ECOWAS: AfDB Group Supports Science and Technology Education Project
Tunis, 18 March 2009-The African Development Bank (AfDB) Group has re-affirmed its support to the development of science and technology education in Africa with the approval of a grant of 12 million Units of Account (UA*), equivalent to US$ 17.60, million to finance a Network of African Institutions of Science and Technology Project in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
The grant from the African Development Fund (ADF), the concessionary window of the AfDB Group, was approved by the institution’s Board of Directors on Wednesday in Tunis to finance the project which aims at providing a regional consolidated response to the need for high-level expertise in science and engineering in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), by expanding equitable access and improving the quality and relevance of higher education and research through the enhancement of a pole of excellence in science and technology (S&T) in the region.
Bank support to this regional initiative is grounded on the recognition that higher education and skills development are central to economic growth and sustainable development.
Two centres of excellence in the region – the African University of Science and Technology (AUST) based in Abuja and the International Institute for Water and Environmental Engineering (2iE) in Ouagadougou -- have been identified as key partners in the project. Developed at the request of the ECOWAS Commission, the project, while increasing access to quality training, will facilitate greater synergy among S&T institutions, as well as the mobility of students, faculty, and even professionals among the countries of the region.
The project is expected to help countries within the region to enjoy the benefits of increased supply of qualified engineers, scientists and researchers. It will enable students, teachers and researchers to offer their services across borders, while research outcomes will be utilised for the benefits of people in the region. In terms of gender equity, specific efforts will be made to attract and retain female students in the schools.
Benefits will also accrue to faculty and administrators involved in both institutions in the form of training, faculty exchanges and participation in scientific conferences. Finally, the project also targets the private sector as AUST will train 510 full-time degree students and some 100 part-time students from petroleum companies during its duration. Furthermore, it is expected that many firms in Africa (small, medium and large) will benefit from project activities through industry-institution collaboration, research and innovation.
The project’s design is based on lessons drawn from other Bank-supported national and regional interventions in higher education such as: the Africa Virtual University (AVU) Project; the Support to the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) Higher Education Project, the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa, and the Support to the Kigali Institute of Science Project. Together, these initiatives are designed to lay the foundation for the establishment of regional poles of excellence to train Africans in science and engineering. In this regard, the Bank’s intervention is a consolidated response to the pressing demand for quality and relevant training of highly skilled scientists and engineers in Africa to deal with a myriad of development challenges facing the continent.