How brain drain stifles health research in Africa
24 Jun 2008
African research scientists are deserting their jobs for better pay abroad. Confirmation of the seriousness of the situation came on the second day of the Ministerial Conference on Research for Health in the African Region, currently under way in Algiers. According to Dr Sara Bennett, Manager of the Alliance for Health Policy and Systems Research (WHO), poor pay and lack of incentives have driven some of the best brains out of their countries. The situation, Dr Bennett said, has been compounded by low public health training capacity. She noted that only 29 out of 53 African countries offer postgraduate training in public health. In her presentation entitled Money, People and Institutions: Health Research Capacity for Africa, Dr Bennett commented that brain drain occurs due to lack of a supportive environment and insufficient key resources such as online libraries. ‘Apart from poor salaries, most African scientists working in their home-base have to cope with constraints prevalent in resource poor settings and have no incentives such as career development to persuade them to continue working in Africa ’, Dr Bennett observed.
Contributing to the debate, delegates noted that Africa’s health research capacity remains poor, as researchers go for well paid lecturing jobs that consume all the time they require to conduct research. It does not help matters that some researchers opt for short-term consultancies with NGOs that offer them quick money. To stem the brain drain, Dr Bennett observed, African governments need to have long-term development plans that would lead to increased funding and thus better pay for researchers.
Delegates also noted that there was rapid progression of fresh PhD graduates to administrative positions in universities. This denies them a chance to pursue their research interests.
30 Jun 2008
“Publish or perish” is a dilemma that scientists in the developing world are only too familiar with. Often, language barriers and little training in how to write grant proposals or science papers means that despite thousands scrambling every day to get into major international journals like The Lancet, Nature and Science, only a tiny percentage [...]
Profile: Hannah Akuffo
“The onus is on African countries to be clear about where they want to go in terms of research directions,” says Hannah Akuffo.