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Friday 28th October 2016

Africa's medical brain drain

14th January 2008

A recent survey shows that a higher percentage of African medics than previously thought may be working overseas.


The issue of the brain drain of African-born doctors and nurses isn't new. But the study says that many African countries now appear to have more doctors and nurses working in more developed countries than at home.

The study, entitled Human Resources for Health, showed that for every doctor in Liberia, there were two Liberian doctors working outside the country. Meanwhile, both Mozambique and Angola had more doctors overseas than they did in their own healthcare systems.

Carried out the by Center for Global Development in Washington, the study analysed census records between 1999 and 2001 in nine destination countries: Britain, the United States, France, Canada, Australia, Portugal, Spain, Belgium and South Africa.

The study used place of birth as the main criterion for assessing the brain drain, a measure which would include Africans who trained overseas and then found work overseas.

This, researchers say, shows the true nature of the brain drain phenomenon, which is strongly affected by decisions to leave a country at the stage where the person has no training, but has the serious intention of becoming a doctor or nurse.

Often, the countries hardest hit by medical brain drain were those worst affected by war and civil conflict.

Mozambique and Angola, for example, now have 75% and 70% of their medically trained nationals working overseas.

That proportion was measured at 51% in Kenya, which has experienced economic stagnation, and 43% in Rwanda, which was ripped apart by genocide. Meanwhile, 56% of Ghanaian-born medics now work outside that country. Zimbabwe, which suffers political repression, saw more than half its doctors leave the country during the period studied.

Countries with greater stability and prosperity like Botswana managed to keep many of their doctors, but so did very poor countries such as Niger.

The Niger effect could mean that those doctors were simply not rich enough to consider leaving the country as a serious option.

The UK is now committed to refraining from the active recruitment of medical personnel from sub-Saharan Africa. Nonetheless, 17,620 African doctors and nurses joined the NHS last year.

The charity ActionAid said currently health systems in many African countries were woefully underfunded, and that the best way to reverse the huge threat of the brain drain was to pay healthcare professionals properly.

Nick Corby, policy officer at the charity, called for an increase in aid levels for health systems.


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Monday 21st January 2008 @ 17:16

I am rather tired of hearing about brain drain. Try being an 'African doctor' who spends more time being unpaid than paid. Try finishing medical school and then being offered no job or only unpaid work. Try being unemployed for 4 years after graduating from medical school. Try advancing your learning in an environment that lacks facilities. Maybe then you will understand why so many pack their bags and leave. Why not encourage people to use the talents, skills and knowledge which would otherwise be wasted?

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