The result of an institutional collaboration between IRD, AFD, the World Bank and the Association of African Universities (AAU), the ACE Partner project promotes the influence and sustainability of thematic networks between African Centres of Excellence (ACEs).

The ACE Impact project

Within the framework of the ACE Impact regional project targeting 12 countries in West, Central and Sahel Africa (Burkina Faso, Gambia, Guinea, Cameroon, Nigeria, Niger, Senegal, Côte d'Ivoire, Togo, Benin, Ghana, Djibouti), the World Bank and AFD are financing 53 Centers of Excellence (ACEs) for a total amount of over USD 350 million to strengthen the capacities of these universities to provide quality training and research for development. AFD is financing the ACEs in Côte d'Ivoire, Benin and Nigeria for a total amount of USD 78 million.

Despite these efforts, the ACEs are struggling to achieve a regional level of influence and few collaborations between ACEs exist, even though they work on common and complementary themes.

In this context, AFD, in partnership with the partners of the ACE Impact project, starting with the World Bank and the Association of African Universities (AAU) in charge of the regional coordination of the project, has proposed the provision of an additional €6M grant envelope dedicated to inter-ACE thematic networking.

The ACE Partner project is part of the financing program of the World Bank and AFD. It is financed to the tune of €6M by AFD and €1M by IRD over 4 years (from February 2020 to February 2024).

It thus aims to strengthen training and research collaborations between the ACEs on common themes and to build sustainable networks from a core of ACEs by gradually opening it up to peripheral actors (emerging centres, faculties of universities in the region, research organizations, the private sector, NGOs, etc.).

Scope of the Networks

A Regional Thematic Network is based on 3 concentric circles of actors:

  • A core (founding members) made up of Centres of Excellence and Emerging Centres of the ACE Impact project on common themes, including a Centre in a coordinating position (through a current Network coordinator);
  • A first circle of academic and scientific partners (associate members), made up of university faculties and laboratories in the ACE Impact countries, research organisations in the South but also in the North, on common themes, and other ACEs in a multidisciplinary collaborative approach;
  • A second circle of socio-economic partners (associate members), made up of companies, NGOs and foundations.

Objectives of the thematic networks

Research capacity building

The Networks will be supported to define and implement a common scientific strategy within each network, to set up young research teams through the funding of research projects linked to a call for projects launched within the network, to deploy training courses adapted to the needs of scientific collectives to increase the skills of researchers in the following three pillars: conducting and publishing their research (workshops for writing scientific articles, bibliographical research, research methodologies), financing their research (writing projects in response to calls for tender, lobbying in the research field), promoting and communicating their research (media training, responding to requests for expertise, promoting their research results in partnership with the private sector), pooling and better defining the scientific uses of the scientific equipment acquired by the Centres of Excellence (computing centres, databases, digital tools, etc.), and developing the scientific tools and services available to them.

Training capacity building

The Networks will be supported to create joint training programmes (masters, schools and doctoral colleges) for the strengthening of skills internal to the Centres and open to socio-economic partners, to foster bridges between training and research through several schemes (creation of short and long inter-ACE training cycles on a regional scale, thematic workshops and conferences, etc.). A mobility programme (theses, masters and academic and administrative staff) will be set up at network level.

Strengthening links with the non-academic sector and innovation capacities

The Networks will be supported in order to involve the relevant socio-economic actors in their training and research activities through the dissemination of tools for analysing the needs of professional sectors and for communication and networking with businesses (student/employer round tables, internship bank, graduate follow-up, social networks, doctoral studies), the creation of specialised teaching modules and the development of a policy to support innovation and valorisation for students (business creation, business/researcher/student collaborations, etc.) formalising innovation and valorisation services and platforms within Networks and Centres (training programme for ACEs valorisation officers, multi-actor projects).

4 thematic networks supported

  • Sustainable water management
    • ACE 2iE in Burkina Faso (coordinating centre)
    • ACE Water and Sanitation of the National Water Institute of Benin.
    • ACE Water and environment of the Kwamé Nkrumah University of science and technology (KNUST) of Ghana.
    • ACE Climate change, biodiversity and sustainable agriculture of the University Félix Houphouët Boigny of Côte d'Ivoire (CCBAD).
    • ACE West African Center for Water, Irrigation and Sustainable agriculture (Wacwisa) of the University of Tamale, Ghana.


  • Sustainable mining activity
    • ACE Mines and Environment (MEM) of the Institut National Polytechnique Félix Houphouet Boigny in Yamoussoukro, Côte d'Ivoire (coordinating centre).
    • ACE emerging from the Ecole des Mines, industrie et géologie (EMIG) in Niger.
    • ACE is emerging from the Institut supérieur des Mines de la Géologie de Boké (ISMGB) in Guinea.


  • Digital science and technology
    • ACE MITIC of the University Gaston Berger of Senegal (coordinating centre).
    • ACE Sciences Mathématiques et Applications (SMA) of the University Abomey Calavi of Benin.
    • ACE OAK-Park of Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria.
    • Covenant Applied Informatics and Communication Africa Centre of Excellence (CApIC-ACE) of Covenant University, Nigeria.
    • National Open University's ACE for Technology Enhanced Learning (ACETEL), National Open Univeristy, Nigeria.
    • ACE Statistics and Applied Economics of the Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Statistique et d'Economie Appliquée (ENSEA) of Côte d'Ivoire.


  • West African Network for Infectious Diseases ACE (WANIDA)
    • West African Centre for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens (WACCBIP) University of Ghana, Ghana (coordinator center)
    • African Centre of Excellence for Mycotoxin and Food Safety (ACEMFS) Federal University of Technology, Nigéria
    • African Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases (ACEGID) Redeemer's University Ede, Nigéria
    • African Centre of Excellence for Neglected Tropical Diseases and Forensic Biology (ACENTDFB) University Ahmadu Bello, Nigéria
    • African Centre of Excellence for Population Health and Policy (ACEPHAP) University Bayero, Nigeria
    • African Centre of Excellence in Biotechnological Innovations for the Elimination of Vector-borne Diseases (ITECH-MTV) at Nazi Boni University, Burkina Faso.
    • African Centre of Excellence - Prevention and Control of Communicable Diseases (ACE-PCMT), Gamal Abdel Nasser University, Guinea.