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African Youth And The Future Of The Healthcare Workforce


As the brain drain across the African continent continues unabated, it behooves governments, policy makers and other stakeholders to think of innovative ways to harness home grown talent that already exists abroad to bring about needed change on the continent. It is clearly naive to think that there will be a mass reversal of this exodus without a palpable change of the circumstances on the ground.

How Big Is The Problem?

According to an analysis by the Guardian Newspaper, the recent African Youth Survey 2022 published by the Ichikowitz Foundation came out with some very startling revelations. Although we had expected to see some of its findings, putting actual numbers to it brought the problem into sharp focus. To summarize their analysis, nearly 52% of all African youth, ages 18 - 24 would migrate in the next three years if given the opportunity. Although some of the migration aspiration is within the continent, most want to migrate abroad to seek greener pastures. In Nigeria and Sudan, that number is a startling 75%. Overall, only 32% of those surveyed had any optimism about the future prospects of Africa.The reason for this dismal outlook included poor educational and employment opportunities, rising insecurity, etc. The actual report is quite voluminous and points to youth optimism in certain countries. Also interesting is that, more than anything else, African youth want to pull themselves up by the bootstraps and succeed against all odds, even when they don’t have boots (or straps).

An Untenable Situation:

A different report published in October 2021 by the ICIR, estimates that between 2016 and 2018, about 9,000 Nigerian trained doctors migrated to the UK, Canada and other countries. The problem is not letting up. The enormity of the brain drain out of Africa is fast coming into focus and policy makers across the continent should be paying closer attention. The doctor to patient ratio in Nigeria is estimated to be 4 : 10,000, as compared to 6 : 10,000 in Gabon, 7 : 10,000 in South Africa & Egypt and 27 : 10,000 in the USA. Meanwhile the IFC estimates that over the next decade, Africa will need to train 90,000 new doctors and 500,000 new nurses to bring up the quality of healthcare in Africa. This becomes an untenable situation if 52% of the potential workforce is looking to migrate at the earliest opportunity.

A New Strategy is Needed:

Without significant improvements in living standards, security and infrastructure development, it is unrealistic to think that this massive exodus would reverse any time soon. It is time for governments, policy makers and various stakeholders to recognize that the brain trust that has already left the continent is a veritable gold mine of expertise and experience that can be harnessed to bring effective change to the continent. Within our community of Nigerian Physicians in the Americas (ANPA), there is a strong sense of civic duty to give back to the country of our birth, as evidenced by years of medical missions trips to the continent. I am also aware that various other organizations from other diaspora groups hold similar missions trips. These endeavors remain impactful but not sustainable as a long term strategy. If there is a silver lining coming out of the Covid 19 pandemic, it is the rapid adoption of telemedicine as an acceptable form of healthcare delivery. This technology has made the delivery of quality healthcare agnostic of geography and time zones. Just like in all other spheres of the human experience, the use of this technology cuts down on the cost of care, while making healthcare portable and convenient, even in less technologically advanced communities.

Chinua Achebe Knows Best:

When the healthcare providers that have been doing medical missions no longer need to leave their primary employment for any length of time, sometimes at great personal cost and risk; when the healthcare recipient on the African continent can finally afford the care they need without compromising putting food on the table and without the indignity of waiting for a handout from abroad, we all get closer to the goal of closing the health equity gap. To quote the great Chinua Achebe - “while we do our good works, let us not forget that the real solution lies in a world in which charity will have become unnecessary”.


Obinna C. Oriaku, MD MBA

Dr. Oriaku is the Founder and CEO of Crown Clinic, P. A. a primary care practice

based in Charlotte NC. He recently founded SocratesMD, a telemedicine platform delivering world-class healthcare to sub-Saharan Africa. He is a physician executive with strong communication and analytic skills leading to effective change management. His special interests include healthcare delivery in resource-challenged populations, and bridging gaps in healthcare disparity in target populations. He is available as a speaker on issues that are of interest to him.


Contact us:

Phone: 980-202-3059

SocratesMD email:


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