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PRESS RELEASE November 26, 2019

World Bank Increases Support for Higher Education and Economic Transformation

$131 million has been approved for the Second Africa Centers of Excellence for Development Impact Project in Benin, The Gambia, Niger, Nigeria and Togo

WASHINGTON, November 26, 2019— The World Bank Board approved today a total amount of $131 million International Development Association (IDA)* credits and grants to scale up its support to Benin, The Gambia, Niger, Nigeria and Togo to deliver high quality education, training and applied research in the key priority fields including science, technology, engineering, mathematics, health and agriculture.

The Second Africa Higher Education Centers of Excellence for Development Impact project (Second ACE Impact) will help establish 14 new ACEs and strengthen the activities of 9 well-performing existing ones to further improve postgraduate education (PhD, masters and professional short courses) and applied collaborative research that are essential to provide Africa with the skills needed to address regional development challenges. The specific sectors supported include sustainable power and energy, sustainable cities in Africa, neglected tropical diseases, maternal health, transport, mining and environment, applied informatics and communication, crop science, dryland agriculture, water and sanitation.

The project will also support 3 emerging centers (2 in Niger and 1 in The Gambia) to strengthen, through partnerships with existing ACEs and other partners, both their undergraduate and master’s level programs in mining, mathematics, science, technology and engineering. To support the institutional capacity and help improve the quality and quantity of academic staff in universities in the beneficiary countries, the Second ACE Impact project will contribute to providing scholarships for PhD students with the ultimate goal of increasing the academic capacity of these universities. The Association of African Universities will serve as the regional facilitation unit of the project.

The Africa Centers of Excellence is a flagship program that is successfully supporting African universities to deliver quality training and regional specialization in order to fulfill labor market demands. These high-level skills are essential for increasing productivity, promoting economic transformation and creating jobs for the continent”, says Ms. Deborah Wetzel, World Bank Director of Regional Integration for Africa, the Middle East and Northern Africa.

With the new project, the World Bank is increasing its total financing for the Africa Centers for Excellence (ACEs) program to $587 million. Under the program, 47 universities in 20 African countries are implementing more than 70 ACEs where thousands of students are enrolled in postgraduate programs. Thirty-four of these programs are certified to meet international quality standards, thus showing African higher education can meet global standards.

The new project is well aligned with Africa’s regional strategies as well as with the national development strategies across beneficiary countries. It also contributes to the World Bank Group’s twin goals of poverty reduction and shared prosperity and is part of both the World Bank Group’s Africa Regional Integration Strategy. It has been designed following the implementation of projects under the previous phases that have been successful in training and keeping the best African talents in the continent as well as attracting the best African professors from the diaspora and ensuring the dissemination of knowledge throughout the sub-region.

The Agence française de développement (AFD) is expected to co-finance the Second ACE Impact project in Benin and Nigeria.  

* The World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA), established in 1960, helps the world’s poorest countries by providing grants and low to zero-interest loans for projects and programs that boost economic growth, reduce poverty, and improve poor people’s lives. IDA is one of the largest sources of assistance for the world’s 75 poorest countries, 39 of which are in Africa. Resources from IDA bring positive change to the 1.5 billion people who live in IDA countries. Since 1960, IDA has supported development work in 113 countries. Annual commitments have averaged about $18 billion over the last three years, with about 54 percent going to Africa.