• World Bank officials, Vice Chancellors, Government officials and center leaders attend
  • ACEs on track – World Bank and the Regional Steering Committee commends
  • Disbursement Linked Results/ Indicators( DLRs/DLIs) discussed for modification
  • Regional Steering Committee to discuss and communicate final recommendations

The 8th Technical and Advisory meeting for the leaders of the World Bank funded African Centres of Excellence (ACE II) project and the 12th Regional Steering Committee meeting has been held at Bingu Wamutharika International Convention Centre (BICC) Lilongwe-Malawi.

The meeting brought together Vice chancellors, Education ministries, leaders of the ACEs from the 24 host institutions and countries, the National and Regional Steering Committees, Inter University Council for East Africa, Consultants   and the World Bank officials.

Dr. Henry Alinaitwe representing Makerere University Vice Chancellor during the meeting

Mak Vice Chancellor was represented by Dr. Henry Alinaitwe who is also Principal College of Engineering, Art, Design and Technology (CEDAT). Center Directors and deputies for the Makerere University, Regional Centre for Crop Improvement (MaRCCI) and MAPRONANO also attended including representatives from the Uganda Ministry of Education and Sports.

The objective of the meeting was to brainstorm on common challenges faced by the ACEs to improve the quality of their programs. The primary focus was on the outcomes of the Mid Term Review reports. In particular, the meeting reflected on the key findings and challenges faced with respect to progress made in the implementation of projects and areas for further improvement of the project going forward.

Guest of Honor Mr. Justin A.K Saidi making the opening remarks

The two day meeting 18th-19th November 2019, was opened by Malawi Minister of Education, Science and Technology represented by the Principal Secretary Mr. Justin A.K Saidi.

Mr. Justin A.K Saidi, noted that the Eastern and Southern Africa region is fast becoming a great area of cooperation with governments   committing to improving their educational standards to match those regional blocks that have advanced in delivery of higher education.

“I should mention that here in Malawi, the National Education Policy  has been  deliberate in ensuring that it addresses access and equity issues for  the haves and the have not. In this regard, the Malawi government is doing everything possible to improve enrollment rates in higher education.” Mr. Saidi, said

A section of the delegates during the meeting

The Minister said over the years, the country has strengthened the capacity of the loans Board so that no deserving student fails to attain higher education because of financial challenges and ensured that the National Council for Higher Education gets well established so as to offer quality education.

The minister reported that Malawi has partners in the region, enjoy interaction with public private sector to produce relevant skills with a goal of meeting national and regional demands of necessary innovations for resilient and better social and economic progress.

He implored the participants to deliberate on innovative ways and find fitting solutions for the ACEII centers to improve numbers recruited in the centers.

“I should also call upon all centers to adhere to the Disbursements Linked Indicators (DLIs) arrangement hinged on performance in key areas of student enrollment and more importantly define the overall aim of having the required numbers to impact the sectors of concern.

He said the interlink with peer universities must enhance cross pollination of ideas  between the 24 ACE II Centers  as well as  link and partnership with regional industry to focus on producing  fit for purpose human resources – thus help improve the socio-economic indicators including that of access to education.

He expressed Malawi government commitment to champion the growth of higher education sector and engaging with regional leaders and players to pursue further growth.

Dr. Jonathan Mwambu speaking on behalf of the Executive Secretary IUCEA

Speaking, on behalf of the Executive Secretary IUCEA, Dr. Jonathan Mwambu said the purposes of the meeting was to reflect on the performance of the ACE II projects and to reflect on how far they had gone in the past three years.

“The meeting is to be used as a platform to plan ahead and assess whether they are to be true Centres of Excellence within the Eastern and Southern Africa.”

Based on review of project documentation and over 50 interviews conducted covering the design and functionality of the program, Dr. Mwambu said overall the project was on track to meet most of the numerical targets while the management  and governance of the  program could be improved.

However he submitted that a number of Disbursement Linked Indicators / Results DLIs may require modification for instance the requirement to enroll a specified percentage of regional students on center programs and regional and international accreditation where almost all centers were not scoring.

Other DLR/Ls discussed for modification include disbursements, timely annual implementation, enrolment of female students,, disbursement of  funds for enrolment, peer reviewed publications and data collection and verification among others.

Highlighting the objectives of the ACEs, World Bank Country Manager  Greg Toulmin  enumerated a number of achievements recorded by the ACEs ranging from increased number of graduate  students trained, collaborations, increase in number of research publications, generation of external revenue, increased student mobility and engagement in research at regional and international level.

He presented the proposed modifications based on the midterm review reports from ACEs that formed the basis of the discussion the second day.

