The World Bank Group has approved an amount of $143 million International Development Association (IDA) credits and grants to help improve quality of education in Africa, news release copied to has announced.

According to the release, the fund will step up the quality and provision of applied research and higher education with a focus on the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in Ghana, Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Guinea and Senegal.

It indicated that Africa currently only produces few graduates in STEM compared to other fields, and the development of high-level skills is needed to increase productivity and promote the economic transformation of the continent.

The First Africa Higher Education Centers of Excellence for Development Impact (ACE-Impact) aims to improve the quality, quantity and development impact of postgraduate education in selected universities in the beneficiary countries through regional specialization and collaboration in the fields of STEM.

According to the Bank, the new project is increasing its total financing for the Africa Centers for Excellence (ACEs) to $456 million, including the previous phases – ACE 1 ($165 million) and ACE 2 ($148 million) – currently operational.

The release explained that, under the three projects, 45 universities in 19 countries are implementing 58 ACEs where a total number of 24,000 students are enrolled, including 10,500 at the Masters’ level and 2,400 at the PhD level. 34 programmes are certified to meet international quality standards.

Rachid Benmessaoud, Coordinating Director for Regional Integration in West Africa, was quoted as saying, “Under this regional programme, each country specializes in a set of disciplines and encourages student and faculty exchanges so that among the countries many more disciplines are covered. They also establish strong regional and international partnerships to raise the quality of higher education and research.”

The newly-approved First ACE-Impact project will support 16 centers of excellence (ACEs) and two “emerging centers”. While the ACEs aim to build regional capacity to deliver high quality postgraduate courses and conduct international caliber applied researches, the “emerging centers” will receive support to strengthen their programmes mostly at the undergraduate and master’s level in a priority field, the release added.

Ekua Bentil, Education Specialist and co-Task Team Leader of the project, expressed gratitude for its establishment.

“We are happy to help address the key challenges facing the higher education sector in Africa, so it can better contribute to regional development priorities. The ACE-Impact project responds well to the continent’s needs for scientific and technical skills to achieve its industrial development”, she said.