About half the 6 million blind people in sub-Saharan Africa have surgically curable cataract. The available manpower and resources can only provide services for less than 10% of the new blind cataract patients each year, and little is being done for the estimated 3 million "cataract backlog". A serious limiting factor to the development of prevention of blindness programmes is lack of trained manpower. Despite an increase in the number of ophthalmologists trained in cataract surgery (which varies greatly from country to country), this number is not keeping pace with increased demand for eye-care services, especially in large rural populations. Initiatives that will help to overcome this dilemma are specific post-graduate courses in community ophthalmology in Africa, plans to develop a one-year diploma in ophthalmology course for English-speaking West African countries, and a proposal to upgrade a similar course in Zimbabwe. Additionally there is a need for the training of more ophthalmic assistants, cataract surgeons, and nurses in the diagnosis and management of common ophthalmic disorders. Experienced expatriate ophthalmologists also have an important role in the teaching of doctors and ophthalmic assistants how to select patients and carry out successful inexpensive cataract surgery with appropriate technology and limited facilities.