“Brain drain in the healthcare sector poses one of the gravest threats to Africa’s future” says Pascal Mukadi of Medical Fund Management (MFM), a pan-African healthcare firm. “It’s been one of the biggest contributors to the continent’s underdevelopment.”
Statistics support Mukadi’s claim. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Africa suffers from 24% of the world’s overall incidence of disease, but has access to only 3% of health workers. With such scarcity of skilled professionals, this means that Africa is continually overwhelmed by its public health burden.
Faced with this reality, many African countries fight an uphill battle to realize their full growth potential.
Africa suffers from some of the worst doctor-to-population ratios in the world. According to WHO statistics for 2015, Liberia had 51 doctors among a population of 4.5 million (0.1 per 1000 people), with Sierra Leone having 136 doctors among 6 million (0.2 per 1000 people). Uganda had 0.12 per 1000; Ethiopia had 0.2 per 1000, with Egypt & South Africa having 2.8 per 1000 & 4.3 per 1000 respectively.
Such ratios have serious implications during the best of times. During periods such as the current coronavirus pandemic, such statistics mean disaster.
Africa’s severe lack of qualified health professionals stem largely from poor remuneration & working conditions. Apart from having to shoulder enormous workloads, doctors in Africa receive a fraction of what their counterparts make overseas. Surgeons in Zambia, for example, make an average annual salary of $24, 000; in the US state of New Jersey, they make $216, 000. Kenyan doctors earn a comparatively paltry salary of $6,000.
Such disparities, the enticement for African doctors to emigrate is high, with serious consequences. The US Council on Physician and Nurse Supply has estimated a shortage of 200, 000 doctors for Africa between 2012 & 2022.
Moreover, Africa’s brain drain is a net gain for wealthy nations. According to research conducted by a team of Canadian scientists in 2011, the UK alone had enjoyed financial benefits of nearly $2.7 billion by 2010 through the immigration of African doctors. As Africa struggles to meet its healthcare needs, Western nations enjoy much of what few resources the continent has to offer.
So, what does this all herald for Africa’s future? Pascal Mukadi is cautiously optimistic.
“The tide is turning. Slowly, but it’s turning” says the healthcare start-up founder. “And with the Covid-19 pandemic having put so much strain on our healthcare systems, African leaders have become much more aware of the need to strengthen our infrastructure.”
“Now we need more healthcare entrepreneurs to play their part” he continues. “With greater investment & involvement from private companies, we can reverse the brain drain.”
“We can revive our continent.”
Written by: Mambande Thomas
Editor MFM Media