Centres of excellence launch calls for students

Two Ethiopian-based centres which form part of the Eastern and Southern Africa Higher Education Centers of Excellence – ACE II – project launched in 2015 are due to commence learning activities this year.

The Addis Ababa University’s African Railway Education and Research Institute, or ARERI, launched a call in January for applications from qualified students from African countries interested in undertaking graduate studies in railway engineering and due to commence studies in April.

The African Centre of Excellence for Climate Smart Agriculture and Biodiversity Conservation, or Climate SABC, situated at Ethiopia’s Haramaya University also floated a call for applications for three graduate programmes to commence in June.

ARERI is offering two masters degree programmes (railway engineering-rolling stock and civil infrastructure) and one PhD programme (railway engineering-general).

Applications for the courses close on 10 February ahead of the announcement of shortlisted candidates two weeks later on 25 February, and the final selection of successful applicants on 20 March. Learning is due to commence on 3 April.

Scholarships, some of which include a monthly living stipend, are on offer for both MSc and PhD courses. Self-sponsored students are however encouraged to apply during the inaugural intake.

Critical skills

The ACEII project, which seeks to enhance development of critical skills in the field of science, technology, engineering and mathematics for accelerated development of the African continent, is funded by the World Bank to the tune of US$140 million for its first five-year phase.

In total eight countries are hosting 24 competitively selected centres. In addition to Ethiopia and Rwanda, they include Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. Many of the countries have already signed formal agreements establishing the focal points with the bank, while others have recruited additional teaching staff.

The Inter-University Council for East Africa, based in Kampala in Uganda, oversees implementation of the project, hosting a project management unit headed by a director.

A similar project – ACE I – initiated by the World Bank and targeting the Western and Central African region is already on course, having been launched in 2014.

Ethiopian centres

Ethiopia will host four ACE II centres in total, three of which will be based at Addis Ababa University. In addition to ARERI, they include the Centre for Innovative Drug Development and Therapeutic Trials for Africa, the African Centre of Excellence for Water Management or ACEWM, and the Climate SABC.

In an indication of growing momentum around the project, the fourth Ethiopian centre, Climate SABC, situated at Haramaya University, is currently recruiting administrators and junior staff to manage the centre, including the project manager, finance and communications officers.

Applications for three graduate programmes, including a PhD in climate smart agriculture and biodiversity conservation, and two masters programmes: climate smart agriculture; and biodiversity conservation and ecosystem management, are due by 30 April in readiness for the commencement of learning in June.

Admissions are open to students from all African countries for self-sponsored students, while those from the ACE participating countries are eligible for scholarships.

Rwandan launch

These developments in Ethiopia follow the launch on 24 January in Rwanda of four ACE II centres funded at a cost of US$20 million over a period of five years.

The centres, based at the University of Rwanda, include the African Centre of Excellence in Energy for Sustainable Development (ACEESD), African Centre of Excellence in Internet of Things (ACEIoT), African Centre of Excellence for Teaching and Learning Mathematics and Science (ACEITLMS) and the African Centre of Excellence for Data Sciences (ACE-DS).

At last month’s launch, Rwanda’s Education Permanent Secretary Celestin Ntivuguruzwa said: “Our big task is to make sure that the sustainability of this project is assured. I would like to promise Rwanda’s effort and cooperation to ensure that the project is successful and sustainable.

“The ACE II project will complement the ongoing governance efforts in the relevant areas of skills development, both through country and regional initiatives including the participation in Partnership for Skills in Applied Sciences, Engineering and Technology (PASET) initiative”, World Bank manager for Rwanda, Yasser El-Gammal said at the event.