Chaotic African states do complain if doctors leave

12Jan 2022
Editor
The Guardian
Chaotic African states do complain if doctors leave

THE whole problem of doctors and nurses leaving African countries by droves for greener pastures abroad is a well labored but not tired theme, as it has a way of cropping up time and again, Of late it is Nigeria that has been complaining, and a week or so ago Kenya was issuing a-

-public notice that any medical personnel wishing to migrate will have to follow the right channels – implying being released from places of employment, etc. They may obtain the go-ahead, not to be held back against their will.

Reports from Abuja were saying that the General Medical Council of Britain recently revealed that 805 Nigerian doctors were licensed in the UK between July and December 2021. Overall, the number of Nigerian-trained doctors in the UK as of December 25, 2021 stood at 9,189 on the basis of the council’s data,  while Nigerian observers pointed out that the figure does not include the number of Nigerian doctors trained in the UK and remained there to conduct their practice. And the UK isn’t the only developed or English speaking country that needs such experts from African countries, definitely.

Even more surprising was the information bit that the Nursing and Midwifery Council of the UK has suggested that an average of eight nurses have been leaving Nigeria every day for the UK in the last five years. Specifically, the body said 15,049 nurses trained in Nigeria obtained licence to practise in the United Kingdom between March 2017 and March 2021, making Nigeria the third highest country with foreign nurses in England coming after the Philippines and India. So it is clear that the problem is a bit widespread but it isn’t as huge as we wish to believe, as international migration is basically healthy.

The problem perhaps is that migration tends to be one way, which some wise people in the past used to compare the migration of experts from poor countries to rich ones as similar to water, flowing from mountains and plains to the sea. It moves from where it is needed to where it isn’t needed, if only in relative terms, but the issue is that work and pay are individual rights which a country can’t impose on a person, forced patriotism as it were. It is up to African leaders to find ways of making the African environment livable and hopeful for the future, as when that is assured most experts don’t rush to leave.

Looking at Nigeria in particular one can see the mechanism pushing doctors and nurses out of the country – if one takes account not just of interminable armed revolts but a generalized breakdown of the law. The north has moved from supposedly religious militants to a reign of terror by armed gangs kidnapping children for ransom, while a year or so ago the country was under a clampdown, protestors demanding that SARS – special anti-robbery services – fold up. At both ends people suffer, from hoodlums and from the police.