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[LUSAKA] The director-general of the World Health Organization has urged African nations to spend more on science to help counter the brain drain.

Speaking at a press conference in Lusaka, Zambia on Friday (7 April), Lee Jong-wook said countries must invest in infrastructure and equipment to retain workers at universities, research laboratories and health institutions.

Poor working environments and a lack of equipment are, along with low pay, damaging morale among African researchers and encouraging people to migrate to industrialised nations, said Lee.

"It is disappointing that governments in developing countries allocate little funding to important sectors that have the potential to improve people's livelihoods," he said in an interview with SciDev.Net on 6 April.

Lee said the working conditions of scientists and health workers across the developing world need urgent attention.

Zambia's vice-president Lupando Mwape said on Friday that the government would — with donor assistance — invest heavily in research and development, and increase the number of scientists and health workers being recruited and trained.

Last week, African Union president Alpha Oumar Konare said industrialised nations were hindering Africa's development by attracting scientists and other qualified workers from the continent (see Head of African Union attacks 'brain trade').