other examples.

Minister of State for Education, Hon Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, while declaring the workshop opened said the Federal Government, through the Ministry of Education, would continue to work hard to ensure the sustainability of the project beyond its initial life cycle.

Nwajiuba was represented by the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Education, Arc Sonny Echono, thanked the World Bank and other partners towards ensuring the success of the ACE1 programme.

He said: Working together, along with the various funding agencies, such as the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund), Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF), and others, we hope to be strategic in our collaboration to sustain this project in a way that would ensure a reduction in duplication of efforts in terms of project implementation.

“Therefore, I urge that you continue to collaborate with one another as well as fashion out other ways of sustaining this laudable Project beyond the World Bank intervention,” he said.

Executive Secretary of National Universities Commission (NUC), Professor Abubakar Rasheed, said the ACE1 project has had a tremendous impact on the hosting universities in Nigeria.

According to him, as at this week, 189 PhDs have been graduated under the ACE project and a few hundreds who are still on the programme.

He added that 1000 Masters students have graduated from the various programmes and with another 1000 trying to finish their Masters now.

He noted that following the successes recorded in ACE 1, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Tertiary Education Trust (TETFund) have introduced Centres of Excellence in some universities in Nigeria.

Rasheed explained that the CBN had commissioned three Centres of Excellence in University of Nsukka University of Ibadan and Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, while three more about to be completed Bayero University, Kano, University of Jos, and University of Port Harcourt.

“We are also happy that TETFund has now decided to follow suit to start with 12 Universities and 22 Centres of Excellence across the six geopolitical zones. From the selection, some of the centres would be in the area of health, agriculture, food security, renewable energy, two of the centres would be for Security Studies and Peace Building.

“We are happy that is the ACE 1 that is given birth to this initiative because we have seen the benefit and usefulness of the project.”

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