Three African centres of excellence launched

Kenya has launched three African Centres of Excellence in universities with support from the World Bank.

The ACE II initiative is funded by a US$140 million loan by the Independent Development Association, part of the World Bank. Kenya’s allocation is US$18 million for three centres.

The centres include the Centre of Excellence in Sustainable Agriculture and Agribusiness Management at Egerton University; the Centre of Excellence on Sustainable Use of Insects as Food and Feed at Jaramogi Odinga Oginga University of Science and Technology; and the Centre of Excellence in Phytochemicals Textiles and Renewable Energy at Moi University.

They were launched on 4 April, in an event which preceded the Africa-led Partnership for Skills in Applied Sciences, Engineering and Technology, or PASET, forum organised by the Kenyan government and the World Bank, and held in Nairobi from 5-7 April.

This is the second round of the African Centres of Excellence project in Africa. The first, ACE I, was funded in West and Central Africa and created 22 centres of excellence and enrolled at least 8,000 new students in specialised short-term courses, and masters and PhD programmes.


Dr Sajitha Bashir, the World Bank's practice manager for education in East Africa and board member of PASET told University World News the launch means the Kenyan centres will now have the funding to start implementing the projects they proposed.

Kenya is among the eight countries in Eastern and Southern Africa selected by the World Bank to participate in the higher education centres of excellence project. The other countries include Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

The World Bank launched the ACE II project for Eastern and Southern Africa in June 2016. The centres of excellence stand to receive up to US$6 million each over five years, financed through a low-interest loan from the bank to their national governments.

The centres will train postgraduates, promote academic partnerships nationally and regionally, and improve governance in their host universities.

The initiative is expected to enrol more than 3,500 graduate students, out of which more than 700 will be PhD students and more than 1,000 will be female students, publish almost 1,500 journal articles, launch more than 300 research collaborations with private sector and other institutions and generate almost US$30 million in external revenue.


Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto said Kenya, like other African countries, did not have enough skilled people to move up the value chain and even those who were skilled often find that their skills do not match opportunities on offer.

“The ACE launched will help the country in addressing the shortage of graduates in the fields of engineering, science and technology,” Ruto said at the opening of the PASET forum.

Fred Matiang’i, Kenya’s education, science and technology cabinet secretary, said the launch of the ACE will help the country in improving the quality of training and research in higher education, and reducing the skills gap in priority areas like engineering, science, manufacturing and technology.

Following the launch of the centres last year by the World Bank, governments of these countries are expected to draw up agreements with the selected institutions laying out the conditions of funding, which Kenya has already done. The centres become operational at different times, depending on how quickly the government and institutions agree.

Sajitha said the Inter-University Council for East Africa, or IUCEA, an institution of the East African Community based in Uganda, would be the regional facilitation unit of the ACE II project. It will receive a grant of US$8 million to oversee its coordination, facilitation and administration for the implementation of the project.