Research to solution: How ACE is changing lives in Africa

From the discovery of anti-snake vaccine to the development of rapid diagnostic tests for the dreaded Ebola virus, among others, African Centre of Excellence (ACE) project located in West and Central Africa’s universities are fast providing real solutions to real problems in the regions. FELIX KHANOBA writes.

The coming into force of African Centres of Excellence (ACEs) in select universities in West and Central Africa regions is providing exceptional research-driven solutions to common problems confronting the people.

Since its launch in Nigeria in 2014, the World Bank -sponsored ACEs project, has left no one in doubt of its proven readiness in addressing challenges that are common in Africa, ranging from health to environment, agriculture to science, among other fronts.

Just few months ago, the discovery of an indigenous anti-snake bite vaccine by ACE for Phytomedicine Research and Development located in University of Jos, rekindled survival hope in several communities that have regularly be on the receiving end of deadly bites of the crawling creature, with regular incidents of fatalities.

The ACE for Genomics and Infectious Diseases, situated at the Redeemer University, Ede, Osun State, which is one of the first 10 centres located in Nigeria under phase one of the project, helped in the containment of Ebola in 2014 through rapid diagnostic test developed by the centre.

The ACEs project, was put in place by the World Bank in specific areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, Agriculture and Health in collaboration with governments of participating countries to address common regional developmental challenges and strengthen capacities to deliver high quality training and applied research.

Based on the successes recorded in the various thematic disciplines, the World Bank and the French Development Agency in collaboration with 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.

The success story of the ACE1 project in the delivering of its objectives in 53 universities in Nigeria, Ghana, Niger, Senegal, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Cameroun, Djibouti, Gambia, Benin Republic and Togo in Science, Technology, Engineering, Agriculture and Health has been so overwhelming.

The several achievements of ACEs1, which is expected to wind down this month, was brought to the fore during a four-day biennial workshop of the project in Abuja which was held from 24-to 28 February, 2020.

The event afforded institutions the opportunity to exchange information on their respective programmes and to forge effective partnership.

At the event, that attracted representatives of ACEs from participating countries, French Development Agency, among others, World Bank’s Education Specialist, Ekua Bentil, said the Bank has so far expended 580 million dollars on the ACEs programme.

Bentil said the project has seen the graduation of 2,000 scholars with Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) as well as the churning out of over 9,000 masters degree holders even as she expressed delight that some of the research outcomes are already contributing positively in the society.

The Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof. Rasheed Abubakar, who was the host of the biennial workshop, the last for ACEs 1, lauded the centres for also attracting foreign students and securing international accreditation for all the programmes.

“We have hosted 10 Centres of Excellence under the ACE1 project, but for them almost none of any Nigerian university saw the necessity of securing international accreditation.

“They went through national and international accreditations and all the 10 centres were successful…

“We felt very happy because that is a confirmation of the quality of programmes in Nigeria, the quality of postgraduate degrees offered at the masters and PhD levels in the centres meet not only the national quality but also satisfy the international requirement.”

Rasheed said hundreds of Nigerians have graduated from the PhD programmes run in the centres and that over 1,000 others have bagged masters degrees from the ACEs, adding that another thousand are on the verge of rounding off the programme.

“ACES has many ways to transform the way our research centres are run or should be run in this country. We are happy that some agencies and organisations are using the model to establish a centre of excellence in our universities,” Rasheed added.

Nigeria’s Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, who declared the workshop open was full of praises for World Bank for initiating the project and expressed joy that the Federal Government collaborated with the Bank to launch the project.

Represented by the Permanent Secretary, Mr Sonny Echono, the minister expressed satisfaction with the uncommon feat recorded by ACEs in meeting the set objectives even as he challenged the ACE for Genomics and Infectious Diseases located in Redeemer University to help the tackle Corona virus currently ravaging several countries in the world.

His words: “Out of the numerous achievements of ACE phase one, permit me to point out the outstanding contribution of one of our Centres in Nigeria, the Africa Centre of Excellence in Genomics of Infectious Diseases (ACEGID) at the Redeemer’s University, Ede, which played a major role in the containment of the spread of the Ebola Virus in Nigeria in 2014.

“I am drawing attention to this case because we are again confronted with another killer virus, the Corona virus and I am confident that ACEGID is equal to the task and would rise up to the occasion.

“That is what the ACE Project is all about, addressing common regional challenges and strengthening institutional capacities to deliver high quality training and applied research.”

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