Sub-Saharan Africa has experienced remarkable growth over the last fifteen years. Recent rapid economic transformation and foreign investment including Chinese investments have boosted demand for greater technological skills and applied research in these areas. However, there is a significant gap between demand and supply of skills required for the labor market of African countries’ transforming economies. A coordinated regional approach can build upon existing academic and training institutions in the region to collectively produce skilled workforce, especially in priority sectors where demand for skills is the greatest.
The World Bank finances and supports a significant portfolio of higher education, science and technology, as well as skills and Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) development projects in Africa. PASET, which is a unique Africa led initiative, was launched in 2013 with support from the World Bank and partner countries including Korea and China. By now, PASET has a full-fledged governance structure and emerging initiatives including regional scholarship and innovation fund (RSIF), the regional skills centers of excellence, capacity building in institutional benchmarking and planning of human resources. Additionally, two ongoing World Bank regional projects in higher education aim to produce science and technology talent and skills for the continent: The Western, and Eastern and Southern Africa Higher Education Centers of Excellence Projects (ACE I and II) is committed to strengthening 46 competitively selected centers, housed in 37 universities across 16 African countries, to deliver quality, market-relevant post-graduate education, and build collaborative research capacity in five regional priority areas: industry, agriculture, health, education and applied statistics. Funding of each center is tied to agreed results and is only disbursed for their achievement, ensuring stronger ownership and impact. Under ACE II alone, over the course of next five years (2017-2022), these centers plan to collectively enroll over 3,500 graduate students, including 700 PhD students; publish 1,500 journal articles; and launch over 300 partnerships and research collaborations with private sector and other academic institutions both in and outside the region.
China has been emerging from its own set of socio-economic challenges. Over the last two decades, the country has witnessed some of the best cases of innovation in advancing science and technology through higher education as key contributing factors to rapid education, social and economic development. Significant advances have been made in frontier science and technology by the Chinese institutions and private sector such as agriculture, renewable energy, ICT, as well as railway technology. Africa could potentially benefit from learning the approaches, methods and strategies of innovating higher and TVET education for development of science and technology in China to accelerate their economic growth and improve cost-efficiency of relevant reforms. Moreover, China has now become a prominent development and strategic partner for Africa. The country was the single largest infrastructure financier in eleven African countries between 2009 and 2012. In December 2015, at the China-Africa Summit, China pledged US$ 60 billion in development assistance to Africa promising the nations to help industrialize, and aiding in technology, equipment, professional and skilled personnel, and capital needed to help put Africa on a sustainable development path.
Tripartite partnership on education between China, Africa, and the World Bank is progressing well with support from the Chinese government and the World Bank. Several Chinese institutions have built partnership with African institutions financed by the World Bank projects. For example, the University of Addis Ababa center for the railway technology, is cultivating partnership with the Southwest Jiao Tong University and Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China; East China Normal University is partnering with the Nelson Mandela Academic Institute of Science and Technology in Tanzania. These partnerships have turned out to be mutually beneficial. There is need for scaling up partnerships among more Chinese universities and their African counterparts.
Hence a Forum on China-Africa-World Bank Education Partnership is being proposed as a potentially sustainable mechanism to maintain the tripartite dialogue and partnership. The 1st of the series will focus on science and technology in higher education. A 2nd one will focus on TVET and skills development in 2018. The format of the forum includes high level dialogues, workshops, and field visits to relevant academic and industrial facilities, private companies which are already active in Africa or interested in supporting Africa human resource development.
The 1st forum on higher education science and technology will not only expose the Africa delegation to the state of art of higher education science and technology in China but also help build bridges between Africa and China at multiple levels, paving the road for more sustained partnership. It will advance the Chinese government strategy on human resource development in Africa and improve the performance of the MOE and MOA and private company projects in Africa. Results and outputs from the 1st education forum in July 2017 will provide timely input to the design of the education and training panel in the 3rd Invest in Arica Forum to be held in Senegal in September 25-26, organized by the Senegal Government, Ministry of Finance China, the China Development Bank and the World Bank.
 Partnership for Applied Sciences, Engineering and Technology (PASET), which seeks to build the technical and scientific skilled labor force for priority sectors from the technical/vocational level to higher education and research to support the structural transformation of Africa