ACE Impact Project to Facilitate Africa’s Devt amid COVID-19

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The Africa Higher Education Centres of Excellence for Development Impact (ACE Impact) is currently holding its

fourth biannual regional workshop (ACE Impact Fall 2020 Virtual Workshop).
The workshop will hold virtually from October 19-27, 2020 as a result of restrictions on mobility imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to ensure the safety of all participants.

The meeting will bring together the 53 Centres of Excellence and key stakeholders, including government representatives from participating countries, vice-chancellors, players of the higher education sector, the private sector, policy think tanks, and partners, including the World Bank, the French Development Agency and the Association of African Universities.

According to the organisers, the overarching objective of the ACE Impact, October 2020 Virtual Workshop is to provide participating centres, their host institutions and governments with the tools and information necessary to implement the project and help achieve its objectives despite the current global pandemic, which has had a significant impact on all aspects of higher education.

The ACE impact project broadly targets strengthening post-graduate training and applied research in existing fields and supporting new fields that are essential for Africa’s economic growth.

Specific key focus areas of the workshop include: Provide centres the opportunity to share and to learn best practices on higher education excellence and relevance; take stock of the status of progress towards fulfilling the implementation plans, earning Disbursement Linked Indicators (DLIs) and advancing centre and project objectives; share global best practice on institutional resilience, re-opening universities and digital education.

Others are: Plan key next steps for each country, institution, and centre in implementing projects in challenging social, health and academic environments; provide clear guidance on requirements for disbursement, fiduciary and safeguards matters; and provide networking and collaboration opportunities for the centres.

The official opening of the meeting held on Tuesday October 20, 2020, and presided over by Ms. Meskerem Mulatu, World Bank Education Practice Manager, West Africa. Additional planned workshop activities include implementation support and peer learning sessions for all the participating centres across the various thematic areas of the project- Agriculture, Health and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

The virtual workshop will also feature operational clinics on Monitoring and Evaluation, Procurement and Financial Management. These sessions are aimed at equipping the participating ACEs and their host institutions with the needed tools to help them improve their project effectiveness and implementation.

A Project Steering Committee (PSC) meeting had held on October 19, 2020. The PSC comprises representatives of all participating countries, regional bodies and industry. They serve as the policy making body of the project.

The organisers promised that the ACE Impact project will continue to adopt innovative approaches towards strengthening the centres and their host institutions to become excellent and responsive to the continent’s developmental needs.

“We continue to count on the support of all stakeholders and look forward to their active participation in the fourth regional workshop, in their respective capacities.”

The ACE Project is a World Bank initiative, in collaboration with governments of participating countries to support higher education institutions in specialising in STEM, agriculture and health. It is the first World Bank project aimed at the capacity building of higher education institutions in Africa. The first phase (ACE I) was launched in 2014 with 22 centres of excellence in nine West and Central African countries; Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côted’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo. The project aims to promote regional specialisation among participating universities in areas that addresss specific common regional development challenges.

It also aims to strengthen the capacities of these universities to deliver high quality training and applied research, as well as meet the demand for skills required for Africa’s development.

The second phase (ACE II) was launched in East and Southern Africa with 24 centres across Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. Based on the initial successes, the World Bank and the French Development Agency (AFD) in
collaboration with the African governments, launched the ACE Impact Project in 2018 to strengthen post-graduate training and applied research in existing fields and support new fields that are essential for Africa’s economic growth. There are 43 ACEs (25 new ones and 18 from ACE I); five Emerging Centres; one “topup” centre in Social Risk Management; and five Colleges and Schools of Engineering.

The new areas include sustainable cities; sustainable power and energy; social sciences and education; transport; population health and policy; herbal medicine development and regulatory sciences; public health; applied informatics and communication; and pastoral production.