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The Board of Directors of the African Development Bank Group (AfDB) on Friday, October 3 approved loans amounting to US $98.22 million to finance the first phase of East Africa’s Centres of Excellence for Skills and Tertiary Education in Biomedical Sciences programme in Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania. The project aims to contribute to development of relevant and highly skilled workforce in biomedical sciences to meet East African Community (EAC) immediate labour market needs and support implementation of EAC’s ‘free’ labour market protocols.
Phase one of the project will support creation of a network of Centers of Excellence (CoEs) in biomedical sciences and engineering – nephrology and urology in Kenya, oncology in Uganda, cardiovascular in Tanzania and biomedical engineering and e-health in Rwanda.
To deliver quality and relevant skills development, research and service delivery, the CoEs will develop higher education programmes and collaborate with ‘world-class’ institutions in curriculum development, faculty exchange, mentoring, access to resource materials, and carry out joint thematic biomedical research and publish it.
The project is expected to enhance EAC’s competitiveness through a highly skilled workforce in biomedical sciences. It will enable EAC increase its capacity and competitiveness through expanding higher education and specialised service delivery that are demanded by the rapid economic development in East Africa.
Among other benefits, the project, which has potential to create jobs for professionals and support services through medical tourism within the EAC as well as from other African regions, is aligned to the target countries’ strategies and development objectives for relevant skills development for the labour market.
It is also aligned to EAC regional strategies on human resources development and the Bank’s East Africa Regional Integration Strategy Paper (RISP) 2011-15. It is also in tune with Bank’s 2013-2022 Strategy core operational priorities, which include skills and technology and regional integration as well as special focus on gender and fragile states, among others.
In addition, the project is in line with the Bank’s Human Capital Strategy 2014-2018 regarding skills development for competitiveness and jobs. It is based on the strategy’s New Education Model of Africa (NEMA) which aims to address labour market needs-skills mismatch, adopt application of ICT, support research and regional integration through creation of regional Centers of Excellence.
The regional approach in addressing relevant skills development leverages economies of scale and contributes to deepening regional integration.
The second phase of the programme will include the establishment of a Center of Excellence in Burundi on Nutritional Sciences.
The project will directly benefit the estimated 150 million EAC citizens through affordable quality, and accredited biomedical skills and tertiary education institutions and services. The CoEs will create an opportunity for students from the EAC region, as well as Central Africa who are already training within the EAC, to access high quality postgraduate biomedical sciences education thus increasing their availability and employability in the regional labour market.
The CoEs targets 150 students on postgraduate programmes (140 masters, 10 PhD) in addition to 300 trainees for short courses in Phase 1. The EAC private sector will also benefit from a qualified and accredited relevant skilled workforce instead of relying on foreign professionals. The project outcomes will also directly improve quality and affordability of service delivery for EAC citizens seeking kidney, heart and cancer services. At least 100,000 EAC citizens seek these services abroad each year.
The Bank’s financing represents 91.05% of the entire project cost estimated at US $107.81 million. The four governments will provide counter-funding to the tune of US $8.97 million.