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September 10th, 2018 / Nature, UK

A World Bank scheme aimed at building grassroots research capacity in Africa will nearly double its budget with a third, and probably final, investment worth at least US$280 million. The initiative, which loans money to African governments, has set up 46 education and research centres in 17 African countries, created jobs for hundreds of scientists and trained thousands of students — but both critics and supporters of the programme worry what will happen once the bank’s money runs out.

“I see a big challenge when the funding ends,” says Patrick Ogwang, who leads a traditional-medicine research centre funded by the initiative, at Mbarara University in Uganda. He is eyeing industry partnerships as a source of future cash, but says that competition for research money in the country is fierce.

The World Bank launched the African Centres of Excellence (ACE) initiative in 2014 with $165 million in loans. The money was used to create 22 centres in west and central African nations including Nigeria, Benin and Togo; these were competitively chosen in partnership with the governments taking on the loans (see ‘Excellence in Africa’). Read more