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Centre of Excellence: World Bank Gives Nigeria $70m to Finance Science & Technology

April 18th, 2014 | by Watchdog Reporters
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* 19 other Centres in 7 African Countries too

Nigeria is a top recipient among Countries in West and Central Africa selected by the World Bank to benefit from the Bank credit of $150 million to finance their Universities of Science & Technology and Agriculture.

The World Bank’s board of director have approved $150 million to finance 19 university-based Centres of Excellence in seven West and Central African countries. Nigeria is taking the lion’s share from the Bank’s lending arm, expected to be payable over a period of 15-20 years with about 10 years moratorium

The selected centres are to receive funding for advanced specialized studies in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)-related disciplines, as well as agriculture and health.

This landmark Africa Centres of Excellence (ACE) project, which will equip young Africans with new scientific and technical skills, will be financed through International Development Association (IDA) credits.
A breakdown of the said amount showed that Nigeria will get $70 million, Ghana, $24 million, Senegal $16 million while Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, and Togo will each get $8 million.

However, the Gambia will receive $2 million credit and an additional $1 million as grant to provide higher education, including short-term training, to students, faculty and civil servants through the 19 ACEs.

“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. 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,” Makhtar Diop, World Bank Vice-President for Africa said.

“The continent faces a serious shortage of skilled workers in fast-growing sectors such as extractive industries, energy, water, and infrastructure, as well as in the fields of health and telecommunications. The result of having too few skilled workers in Africa’s extractive industries is that oil and minerals are extracted in Africa but processed elsewhere in the world, to the detriment of African industries and jobs. Africa also suffers from a shortage of trained health workers who can provide high quality maternal health services. This may partially explain why Africa’s maternal mortality rate has remained so tragically high at 500 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births.

“Further, 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. However, the researcher-to-population ratio is very low in African countries. Burkina Faso, for example, has 45 research and development (R&D) specialists per million people, and Nigeria has 38, in comparison to an average of 481 in Latin America and 1,714 in East Asia,” Diop added.

“For World Bank Education Manager for West & Central Africa, Peter Materu,“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. 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.

The new ACEs are expected to increase high-quality R&D services that will help meet these challenges, yet are efficient and economical given limited public budgets. Coordination and knowledge-sharing among the 19 ACEs will be managed through the Association of African Universities (AAU), which received a $5 million grant for this purpose, and is an important regional partner.