Business News of 2014-04-17

Ghana receives US$24 million WB support

The World Bank Board of Executive Directors has approved US$24 million for Ghana to help transform Science, Technology and Higher Education. The project will be financed through International Development Agency (IDA) credits.

Other countries to benefit are Nigeria US$70 million, Senegal US$16 million, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon and Togo US$8 million each, and the Gambia US$2 million credit.

The WB said US$1 million grant will also go to provide higher education, including short-term training to students, faculty and civil servants; a statement to the Ghana News Agency in Accra on Wednesday stated.

According to the WB, the funding forms part of a US$150 million facility to finance 19 university-based Centers of Excellence in the seven countries in West and Central Africa to help transform Science, Technology, and Higher Education.

The statement said the landmark Africa Centers of Excellence (ACE) project will equip young Africans with new scientific and technical skills.

The WB said these competitively selected centers would receive funding for advanced specialized studies in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)-related disciplines, as well as in agriculture and health.

The statement quoted Mr. Makhtar Diop, World Bank Vice-President for Africa as saying, “I am excited to support these pioneering centers of excellence because they will be another step in building and nurturing specialized world-class higher education institutions on the continent”.

“I can think of no better way to grow African economies, create jobs and support research in Africa than educating young graduates with expertise in high-demand areas such as chemical engineering, crop science, and the control of infectious diseases,” he added.

According to the statement, the continent faces a serious shortage of skilled workers in fast-growing sectors such as the extractive industries, energy, water and infrastructure, as well as in the fields of health and telecommunications.

It explained that the result of having too few skilled workers in the extractive industry is that oil and minerals are extracted in Africa but processed elsewhere in the world to the detriment of African industries and jobs.

It said, “Africa also suffers from a shortage of trained health workers who can provide high quality maternal health services. This may partially explain why Africa’s maternal mortality rate has remained so tragically high at 500 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births”.

It noted Africa needs its own research and innovative solutions to tackle its development challenges including climate change, which calls for urgent measures to increase yields in agriculture and infectious diseases, which continue to exact a heavy toll on families and economies.

“However, the researcher-to-population ratio is very low in African countries. Burkina Faso, for example, has 45 research and development (R and D) specialists per million people, and Nigeria has 38, in comparison to an average of 481 in Latin America and 1,714 in East Asia,” it added.

The statement said the new Bank-financed ACEs offer a regionally integrated way to increase high-quality research and development services that would help meet these challenges, yet are efficient and economical, given limited public budgets.

It noted that Coordination and knowledge-sharing among the 19 ACEs would be managed through the Association of African Universities, which has received a US$5 million grant for this purpose, and is an important regional partner.

Mr. Peter Materu, World Bank Education Manager for West and Central Africa said students in West and Central Africa urgently need high-quality science and technology programs to compete in their own regional job market, as well as the global economy, but not a single university from this part of Africa features in rankings of the world’s top 500 universities.

“The African Centers of Excellence project is a win-win initiative, it will help these young people achieve their aspirations without leaving Africa, and it will help firms to find advanced skills and knowledge domestically and to compete more effectively in international markets,” he added.

Source: GNA
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