The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors has approved US$150 million to finance 19 university-based Africa Centres of Excellence (ACE) project in seven countries in West and Central Africa.
The selected centres would receive funding for advanced specialized studies in science, technology, engineering and mathematics -related disciplines, as well as in agriculture and health.
Mr Colin Bruce, the Director for Regional Integration at the World Bank African Region, said this on Wednesday at the 2015 Bi-Annual Tripartite meeting of ECOWAS, World Bank and West Africa Monetary Union in Accra.
Mr Bruce said the ACE project include countries such as Ghana, Senegal, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Gambia and Togo, and would train young Africans with new scientific and technical skills, which is financed through the International Development Association.
He said the meeting agreed on set priorities, aimed at diversifying and transforming the economies of the sub-region. These areas include boosting agricultural productivity, marketing and making the infrastructure and energy sectors more efficient.
Mr Bruce said members had agreed on efforts to eradicate Ebola and other infectious diseases and prevention of violent conflicts as well as implementing the sub-region’s Common External Tariff, which became effective in January 2015.
Members also highlighted the increasing productivity of food staples by two or three folds through expanding access to fertilizers and certified seeds, and emphasized the need to assist farmers in accessing markets and the strengthening of post-harvest storage.
Mr Bruce said the delegates stressed the importance of reforms to modernize transportation services in West Africa and called for effective establishment of the Abidjan-Lagos Transport Authority to reduce road blocks and time to cross borders on the corridor.
He said delegates stressed on the need for regional agreement on the maximum level of taxes and on air transport infrastructure charges, as an imperative to foster higher demand and financial solvency for airlines.
The World Bank Group has expressed its readiness to assist in preparing a policy paper on West Africa Air Transport and in providing technical support for benchmarking the system and reviewing aviation charges by presenting a proposal to the Heads of State and Governments.
Mr Kabre Desire Ouedraogo, the President of ECOWAS Commission, said there was unanimity among member countries regarding liberation of the air space in the sub region and called for national airline agenda.
He said the meeting called for effective diplomacy for peace, stability and shared prosperity that is based on strong coalitions across political, security and development of communities to tackle new generation of threats.