Universities to host World Bank-funded research centres

Zambia has launched two centres of excellence supported by World Bank financing amounting to US$12 million that will improve training and research capabilities at two of the country’s state universities.

The initiative is part of a higher education project aimed at creating 24 centres of excellence through a US$140 million credit approved by the World Bank Group’s board of executive directors for eight Eastern and Southern African countries.

In Zambia, the centres of excellence include the Africa Centre of Excellence in Infectious Diseases of Humans and Animals (UNZA ACE-IDHA) based at the University of Zambia and the Africa Centre of Excellence in Sustainable Mining (CBU ACE-SM) at the Copperbelt University.

The project was launched on 25 April by the country’s Minister of Higher Education Professor Nkandu Luo. According to a statement from the University of Zambia, the UNZA ACE-IDHA will develop research capacity and improve training of academic staff and students with the focus centred on research into infectious diseases which affect both humans and animals, such as bird flu, Ebola, tapeworms, Brucellosis, Anthrax and others.

The CBU ACE-SM will be focused on promoting sustainable mining through research on many mining-related issues, such as land, water and air pollution, land recovery in mined areas and tailing dams, among others.

In the statement, Luo assured the two universities of government support in their pursuit of excellence in research and teaching, which would be used to uplift the citizens’ living standards and ultimately contribute to sustainable national development.

The Eastern and Southern Africa Higher Education Centers of Excellence Project, or ACE II, follows on from ACE I, launched in 2014 for Western and Central Africa.

Under the ACE II project, which is coordinated and administered by the Inter-University Council for East Africa, based in Uganda, there are four excellence centres each for Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda, three for Kenya, two each for Malawi and Zambia, and one for Mozambique.

The ACE II project, which will run until 2022, aims to produce over 3,500 graduate students in regional development priority areas. Out of these, more than 700 are expected to be PhD students and more than 1,000 will be female students.

Almost 1,500 journal articles are expected to be published and more than 300 research collaborations with private sector and other institutions are expected to be launched under the World Bank scheme.

A statement by the World Bank said the US$140 million credit would be distributed to the governments of the eight African countries as follows: Ethiopia ($24 million), Kenya ($18 million), Malawi ($12 million), Mozambique ($6 million), Rwanda ($20 million), Tanzania ($24 million), Uganda ($24 million), and Zambia ($12 million), as well as an $8 million grant to the Inter-University Council for East Africa, the regional facilitation unit which will coordinate and administer the implementation of the project.

“Countries in Eastern and Southern Africa need to expand, transform and sustain their economies into the next level of development. For that to happen, they have to rely more on higher-level science and technology skills and knowledge.

"The ACE II project will support centres of excellence in institutions of higher education in the participating countries and strengthen their capacity to deliver quality postgraduate education and build collaborative research capacity. It will also focus on producing excellent training, applied research and knowledge transfer in priority sectors such as agriculture, health, education and applied statistics,” it said.

According to the statement, the ACE II project employs a “results-based financing approach to incentivise the centres and ensure they achieve the agreed results”.