“What is needed from these centers is to explore how they can commercialize research and innovations, attract more female students at graduate level and attain international accreditation. We want to see all ACEs recognized for research and training”

The Principal College of Medicine representing all ACEs Dr. Mwapasa Mipando addressing delegates

The representative of all ACEs who is also Principal College of Medicine Lilongwe University  Dr. Mwapasa  Mipando reported that the centers had improved the visibility of the hosting institutions and partnerships internally and externally.

“The coordination at the regional level has made it easy to work with other institutions and signing MoUs. We have seen opportunities rising and centers speaking with one voice and being able to come up with solutions making us better”

He said there have been instances when centers improved governance structures of the host institutions and ensured financial systems of integrity and centers to leverage other resources from other institutions.

“We are grateful to the host universities for allowing centers to thrive. Centers have invested and explored ways to make universities better, signed MoUs and allowed collaboration with the private sector. We have seen increase in regional and international student intake, scholarships and staff exchanges.

We have also been at the forefront of curriculum review accredited by the National Councils for Higher education and others are in the process of moving to international accreditation. This is testimony that ACEs have improved the quality of education in host institutions”

He expressed appreciation to the Government of Malawi for agreeing to be part of the project and the World Bank for conceiving and funding the project, and the IUCEA for the coordination and guidance.

He was optimistic the centers will be embedded in the structures of the host institution for sustainability and expansion beyond the project.

Meeting closed, Regional Steering Committee to meet to offer final recommendations

Chairman Regional Steering Committee Dr. Samson MacJessie Mbewe making his remarks

The meeting was officially by closed on 19th November 2019 by the Malawi Minister of Science and Technology represented by Chairman Regional Steering Committee  Dr. Samson MacJessie Mbewe following a half day discussion that mainly focused on proposals to modify the DLIs /DRIs.

The steering committee was to meet the next day to refine the recommendations and communicate the final position.

On behalf of the Malawi government, and the ministry of science and technology Dr. Samson MacJessie Mbewe thanked the delegates for choosing to come to Malawi.  He said the participation and presence will go far in the history of higher education in Malawi.

“We felt honoured to have such a gathering and we hope apart from this meeting you have enjoyed Malawi. Here at the meeting there have been a number of issues that you have discussed.

Issues such as enrolment, publications, partnerships, revenue generation, innovations, female student scholarships, incubation centres, collaborations skills development for the future, accreditation areas of student dissatisfaction, steering committees and leadership and DLIs , recommendations and way forward ”. Dr. Mbwew said.

He was hopeful that these issues will be followed up and implemented by appropriate bodies for the successful implementation of the centres.

He thanked colleagues in Malawi for availing themselves in the function saying, their contributions in different capacities were timely and led to the success of the meeting.

World Bank Country Manager Greg Toulimin addressing the delegates.

He also thanked the World Bank for the support and the Local organizing committee, IUCEA for organizing the meeting.

Dr. Jotham Mwambu on behalf of Executive Secretary IUCEA thanked the participants particularly the government representatives and Vice chancellors for participating in the meeting.

“We came with empty mind on how things will go. But I am going home proud that this meeting was held yesterday and today and when I make an assessment of the meeting that was held one year and a half ago, this is the most successful ever held”.

He thanked all for the active and valuable contributions towards the agenda.  He thanked the consultant for the World Bank whose report laid the discussion for the day and implored him to continue scrutinizing the report based on additional discussions because it is for this discussion that the project is shaped.

He was optimistic that the consultant would address the steering committee the following day on concrete actions and steps to be taken so that all people present would be successful because that that is what they envision to achieve.

He thanked the World Bank officials for looking at the documents very critically and offering constructive responses requesting them to continue with this kind of leadership and support on reason that there is still more a lot to do.

“Tomorrow the Regional Steering committee will be meeting and again you will be opening up this kind of discussion and we shall be receiving directives and instructions on how to proceed from here and I want to assure you that we shall take those directives and instructions seriously so the centres of excellence are successful in their endeavors”, Dr. Mwambu said

He implored participants to continue with the discussion online and seek for clarifications from the IUCEAU and the World Bank       

World Bank officials and a panel of discussants during the first day of the meeting

The Co- TTL World Bank Ms. Huma Waheed hailed the participants for the energy brought into the discussion saying it was very energizing for the team as it brings the insight of how governments, Vice chancellors, center leaders, steering committees and students are committed to the centres. Aware of the challenges faced, she thanked the participants for the hard work and commitment.

She added that the discussions have a reflection of the challenges faced in the implementation of the program.

“We want to thank you very much. It has been an important meeting because this is half way of the project implementation. I think we are in right phase right now and we have a lot to show. We have been able to achieve a lot. In terms of the road map, we are going ahead for two and half years” She said.

He implored participants to continue with such discussions at a macro level, think of sustainability and forge a way of impacting on economic growth and poverty reduction in the region.  

Report compiled by;
Jane Anyango,
Principal Communication Officer,
College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences,
Makerere University

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