World Bank approves  about N12.2 billion grant to selected federal, state and private universities

Tribune NG  -THE World Bank has approved $80 million, about N12.2 billion grant, to 10 Nigerian universities that emerged successful in the competition for African Centres of Excellence project.

This came as the Federal Government, on Thursday, formally launched the African Centres of Excellence (ACE) project, which is designed to address specific areas of common regional specialisation among higher education institutions in the West and Central African sub-regions.

Supervising Minister of Education, Mr Nyesom Wike, who launched the would lead to the realisation of Africa’s potential through its universities.

The ACE project, which is a World Bank-supported initiative, offers African universities opportunity to improve on agriculture, health, science and technology through research, and it hoped to meet the dire of development in the specified areas.

The World Bank is investing about $129 million in this initiative to promote the creation of ACE and each centre is eligible to receive funds up to $8 million.

It will be recalled that over 52 proposals were submitted by participating universities in the West and Central African sub-regions, but only 19 proposals scaled through and out of this 19 approved proposals, Nigeria won 10 centres.

Wike noted that it was a thing of pride to know that Africa and Africans are being more introspective and looking to take care of her challenges in an organised and sustainable way.

He, however, urged the winners of the 19 centres of excellence to brace up for the challenges of seeing these projects through to their full implementation.

According to him, “your collective efforts will go a long way to make Africa self-reliant, a world destination and economic power house. I would like to appeal to everyone in this project that though there are many challenges common to us in the African continent, it is going to take us to fix them.”

The minister commended the World Bank for their support while assuring that the ACE projects wiould be a huge success so that more centres of excellence would emerge, especially from Nigeria.

The Executive Secretary the National Universities Commission (NUC), Professor Julius Okojie, in his welcome remark, said the commission as the custodian of higher education had responsibilities to assist the centres and other universities in the sub-region in the attainment of their mandates of teaching, research and community service.

Okojie pointed out that the 19 centres were selected on the basis of merit and transparency and expressed optimism that the success of the project would make a significant contribution to the development of Africa.

Speaking earlier, the Secretary General of the Association of African Universities (AAU), Professor Etienne Ehile, said following the inaugural meeting of the PSC in Dakar, Senegal, in October 2013, PSC members extensively discussed the reports of the international experts who reviewed the 52 proposals submitted by higher education institutions that led to the emergence of 15 centres of excellence.

According to him, five centres were on science, technology, engineering and mathematics discipline, six on health and the remaining four on agriculture, saying the project was designed and conceived with a view to making higher education work for the development of Africa by attracting the best brains in terms of students and faculties.

Nigeria, according to the World Bank, would receive about $80 million (N12.2 billion) for its 10 universities that were successful during the screening processes.

The successful Nigerian universities are the Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta for Agricultural Development and Sustainable Environment; Bayero University, Nigeria, for Dryland Agriculture, and Benue State University, Nigeria, for Food Technology and Research.

Others include Redeemer’s University, Nigeria, for Genomics of Infectious Diseases; University of Jos, Nigeria, for Phytomedicine Research and Development; Ahmadu Bello University, Nigeria, for Neglected Tropical Diseases and Forensic Biotechnology; University of Benin, Nigeria, for Reproductive Health and Innovation; African University of Science and Technology, Nigeria, for Materials; University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria, for Oil Field Chemicals and Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria, for Science, Technology and Knowledge.