Brain Drain in Africa: The case of Tackling Capacity issues in Malawi's Medical Migration

The past decade has seen developing countries losing large numbers of health care professionals to developed countries, including Malawi, one of the Sub-Saharan countries hit hardest by the brain drain of health workers, particularly nurses. In this strategic paper, the African Capacity Building Foundation shows how African countries can tackle the brain drain by understanding the emigration of medical personnel from Malawi, which in ways mirrors the wider African experience but is also unique. Like much of Sub-Saharan Africa, Malawi has poor health indicators, reflecting its low capacity to deliver quality health care. This situation is due in part to the limited capacity for training physicians and in part to the massive emigration of health workers, especially in the 1990s and early 2000s. The paper suggests that local training of medical personnel has neither plugged the capacity deficits nor increased retention rates. Given the economic realities in Sub-Saharan Africa and the allure of developed countries, many locally trained physicians choose to emigrate. The paper also finds that Malawi, like much of Sub-Saharan Africa, is a victim of regional developments. Owing to the migration of physicians from South Africa to OECD countries, Malawi has turned to recruiting doctors from other African countries, tightening capacity constraints elsewhere in the region.