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The Medical Brain Drain already Comes at a Great Cost for Africa

Two of Africa’s Covid experts are clearing out their desks and counting the hours as they prepare to take up new roles offered to them overseas. Dr. John Nkengasong, head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, has welcomed his September nomination to lead the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, a position that, if confirmed by the US Senate, he would be the first African to hold. Earlier the same month, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, who currently heads the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control was appointed to lead the World Health Organization Hub for Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence in the German capital Berlin, WHO said, with the Nigerian physician on course to assume his new position on November 1. Some experts assert that this coincidental turn of events underscores the health sector brain drain from Africa. In 2015, over 13,000 emigrated to the US alone, representing a 27 percent increase over the course of the previous decade, one study found. Recent data is scarce, but a November 2020 report by the African Union (AU) said that despite the risks of frontline work during the pandemic — migration to high-income countries remains attractive to health workers from Africa due to “better working conditions, including renumeration and workload.”