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The European Union (EU) 'Blue Card' threatens to worsen Africa's brain drain, writes Peter Ngatia, director for capacity building at the African Medical and Research Foundation.

The planned special residence permit granted to skilled immigrants, is set to lure even more highly-qualified migrants to the EU.

At present, Africa is haemorrhaging health professionals. In 1998, Zambia had 1,600 qualified doctors, but only 400 are left now. There are more Malawian doctors practising in Manchester than all of Malawi. In Kenya, nine in ten medical personnel migrate to Europe and the United States every year.

Ngatia warns: "Further depletion of Africa's intellectual property will reverse gains made in eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, reduction of child mortality, improvement of maternal health, and the fight against HIV and AIDS, malaria and other diseases."

African governments should push to retain qualified health professionals with employment, competitive salaries and incentives such as good housing, says Ngatia.

The EU must ensure that African health systems "are not robbed of valuable human resources without compensation and restitution … If Europe must recruit from Africa, it should invest in building the capacity of training institutions to enable Africa to train enough workers for itself and to meet Europe's needs."

Link to full article on the African Medical and Research Foundation website