Nigeria Invests US$4M in Regional Scholarship, Innovation Fund

The Government of Nigeria has announced a contribution of US$ 4 million to the Partnership for Skills in Applied Sciences, Engineering and Technology’s (PASET) Regional Scholarship and Innovation Fund (RSIF).

The funding, through the World Bank-funded Africa Higher Education Centers of Excellence for Development Impact Project (ACE-Impact), will help facilitate advanced training to 32 Nigerian PhD students and eight other students from Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). These graduates are expected to return to work at African universities and research institutions and to contribute to national and regional economic growth.

RSIF, which is managed by the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe), also prioritizes the advancement of African women in science careers. The agreement between the Federal Government of Nigeria and icipe was signed on 1st September 2022.

“PASET’s RSIF recognizes the importance of harnessing regional economies of scope and scale, by championing a regional approach that complements individual country efforts,” Prof. Aminata Sall Diallo, Executive Director, PASET Executive Board.

Nigeria joins eight other African countries as contributing members of PASET. The eight countries are Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote D’Ivoire, Ghana, Senegal, Rwanda, Kenya, and Mozambique. PASET members, together with the World Bank, the Government of Korea, and the European Union, have now contributed US$54.7 million towards the RSIF for building technical and scientific capacities in Africa.

The RSIF program supports PhD training, university capacity building, and a competitive grants system for research and innovation within high-quality international research networks. Its work builds high-level skills in new areas in which science and innovation are needed to stimulate economic growth.

“The investment in PASET’s RSIF will help diversify Nigeria’s growth prospects and create a highly skilled workforce to respond to the country’s development needs,”  Dr. Joshua A. Atah, National Universities Commission, Nigeria.

The RSIF design benefits from a network of 22 advanced international partner research institutions across the globe and 15 African host universities that provide access to state-of-the-art research equipment and research mentors, among others, for PhD students and African faculty. Students spend between 6-24 months of their training at these advanced research institutions.

“Africa’s growth will depend on the increased application of high-quality science that links directly to the needs of producers and the private sector in Africa. icipe’s experience in postgraduate training, research and innovation, has been critical to growing the Regional Scholarship and Innovation Fund,” Dr. Segenet Kelemu, Director General and Chief Executive Officer, icipe.

To date, 291 PhD scholarships have been awarded to nationals of 24 Sub-Saharan African countries to undertake PhD training and research in five priority areas: food security and agribusiness; climate change; energy; ICTs including robotics, artificial intelligence, and big data; mines and minerals, and materials science.

Over 95 high-quality research papers have been published by RSIF PhD students and eight RSIF students have since graduated and gone back to their home institutions to take up positions at African research and training institutions, demonstrating that the model works. To improve the sustainability of the program, RSIF also aims to establish a US$0.5 billion permanent fund to accelerate sustainable quality PhD training on the continent.

“The World Bank recognizes that higher education provides some of the strongest rates of returns to investments. No country has developed without investing in its higher education and research sectors. The PASET and RSIF approach has tremendous value for the region, particularly in ensuring that graduates are relevant and remain within the region,” Dr. Scherezad Joya Monami, Education Practice Manager, Western and Central Africa, World Bank.

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