Avoiding the Terrible in North-South Partnerships

He’s seen the good, the bad and the terrible in north-south collaborations.

Peter Donkor, president of AFREHealth and a surgery professor at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, drew on his experiences to offer some lessons learned during a Saturday afternoon session at #CUGH2018.

The bad and the terrible:

  • A KNUST-Canadian university partnership to train Ghanaian PhDs in Canada failed when 4 students admitted to the program never returned to Ghana after leaving.
  • A vitamin A supplementation trial ended unsuccessfully when KNUST investigators had only marginal representation on the advisory board and were not consulted on hiring of key positions.
  • A Northern researcher damaged relations when the researcher published results without referencing a KNUST pharmacology professor who had been a key collaborator.
  • A lack of openness and capacity building doomed well-meaning medical missions when they provided unavailable treatment services but failed to provide for follow-up care. (Locals were not trained to manage the consequences of interventions. And in some cases, records were taken out of the country.)

Donkor assured the audience that those kinds of experiences were in the minority and that there have been many successful partnerships. He pointed to the Medical Education Partnership Initiative and Health-Professional Education Partnership Initiative (HEPI) as a successful example. He also lauded a 1989 OB-GYN partnership in Ghana that evolved, with Ministry of Health funding, to now provide all the OB-GYN training in Ghana with a 99% retention rate in the country.

“Let’s build on achievement of these collaborations… . And, let’s look after each other,” Donkor said. “When a good seed is sowed, it grows and it grows.”

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