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[NAIROBI] The African Virtual University (AVU), which aims to provide quality and cost-effective education in sub-Saharan Africa, is to receive US$12 million from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) over the next five years.

The funds will be used to support AVU's general programmes, which include building the technical and physical capacity of the institution’s learning centres, and designing courses and other educational materials.

The AVU aims to bridge the knowledge gap between Africa and the rest of the world by increasing affordable access to high-quality education resources throughout the continent.

In announcing the grant in Dakar, Senegal last week," Susan Whelan, Canada’s minister for international cooperation, said that she hoped that the AVU would be able to double the number of learning centres in Africa by 2007.

“With at least one centre in each sub-Saharan Africa country providing access to world-class resources, increasing numbers of qualified Africans will benefit from quality continuing education,” she said.

The AVU, which is headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya, was set up by the World Bank in 1997, but has since become an independent entity. The university has already established 34 learning centres in 17 African countries, and has trained 23,000 Africans in subjects such as information technology, computer literacy, journalism, business management and the sciences.