Paul turned a failing African university into a world-class problem-solver

Paul GiniesFive cylinders stand side by side, shaded by the trees. Inside each is a mix of compost, worms, sand, and cow dung.

Amare Tiruneh carefully pours waste water into one of them. He is trying to develop a way to better purify water in urban areas. The prototype stands in the middle of a campus in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, a country in West Africa.

Only eight years ago, Mr. Amare, an Ethiopian, would have never traveled across Africa to pursue his research, much less to a school in a small French-speaking country.

But eight years ago, Paul Giniès was not the director of this school.

Since 2005, the Frenchman has been general manager of the International Institute for Water and Environmental Engineering (2iE). Based in Burkina Faso, one of the poorest countries in Africa, the international higher education and training institute provides programs every year to more than 2,000 up-and-coming engineers from more than 30 countries.

Whether seeking a bachelor’s, master’s, or PhD degree, 2iE students focus mainly on green energy studies in such areas as water and sanitation, environment, energy and electricity, civil engineering, and mining, as well as management science. 2iE is the first engineering school in Africa to have its diplomas accredited by the French Engineering Title Commission and subsequently recognized in all of Europe.

More than 95 percent of 2iE graduates find a job within six months.

“2iE plays the role of the social ladder,” Mr. Giniès says. “Two-thirds of our students are from the middle class. Some even come from as far as Madagascar to study in Ouagadougou.”

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