By Irene Gaitirira
Published November 4, 2016
A project aimed at providing high quality, market-relevant post-graduate education in eastern and southern Africa has been launched.
The World Bank-funded five-year Eastern and Southern Africa Higher Education Centers of Excellence Project (ACE II) is expected to build collaborative research capacity in regional priority areas: STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), Agriculture, Health, Education and Applied Statistics.
Inter-University Council for East Africa (IUCEA), an East African Community institution that coordinates the development of higher education and is coordinating the project says the goal of the US$140 million initiative is to “reduce skill gaps in development priority areas.”
The selected 24 ACES in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia are, Over the project, expected to “enroll more than 3500 graduate students in the regional development priority areas, out of which at least 700 would be [doctoral] students and more than 1000 would be female. It also plans to facilitate publication of at least 1500 journal articles, launch more than 300 research collaborations with the private sector and other institutions, and generate about US$30 million in external revenue,” IUCEA says in a statement to the media.
“We have a shortage of graduates in engineering, manufacturing and construction, which translates to fewer skilled professionals with specialised knowledge in areas like oil and gas, energy and railways industries,” says Prof Colletta Suda, Kenya’s Principal Secretary responsible for Higher Education. “The scale of the need for highly skilled and specialised labour in the region is so large that it is unsustainable to send most of our post-postgraduate students abroad for training.”
Suda says it makes sense to pool the eastern and southern Africa region’s existing human and financial resources into a few specialised centres with the mandate of offering high quality education and relevant research to serve the entire region.
IUCEA says it expects the ACEs to have “developed sufficient capacity to become sustainable regional hubs for training and research in their specialised fields, capable of leading efforts to address priority development challenges and improve lives in the region” by the end of the project.
But for that to be realised, IUCEA says it will provide forums for the private sector and ACEs to share knowledge on collaborative research ideas and supervise a competitive scholarship programme in which 30 regional students in STEM will be financed for two years to attain a Master’s degree in any of the ACEs.
Dr Fred Matiangi, Kenya’s Education Minister, calls on all governments to end what he refers to as ‘bureaucratic delays that slow project implementation’.
“We don’t get any useful results from being bureaucratic. Governments should not be a hurdle; they should be a facilitating entity.”
Dr Sajitha Bashir, Practice Manager for World Bank’s Education Global Practice, says the Bank sees the establishment of the ACEs as a broader effort in building technical and scientific capability for Africa’s socio-economic transformation.
“Without these highly specialised professional skills and without that critical mass,” Bashir stresses, “we don’t think that Africa can transform itself.”
But how were ACEs selected?
“Through an objective, transparent and merit-based process,”IUCEA says. “Out of the 92 eligible proposals submitted, 24 were selected from universities across the eight participating countries.”
The institutions selected as Centres of Excellence include Kenya’s Egerton University,Jaramogi Odinga Oginga University of Science & Technology and Moi University; Uganda’s Makerere University, Uganda Martyrs University and Mbarara University of Science & Technology; Tanzania’s Sokoine University of Agriculture and Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science & Technology; Rwanda’s College of Science & Technology, College of Business & Economics and College of Education of University of Rwanda; Ethiopia’s Haramaya University and Addis Ababa University; Malawi’s Lilongwe University of Agriculture & Natural Resources and University of Malawi; Mozambique’s Universidade Eduardo Mondale; and Zambia’s University of Zambia and Copperbelt University.
Each ACE is expected to receive between US$4.5 million and US$6 million to implement its own proposal.
“We value this new partnership to improve the quality of training and research in higher education, and reduce the skill gaps in key development priority areas,” says Prof Alexandre Lyambabaje, Executive Secretary of IUCEA.