University Of Ghana Participates In Launch Of Africa Centres Of Excellence Project In Abuja

A group picture of UG delegates and other delegates at the launch

Professor John Gyapong, Pro-Vice Chancellor of Research, Innovation and Development of the University of Ghana, has led a University of Ghana 15-member delegation to the launch of the Africa Centres of Excellence Project which took place recently in Abuja, Nigeria.

The Africa Centres of Excellence (ACE) Project, a World Bank funded project was launched by Mr. Nyesom Wike, Federal Supervising Minister of Education in Nigeria.  In his address, he urged the 19 participating Universities to work harder to justify the confidence reposed in them, so that they would be placed among the top 500 universities of the world within the next few years. The development objective of the ACE Project is to support the recipients to promote regional specialization among participating universities in areas that address regional challenges and strengthen the capacities of these universities to deliver quality training and applied research.

The ACE Project-launch brought together over 100 renowned academicians from the West and Central Africa sub-regions. Of the 19 approved Centres of Excellence, Ghana has three, Nigeria ten, Senegal two, while Togo, Benin, Burkina Faso and Cameroon had one each. The University of Ghana is the only institution in West and Central Africa that won two grants each worth eight million dollars, in the ACE Project.

Speaking at the launch, Professor John Gyapong, Pro-Vice Chancellor of Research, Innovation and Development of the University of Ghana lauded the World Bank for coming out with the ACE Project, and said that the Project is a good initiative.  He said in order to get the best out of the project, governmental support was needed. He therefore urged Government of Ghana to promote scientific research through funding, to enable the country attain the desired socio-economic development. He further argued that Ghana’s development could be accelerated through a scientific and technological innovation and a strong educational system, hence, the need for government to prioritize funding research in higher education.











Prof. Eric Danquah and Prof. John Gyapong interacting with other delegates at the launch

Prof. Gyapong said the University of Ghana had repositioned itself as a world class research university, to enable it produce quality graduates. He noted that the University’s West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI) and the West Africa Centre for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens (WACCBIP), which won the ACE Projects, would impact greatly on Ghana and the sub-region’s socio-economic development.  He said WACCI would train highly qualified people in plant breeding, to help address the shortage of plant breeders in the sub-region, while WACCBIP would train people to control and manage diseases such malaria and tuberculosis.

Speaking at the launch, Professor Eric Y. Danquah, Director and Centre Leader of the West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI), University of Ghana urged ECOWAS countries to address the issue of food insecurity through research funding.  He said the sub-region needs a critical mass of scientists orientated towards working in national breeding programmes, and the private sector to develop improved varieties of staple crops needed for food security, sustainability, and economic development. He said the Centre in 2013 graduated the first batch of eight PhD students in planting breeding and in July this year, another 10 would graduate.  This he said was unequalled in Africa. An additional 59 students, he mentioned, are currently at various stages of PhD training. Professor Danquah observed that the ACE funding would provide the springboard for transforming WACCI into a sustainable African Centre of Excellence for training Plant Breeders and Seed Scientists and Technologists.

In a presentation at the sideline of the launch, Dr. Gordon A. Awandare, Senior Lecturer at the Department of Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology/Infectious Diseases Research Laboratory and the Centre Leader of West African Centre for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens (WACCBIP) of the University of Ghana, said there is the need for government to demonstrate its commitment towards promoting scientific research and higher education by fast tracking the approval of the ACE Project funds to help boost research works at the various centres in the country.  He said infectious diseases such as Malaria, HIV and Tuberculosis contribute the largest proportion of morbidity and mortality in the West African sub-region. He further explained that this called for increased and sustained efforts to train the manpower required to confront the menace and to promote research towards the development of new approaches for vaccines, drugs and diagnostics.  He said the WACCBIP when fully operational, would provide masters, doctor of philosophy, post-doctoral level training, and conduct research focused on cell and molecular biology of major diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis.

Other delegates were Prof. Kwadwo Koram, ACE Deputy Leader (WACCBIP), Dr. Daniel Kwadwo Dzidzienyo, Project Deputy Centre Leader (WACCI), Prof. S.K. Offei, Provost, College of Agriculture and Consumer Sciences, Mrs. Constance Kocke, Procurement focal person, Mr. Collins Amofah, Finance focal person, Mr. Ezekiel Acquaah, M & E focal person, Prof. Mahamadou Diakite, Representative of regional partners, Malaria Research and Training Center, University of Science, Techniques and Technology, Bamako, Mr. Sampson Addo,

M & E Focal Person, Mr. George Asante, Procurement Focal Person, Mr. Kwadwo Owusu Afrifa, Finance Officer, WACCI.  Prof. Vernon Gracen was the key representative of Partner Institutions, representing Dean, International Programmes, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cornell University)