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Speeches & TranscriptsOctober 17, 2022

Remarks By World Bank Group President David Malpass at an Event for the Africa Higher Education Centers of Excellence: A Pathway Towards Sustainable Development

Thank you, Jaime and Ousmane.

I would like to congratulate the ACE centers, and their host institutions and governments for working across borders to achieve impressive innovative research outputs and the training of the next generation of Africa’s scientists, engineers, ICT specialists and teachers across the priority sectors of education, health, agriculture, STEM, and environment.

I would like to also thank the Association of African Universities (AAU), the Inter-University Council of East Africa, the French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development (IRD), the French Development Agency (AFD), and the China-World Bank Partnership Facility.

Education is the bedrock of development. Africa’s economic transformation hinges on the skills of its workforce and its ability to accelerate the pace toward building an effective innovation ecosystem.

Although there has been progress, especially in primary education in Africa, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented losses in global learning, which have disproportionately hurt women and girls.

The Education Sector is therefore of high importance on the World Bank’s agenda, and our investments in sub-Saharan Africa in the past 10 years have been increasing. For example, in Western and Central Africa the World Bank’s annual commitment for education tripled between 2018 and 2021 from US$400 million to US$1.2 billion.

These commitments are creating impactful change, with returns for tertiary education graduates being the highest in the entire educational system.

Given the pressures of the current overlapping global crises, these investments in Africa are even more important. This is why the World Bank has provided close to US$600 million through the ACE program, which since 2014 has supported 70 centers across 20 countries. These centers are contributing to the continent’s effort to produce the critical mass of highly skilled labor force and research outputs needed to address local and regional development challenges across various priority sectors.

The ACE program offers regional specializations which are attracting students, researchers, and industry from the entire continent and enhancing regional integration in Africa. The regional solutions created by ACE projects provide effective opportunities for a more resilient Africa, through leveraging economies of scale, harmonizing talent, and increasing partnerships.

In keeping with the focus on leveraging partnerships, last month the World Bank entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with six Historical Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). This MOU focuses on the sharing of knowledge and talent among the development and learning institutions to advance more inclusive and sustainable social and economic development. There is great interest by HBCUs in STEM, students coming from Africa, in HBCU students studying in Africa, and in research exchanges and cross fertilization.

The ACEs are a great example of how building coalitions for change can help to enhance tertiary education in Africa. I congratulate you all for your current results, which include:

  • training more than 61,000 students, more than one third of whom are female,
  • ensuring an emphasis on quality by obtaining international accreditation for 90 programs,
  • undertaking high impact research that are addressing challenges such as infectious diseases, food insecurity, energy crises, and climate change,
  • and for publishing almost 7,000 peer-reviewed journal articles. 

I invite and encourage everyone to take the opportunity to visit the exhibition and learn from this model on what has worked well and how to support it. I look forward to hearing about the innovation and impact of the ACEs as I walk through the exhibition.

Thank you.


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