Africa loses two prominent healthcare experts to overseas jobs

Updated: Nov 19, 2021

Brain drain is considered to be the reason why Africa continues to lose physicians.

Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu (left) and Dr. John Nkengasong(right) have recently received world renowned appointments overseas. Dr. John Nkengasong, who serves as the head of the African Centre for Disease Control and Prevention was nominated to lead the US Presidents Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. The nomination from US President Joe Biden was made at the White House during a briefing in September 2021, this appointment would make Dr. Nkengasong the first African to hold the position. Dr. Ihekweazu, who served as the head of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control was appointed as the lead of the World Health Organization (WHO) Hub for Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence in Berlin. Experts claim that the recent appoints are due to brain drain in the African health sector.

The rate at which African physicians are emigrating has continued to increase over the years. 13,000 physicians emigrated to the US in 2015, indicating a 27 percent increase over the previous decade. A report in November 2020 by the African Union stated that in spite of the risks associated with frontline work in the midst of a pandemic, relocation to high-income countries is appealing to African healthcare workers. This is due to “better working conditions, including renumeration and workload.” “If not managed well, increased demand for health workers, especially in specialities like anaesthesiology, will leave considerable gaps in Africa's already weak health systems,” stated the report. According to the WHO, this comes at a cost as Africa suffers from "more than 22 percent of the global burden of disease."