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International Journal of Population Research
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 274305, 10 pages
Research Article

The Brain Drain Potential of Students in the African Health and Nonhealth Sectors

1Balsillie School of International Affairs, Waterloo, ON, Canada N2L 6C2
2University of Cape Town, Rondebosch 7701, South Africa

Received 8 November 2011; Revised 31 January 2012; Accepted 28 February 2012

Academic Editor: Pranitha Maharaj

Copyright © 2012 Jonathan Crush and Wade Pendleton. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The departure of health professionals to Europe and North America is placing an intolerable burden on public health systems in many African countries. Various retention, recall, and replacement policies to ameliorate the impact of this brain drain have been suggested, none of which have been particularly successful to date. The key question for the future is whether the brain drain of health sector skills is likely to continue and whether the investment of African countries in training health professionals will continue to be lost through emigration. This paper examines the emigration intentions of trainee health professionals in six Southern African countries. The data was collected by the Southern African Migration Program (SAMP) in a survey of final-year students across the region which included 651 students training for the health professions. The data also allows for the comparison of health sector with other students. The analysis presented in this paper shows very high emigration potential amongst all final-year students. Health sector students do show a slightly higher inclination to leave than those training to work in other sectors. These findings present a considerable challenge for policy makers seeking to encourage students to stay at home and work after graduation.