Libreville, May 31, GNA “ The World Bank is initiating a project to help strengthen capacities of African Universities to among other things meet the developmental needs of the continent.
The 430-million- dollar project code named: śAfrica Centres of Excellence,ť would be implemented in collaboration with the West and Central African countries and would cover areas in the Health Sciences, Agricultural Sciences, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics under a Regional Higher Education Programme.
Mr Andreas Blom, Lead Economist of Africa Education at the World Bank, announced this at a media conference held on the side lines of the 13th General Conference of the Association of African Universities in the Gabonese capital; Libreville.
The conference which is on the theme: śTransforming Africa Higher Education for Graduate Employability and Socio-Economic Development is being hosted by the University of Omar Bongo on five sub-themes.
They are the Connect between Higher Education and the Productive Sector, Graduate Employability, The Role of the Organised Private Sector, Socio-Political Environment and Employability and Funding Issues.
According to Blom, the objective of the project which would be implemented in 15 selected centres of excellence is to promote regional specialisation among participating universities in areas that addressed specific common regional development challenges.
Others are, to strengthen the capacities of the universities to deliver high quality training and applied research and to meet the demand for skills required for Africa™s development including the extractive industry.
The project will focus on strengthening seven to 10 existing universities in West and Central Africa with an eight million- dollar investment in each of the 15 selected centres of excellence.
Mr Blom said institutions would be competitively selected using criteria benchmarked to the best international practice.
Qualifying universities would strengthen post -graduate programmes for the regional student body.
The universities would also offer specialised courses for industry professionals in the region and establish a regional faculty body, improve their faculty and attract additional top-level faculty.
Among other things they are to provide learning resources, laboratories and minor rehabilitation of existing facilities and establish linkages with companies, government agencies and research centres for workplace learning, input into curricula, consultancies and joint research.
The role of the private sector under the project would be to support knowledge partnership with universities and international research networks, forge knowledge partnership within the private sector to strengthen curricular and research and support institutions to meet international standards and to generate income through consultancies.
Project beneficiaries include students in supported institutions and their partner institutions who would benefit from quality research-based education in high demand areas.
Others are companies, governmental or non-governmental organisations that partner with the African centres of excellence who gain from more interns and graduates with highly relevant training as well as faculty and staff in the centres who benefit from improved teaching and research conditions.
Mr Blom said Africa needs to develop its people for it developmental growth and expressed happiness that the project would help meet a need that is long overdue.
From Yaa Oforiwah Asare-Peasah
GNA Special Correspondent, Libreville, Gabon