The government has voted $50 million as seed money for the establishment of the National Research Fund.
The Cabinet has already given approval for the establishment of the fund and a draft bill will be presented to Parliament shortly to give it the necessary legal backing.
The Minister of Education, Dr Matthew Opoku Prempeh, announced this when he opened the first-ever joint Africa Centres of Excellence (ACE) workshop in Accra on Tuesday.
The three-day workshop is being attended by about 300 participants from 15 African countries and more than 40 universities.
It is being organised by the Association of African Universities (AAU) and sponsored by the World Bank.
Africa Centres of Excellence
The ACEs are centres based in some universities in Africa where specific research areas are selected for graduates in those areas to undertake research to engender development in the participating countries.
In Ghana, there are two of such centres at the University of Ghana, Legon and the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST).
They are the West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI) and the West Africa Centre for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens (WCCBIP) at the University of Ghana and the Regional Water and Environmental Sanitation Centre, Kumasi (RWESCK) at KNUST.
Dr Opoku-Prempeh explained that the National Research Fund was part of steps by the government to enhance the entrenchment of the culture of high quality research in higher educational institutions and research centres in the country.
Scaling up centres of excellence
He pledged the government’s readiness to provide the necessary facilitation or any other support that might be required.
“I wish to serve notice of the keen interest of Ghana in taking full advantage of any future initiatives by the World Bank to scale-up the centres of excellence project.
“We intend to seize any such opportunity to establish the new centres of excellence envisaged in clearly defined priority areas,” he stressed.
Dr Opoku Prempeh, therefore, challenged higher educational institutions to start developing competitive proposals that would earn them selection in the next round of call for the establishment of the centres of excellence.
In a statement read on his behalf, the World Bank Country Director, Mr Henry Kerali, said the bank was excited to host the workshop, which would support ACEs in delivering excellence in higher education in Africa.
He said the ACEs project was quite unique in the World Bank’s portfolio, which was paving the way for the re-thinking of how the bank could support higher education and advanced research in Africa.
Mr Kerali observed that there was a critical demand for skilled graduates in the areas of Science, Technology, Mathematics and Engineering and covering themes in agriculture, health, water and sanitation, construction, energy and climate change.
“Building these skills in African countries will be critical to reach the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The ACEs are uniquely positioned to invest in such skilled graduates and research in these areas,” he said.
Purpose of workshop
Welcoming the participants, the Secretary General of the AAU, Professor Ettiene E. Ehile, explained that the joint workshop sought to provide a platform for learning and knowledge sharing among the ACEs and also enable the member institutions to seek guidance on improving university-industry linkages and collaboration.