Nairobi - The World Bank will fund 24 Centres of Excellence in eight African countries over a period of five years.
Dr Xiaonan Cao, senior education specialist at the World Bank told ANA in Nairobi that the centres were an innovative way to address the shortage of highly skilled human capital in the sciences.
Cao said that the World Bank would fund the 24 Centres of Excellence to the tune of US$148 million over a period of five years with each centre getting about US$6 million.
"A single country cannot afford to have a various centres of excellence. However, each country in the region has pockets of excellence and collectively the countries can help each other through this regional approach," said Cao.
Cao, team leader of the project, said that the priority areas as identified by the 24 Centres of Excellence included industry, agriculture, health, education and applied statistics.
He said the Eastern and Southern Africa Higher Education Centres of Excellence Project was result of "broad consultations with various stakeholders over a two year period".
Cao said the overall objective of the project wass development with the aim of strengthening selected eastern and southern African higher education institutions to deliver quality post graduate education.
"The centres will also build collaborative research capacity in the said five regional priority areas," said Cao, adding that each centre is required to account for the financing through show of results.
Ruth Charo, senior education specialist at the World Bank, said that 92 proposals were submitted from various regional institutions and under went a "rigorous and competitive process of selection".
Charo said that out of the 92 eligible proposals submitted, 24 were selected from eight countries:
Speaking at the launch in Nairobi, Professor Colletta Suda, Kenya's Principal Secretary, Higher Education, said that the eastern and southern region lags behind in generating graduates in science and technology.
"We have a shortage of graduates in the fields of engineering, manufacturing and construction which translates to few skilled professionals with specialised knowledge in areas such as oil and gas, energy and railways industries," said Suda.
Suda said that it was unsustainable to send most post-postgraduate students abroad for training. Hence the region's commitment to pool existing human and financial resources for a few specialised regional centres.