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Below is a roundup of news from or about Sub-Saharan Africa for the period 17–30 December 2009

Rwanda to invest in agriculture
Rwanda has launched an "ambitious but crucial" US$850 million plan to boost its agricultural sector. The four-year plan is based on four 'pillars' including tackling obstacles to food and nutrition security, and developing infrastructure. Agriculture is the country's "economic backbone", supporting around 80 per cent of the working population. More>>

Broadband access for Rwanda
Rwanda has launched two new high-speed Internet connection projects. Kigali Wireless Broadband (WiBro) and Kigali Metropolitan Network (KMN), developed by Korea Telecom (KT), will provide high-speed Internet access to around seven million Rwandans. The launch of the projects follows two years of infrastructure development by KT. More>>

New project to boost science education in Francophone Africa

The Association of Universities of the Francophonie has launched a new initiative to build a network of French tertiary institutes in West and Central Africa and "develop scientific partnerships between them". The programme hopes to boost the number of PhDs in the region's universities and will support the integration of newly-qualified PhD graduates into scientific collaboration programmes. More>>

Africa must step up diagnosis of HIV treatment failure

Although good progress has been made in scaling up antiretroviral (ART) therapy across Sub-Saharan Africa, less than three per cent of HIV patients receive treatment once their initial course of drugs has failed, say authors writing in The Lancet. They call for the development of new diagnostic tools for ART failure in resource-poor environments. More>> *

Global drop in child mortality 'not enough'

Progress in reducing child mortality worldwide is "grossly insufficient", says Unicef (the UN Children's Fund). New data from the organisation reveals that although under-five deaths dropped by almost a third between 1990 and 2008, Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia in particular are not making sufficient progress to meet the fourth Millenium Development Goal of a two-thirds reduction in child mortality by 2015. More>>

US to fund key Gambian forest conservation project
The US government has announced plans to fund a conservation project in the Gambia's Kiang West Forest Park. The project aims to address the occurrence of frequent bush fires in the area and boost tourism infrastructure and facilities "to make Kiang West a lucrative destination for tourists, especially eco-tourist visitors". More>>

African researchers calls for more action on TB
Researchers from Kenya, South Africa, Uganda and Kenya have called on the US government to fund clinical research into new vaccines against tuberculosis (TB). A large-scale phase III trial is expected to cost US$160 million they said. Speaking in Washington DC at an event sponsored by the Global Health Council and the Aeras Global TB Vaccine Foundation, the researchers said that the disease was threatening gains made in HIV/AIDS interventions. More>>

PCR can monitor cellular response
Researchers in Kenya and the United Kingdom have found that using real-time polymerase chain reaction — a method for amplifying and quantifying a specific section of DNA — can be used to monitor cellular responses to malaria vaccination. They say that developing an effective malaria vaccine for Africa requires further investigation. More>>

Africa leads in new plant species
Eastern Africa and tropical southern Africa have the highest number of new plant species, a survey by the UK-based Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, has found. Sixty-seven of the 250 species discovered are from Tanzania, with 62 from Borneo and 32 from Madagascar. Nearly a third of the species are said to be in danger of extinction. More>>

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Compiled by Kimani Chege.

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