Human capital development key to regional integration – experts

Developing human capital, especially in sciences, is critical and can ease regional integration, education experts have said

The experts made the observation in Kigali during a three-day meeting that brought together members of the Eastern and Southern Africa Higher Education Centres of Excellence Project (ACE II). The meeting ends today.

The ACE II project seeks to strengthen 24 competitively selected Africa Centres of Excellence (ACEs) to deliver quality, market-relevant postgraduate education, and building collaborative research capacity in five regional priority areas.

Such areas include industry, agriculture, health, education and applied statistics, according to officials.

Sixteen universities in eight countries are participating in the project.

Speaking at the meeting, the Minister for Education, Dr Eugene Mutimura, said no single country can develop as an island and urged participants to link pillars of developing science to regional integration.

“We cannot develop as islands. Many of the pillars that we are talking about in terms of developing science must be linked to regional integration,” he said hailing ACE II project given its potential benefits and outcomes to the region.

He gave an example of Carnegie Mellon University Africa Centre in Rwanda and other ACEs in the country that have offered scholarships to many students from around the region.

“It would be good to think about regional integration in terms of developing human capital resource required for our region as a bloc,” Mutimura said.

The five-year project is financed by the World Bank to the tune of $140 million in form of credit to eight countries which include Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia.

The first phase, ACE I, was launched in 2013 in West and Central Africa with 22 ACEs and the second phase in Eastern and Southern Africa with 24 ACEs so as to create a collaborative movement across the continent to steer higher education towards science and technology.

Combined, ACE I, ACE II and ACE III projects have a total investment of $600 million.

 Prof. Alexandre Lyambabaje, the Executive Secretary of Inter-University Council for East Africa (IUCEA), the regional facilitation unit of ACE II, said that the main aim of countries joining the ACE II Project was to create a conducive environment for training highly skilled and competent scientists at Masters and PhD Degree levels in identified key strategic areas.

 “Trained scientists are expected to help address the huge deficit of qualified human resources in higher learning institutions in the region and provide high-level expertise to our industries, private sector and public sector,” he said.

He disclosed that IUCEA and the World Bank are in the process of establishing regional incubators

“The centres that will host the regional incubators will be selected competitively before the end of the first quarter of 2019,” he said.

 Dr Sajitha Bashir, the Practice Manager, Education Global Practice at the World Bank, said that they adopted a regional approach for higher education in 2014 to build capacity in science and technology.

 “By 2040 our estimation shows that about 85 per cent of the world’s young people will be in Sub-Saharan Africa,” he said

“It is important that a good proportion of these young people have high-quality education and that there is a critical mass of highly qualified scientists and engineers and technologists who can adapt, assimilate and adopt technologies and create new technologies to address the challenges of Africa,” she added.

Rwanda, has four Centres of Excellence including the African Centre of Excellence in Energy for Sustainable Development (ACEESD), and the African Centre of Excellence in Internet of Things (ACEIoT), both hosted at the University of Rwanda’s College of Science and Technology.

 Others are the African Centre of Excellence for Teaching and Learning Mathematics and Science (ACEITLMS), based at UR’s College of Education, and the African Centre of Excellence for Data Sciences (ACE-DS), based at UR’s College of Business & Economics.

The four centres will get $20 million over five years to implement their projects and the 24 ACEs are expected to enrol more than 3,500 graduate students in the regional development priority areas.