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orn in Sierra Leone and brought up in Britain,
Francis Kaikumba has returned to Africa as
part of a scheme to improve training for Africa's
surgeons, backed by Irish Aid and RCSI. He
spoke to Surgical Scope about the reasons why
he wanted to take on the role of Chief Executive
of the College of Surgeons in East, Central and Southern Africa
(COSECSA) and what he hopes to achieve.
Mr Kaikumba believes the COSECSA Chief Executive role represents
a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work for an organisation that is
really making a huge difference in the lives of many. "I am aware of
the specific challenges and the countless opportunities that COSECSA
faces. My objective is to enhance the College's corporate identity and
functions and grow it so that it becomes a beacon of institutional
From a very young age, he has always wanted to return to live and
work in Africa. Having been born in Freetown, Sierra Leone and
brought up in the UK from the age of three, Mr Kaikumba always
had a dream of returning to the `motherland' and making a difference.
Also, while working in the UK with the African Health Policy
Network (AHPN), he became aware of the role that many Africans
play in contributing to and shaping the health and social care services
across the UK. This brain drain is unintentionally weakening health
systems in Africa, he says. In addition, Africans in the UK face
poorer health outcomes and research at the AHPN continuously
found that these health inequalities were linked to cultural, religious
and lifestyle-related influences from their countries of origin. So, to
confront this problem meaningfully, he felt he had to help tackle these
issues at the source, in Africa.
One of the biggest challenges he will face is the significant scarcity
of medical expertise, particularly surgeons, in Africa. COSECSA
is best placed to address the chronic shortage of surgical medical
expertise in the continent, he says. "We can contribute to addressing
this issue in a range of ways. For instance, the College provides a cost
and time-effective means for medical practitioners to be trained and
qualified as surgeons while obtaining an internationally recognised
"We provide surgical training courses and workshops to non-
surgeons through our various short courses aimed at clinical officers
and other medical professions. COSECSA is a lead policy and
research agency across this region and it is able to gather evidence
and monitor the skills shortage to help policy makers better address
the critical human resource deficit."
COSECSA's innovative College `without walls' enables greater
access to surgical training in this region. "The College without
walls is a unique online-based educational resource for trainees
who are enrolled in our membership (MCS) and fellowship (FCS)
programmes. This school for surgery provides trainees with tutorials,
cases, journals and a variety of other educational resources that they
use to prepare for these exams. Through the RCSI and COSECSA
collaboration programme, we have also been able to develop IT labs
within the accredited training hospitals where these trainees are
based. It is an extremely valuable mechanism which allows them
to train `on the job' and to obtain necessary qualifications, enabling
them to be medical specialists." COSECSA represents a step change
in surgical training and education in Africa, according to Mr
Kaikumba. "It is a paradigm shift away from the traditional tendency
for the brightest and best African students to be trained in Western
institutions, with many of them never returning to work in their
Mr Francis Kaikumba, Chief Executive, COSECSA.
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