The highly successful and productive 7th ACE Impact regional workshop hosted from 14 June 2022 ended on Friday 17 June 2022 with several key outcomes and a way forward forged from the event’s discussion.
As key highlights, the workshop was attended by close to 300 participants comprising government representatives from the 11 participating countries of the project, eminent academics, researchers, development partners from the World Bank, IRD and AFD, team members from the Association of African Universities (AAU), project teams from the African Higher Education Centres of Excellence, students and industry partners, just to mention a few. Aside Africa, participants and experts from the United States of America, Europe, New Zealand, and other countries/continents physically participated in the workshop in Benin. Several other higher education stakeholders also joined the event virtually. Both the closing and opening ceremonies were graced by the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research of the Republic of Benin – Professor Mrs. Eléonore Yayi Ladekan. The workshop, which gathered the crème de la crème of professionals in Africa’s higher education, recorded several technical sessions, including performance clinics, thematic breakout sessions, parallel and plenary sessions.
The four-day workshop also updated participants and featured discussions on overall project updates, monitoring, evaluation and learning, report from the subject matter experts, a focus on entrepreneurship and innovation, the development impact of the centres’ interventions, as well as a report on the progress of the Centres of Competence in Digital Education (C-CoDE) Initiative. Others included a focus on gender , updates on the Data Systems Maturity Survey and updates on regional networks.
The closing remarks, given by the Secretary General of the AAU, Prof. Olusola Oyewole; The Benin Country Manager of the World Bank, who was represented by Dr. Ekua Bentil (the World Bank Senior Education Specialist and Team Leader of ACE Impact) and the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research for Benin, were packed with key messages appreciating all the teams for their outstanding contributions to a successful workshop. Their remarks urged the project’s stakeholders to continue collaboratively working towards the shared goal of achieving development impact to accelerate Africa’s growth.
Specifically, the remarks from the World Bank team paid glowing tribute to the Government of Benin, represented by the Minister of Higher Education & Scientific Research for hosting both the 7th ACE Impact Regional Workshop and the Project Steering Committee Meeting. The local organizing committee, Ministers of higher education from across the continent, Vice Chancellors, subject matter experts, partners including the AAU and AFD; Centre leaders and their teams, as well as students from the respective centers, especially those who participated in the workshop’s poster competition were all duly acknowledged. Mrs. Gabrielle Hansen, an officer in charge of logistics at the AAU was specially recognised for her hard work and unwavering dedication to the project, as well as the success of the 7th ACE Impact workshop, despite finding herself in challenging circumstances. The centres were reminded that it was only through their resilience and dedication that the project could achieve its targets. The messages also made a strong call to the centres of excellence to continue innovating, since ‘innovation and impact is what distinguishes them as ACE Centers,’ they were told. Another key point highlighted was the fact that as a regional project, the success of one center was the success of all, and therefore collaboration to ensure that the centres succeed was key. Dr. Ekua Bentil, speaking on behalf of the World Bank Country Manager for Benin, said, that the ACE Impact initiative was not merely a project, but a long-term vision to equip Africa to generate the next cohort of experts, researchers and academics who will contribute to solving Africa’s developmental challenges. She also announced that The Gambia had offered to host the 8th ACE Impact Regional Workshop in November 2022, a gesture for which the project was grateful. This announcement was received with loud applause from the hundreds of participants gathered at Palais des Congrès, the venue for the closing ceremony in Cotonou, Benin.
For his part, the Secretary General of the Association of African Universities, Prof. Olusola Oyewole acknowledged the respective teams for their contributions and active participation throughout the workshop discussions. He highlighted the key areas where centres are remarkably delivering on target (including revenue generation and overall student enrolment) and called for efforts to be stepped up in areas such as accreditation and female student enrolment to foster a complete attainment of the project’s targets. He encouraged the centres to critically identify the challenges that confront them and to invest time and resources towards addressing such challenges. The Centres were also urged to consolidate the gains made so far, by devising innovative mechanisms, strengthening partnerships among themselves and with industry and other sectors, while ensuring sustainability of the project. Prof. Oyewole used the platform to call for the adoption of the brilliant ACE Impact model by other African governments and development partners. He wrapped up by expressing his optimism, about the centres being more that galvanised to meet the project’s targets and to significantly enhance the quality of their research and overall contributions, following all the lively and stimulating discussions over the workshops’ duration.
The guest of honour for the official closing ceremony, the honourable Minister of Higher Education & Scientific Research for Benin, Prof. Mrs. Eléonore Yayi Ladekan was full of praise for the AAU’s facilitative role towards the successful organisation of the workshop, and overall dynamism and contribution to the centres of excellence project. She called on centres to continue prioritising the key tenets underlying the project including the focus on training quality students, achieving institutional impact, generating innovative solutions, prioritising research excellence, and enrolling female students. While thanking all the stakeholders and development partners for facilitating the project and for choosing Benin as the host country for the 7th ACE Impact Regional Workshop, she congratulated The Gambia for being the next country to host the gathering of some of Africa’s top intellectuals at the upcoming 8th ACE Impact regional workshop. The minister also invited the participants to explore the beautiful city of Cotonou and to visit some tourism destinations in Benin.
Prof. Joel Tossa, the Centre Leader for CEA-SMIA gave the vote of thanks, on behalf of the Local Organising Committee.
Giving the Immediate next steps related to activities to be prioritised following the workshop, Dr. Ekua Bentil, the Team Lead for ACE Impact at the World Bank listed the following:
Concluding her delivery, Dr. Bentil stressed the need for the centres and their respective governments to work towards ensuring the sustainability of the project, well beyond its stipulated end date and funding period.
The closing ceremony also featured the presentation of Awards to students who had emerged as winners of the poster exhibition, a contest hosted as part of the 7th ACE Impact workshop. This contest afforded the students, the opportunity to share their innovative research with the event participants. Those who won the first, second and third places were presented their awards by the Minister of Higher Education & Scientific Research, honourable Prof. Mrs. Eléonore Yayi Ladekan, supported by Prof. Olusola Oyewole, the Secretary General of the AAU, and Dr. Ekua Bentil of the World Bank.
The winners for the poster competition are as follows:
1st Place Position – Benjamin Bonkoungou and Prof. Amos T. Kabo-bah
2nd Place Position – Alle, I. C.; Descloitres, M.; Vouillamoz, J-M. ; Yalo, N.; Lawson, M.; Adihou, C.
3rd Place Position – Essohanam Djeki, Jules Degila, Carlyna Bondiombouy, and Muhtar Hanif Alhassan
Written by: Mrs. Felicia Nkrumah Kuagbedzi