The 2017 global ranking of Universities placed the University Ibadan in Nigeria as the best University in the country on one- thousand and ninety – ninth position.
In Africa, the University of Lagos is the best in Nigeria and the eleventh among two hundred ranked Universities on the continent followed by Ahmadu Bello University in the 12th position. Some of the indices used in both the global and African ranking of the Universities is the publication of research findings by these Institutions.
It is as a result of this that five years ago, the African Higher Education Centres of Excellence and the African Centres of Excellence (ACE) in Nigeria were launched to give confidence in the capability of the Nigerian University System to impact positively on the country, West Africa and indeed the Continent as a whole with some of their research findings.
The World Bank in partnership with the Nigerian government in 2013 launched the ACE Projects in Nigeria to promote regional specialization among participating Universities in Africa.
The ACE projects have also been launched in sixteen African countries including Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ghana, Senegal and Togo. Others are Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia, and Uganda.
The Projects are being carried out within key areas that address specific regional development challenges to strengthen the capacities of the Universities to deliver high quality training and applied research. The African Centres of Excellence initiative also aims to build capacity in competitively selected institutions to produce in-demand, high skilled, human resources.
Under the ACE Project, grant awards are made to lead institutions to address specific regional development challenges primarily focusing on Science, Technology Engineering and Mathematics, as well as Health and Agricultural Sciences.
In Nigeria, Fifty-five proposals were submitted from 162 Universities in the country and ten were chosen and approved by the World Bank for sponsorship.
The World Bank committed the sum of 150million dollars to the task, which resulted in designating the ten Nigerian Public and Private Universities as Centers of Excellence for outstanding research in technology development, societal problems and also ability to respond to the demands of their immediate communities.
The ten centres in Nigeria are Redeemers University Ede, Osun State which is the Center of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases; African University of Science and Technology, Abuja, Pan African Materials Institute, Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Centre for Agricultural Development and Sustainable Environment and Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.
Others are Center of Excellence on Neglected Tropical Diseases and Forensic Biotechnology, University of Jos, Phytomedicine Research and Development; University of Benin , Center for Excellence in Reproductive Health and Innovation, University of Port Harcourt, Center of Excellence for Oil Field Chemicals; Obafemi Awolowo University ,Ile-Ife, Knowledge Park; Bayero University, Kano, African Centre of Excellence in Dryland Agriculture; and Benue State University, Makurdi, Center for Food Technology and Research.
Prior to this intervention, building of capacity in Nigerian Universities that would be result oriented for research on some societal problems had remained a huge challenge, making the country’s Universities not to be rated amongst their peers in other part of the world.
Another major challenge facing research findings in Nigeria is lack of funds while inadequate information has hindered progressive research findings in some Nigerian Universities due to their inability to access quality information from reliable sources.
Other challenges include dearth of modern equipment and laboratories, weak research infrastructure, inadequate facilities for research in higher institutions, and obsolete educational facilities.
The commitment of the World Bank to the provision of modern research facilities, laboratory equipment, consistent internet services and provision of steady power has led to progressive research activities in Nigerian universities. This has started yielding results with the University of Lagos and Ahmadu Bello University Zaria being ranked among the best fifteen in Africa out of two hundred Universities assessed.
Provision of sufficient research grants to the academic staff to carryout qualitative research and consistent training for academic staff to equip them with the necessary training on new research methodologies, to plan and implement research projects will address some of the challenges hindering research findings in the country.
To sustain the successes being recorded now, there should be proper monitoring of funds released for educational research projects to avoid diversion of such funds to other projects not related to research.
The government should also provide steady power to all Universities to aid uninterrupted research works.
It is only when such is done as well as the provision of broad band internet facilities in the Ivory Towers of the country that meaningful research works will be carried out that will help improve the economy of the country.