Describing the Brain Drain

Afro Health Initiative
5 min readSep 27, 2020

By Tumi Sotire, a Health Economist, 23rd September 2020

What is the brain drain?

Brain drain is defined as the “migration of nation’s most talented and educated workforce who aspire to attain a better standard of living and quality of life, higher salaries, access to advanced technology and more stable political conditions in different places worldwide compared to the countries they are migrating from” (1) . A significant proportion of Africa’s most talented workforce are not actually working on the continent. Across the population of the African continent, 1 in 9 people with a tertiary education did not live on the continent according to a UN report. This is about 2.9 million people — 50% increase between 2000–2013 , a rate higher than any other continent in the world (1) .

Despite the fact that Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for 11 % of the world’s population and 25% of the world’s global health burden ,the region has only 3% of the world’s global workforce and less than 1% of the world’s expenditure on health (2). In Liberia the number of doctors 0.1 per 1000 which is the same as Sierra Leone. In Ethiopia and Uganda the numbers are 0.2 and 0.12 per 1000 respectively (3).

The 2018 update, Global Health Workforce Statistics, World Health Organization, Geneva.

A direct quote from WHO about the above graph:

Available statistics show that over 40% of WHO Member States report to have less than 10 medical doctors per 10 000 population. (over 26% report to have less than 3). Health workers are distributed unevenly across the globe. Countries with the lowest relative need have the highest numbers of health workers, while those with the greatest burden of disease must make do with a much smaller health workforce. The African Region suffers more than 22% of the global burden of disease but has access to only 3% of health workers and less than 1% of the world’s financial resources.

The 2018 update, Global Health Workforce Statistics, World Health Organization, Geneva.

A direct quote from WHO about the above map- graph:

Over 55% of WHO Member States report to have less than 40 nursing and midwifery personnel per 10 000 population (about 23% report to have less than 10). In many countries nurses and midwives constitute more than 50% of the

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Afro Health Initiative

Afrocentric brain gain​ platform engaging Africa’s diaspora for healthcare development