The health workforce in Africa: challenges and prospects

The Africa Working Group of the Joint Learning initiative on Human Resources for Health and Development, report

The Africa Working Group of the Joint Learning Initiative on Human Resources for Health and Development

Publication details

Number of pages: 120
Publication date: 2006
Languages: English


This paper, authored by Delanyo Dovlo, summarizes the key challenges affecting the workforce of African health care systems, which range from under-investment to poor planning and management of personnel, limited alignment between skills and needs, weak management and leadership.

The analysis acknowledges that HRH issues have a multi-factorial genesis that involves several sectors (health, education, finance, etc.) and stakeholders (government, professional associations, private sector, etc.). Country solutions have to be tailored to specific needs and must recognize that HRH actions require a longer time frame to demonstrate the effect of implementation.

Advocacy targets and necessary policy processes at national, regional and international level are outlined and discussed.

Key policy options to address the HRH crisis include:

  • a renewed focus on the primary health care approach and the investment in health workers whose skills set most closely match the needs for basic health services at community level;
  • retention of skilled health workers, including improved remuneration;
  • expansion of numbers and competencies of mid-level health care providers;
  • positioning HRH planning in a central role within overall health sector planning;
  • review and evaluation of training capacity to improve provider skills and performance;
  • investment in continuing professional development.