Background: African medical schools have historically turned to northern partners for technical assistance and resources to strengthen their education and research programmes. In 2010, this paradigm shifted when the United States Government brought forward unprecedented resources to support African medical schools. The grant, entitled the Medical Education Partnership Initiative (MEPI) triggered a number of south-south collaborations between medical schools in Africa. This paper examines the goals of these partnerships and their impact on medical education and health workforce planning.
Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with the Principal Investigators of the first four MEPI programmes that formed an in-country consortium. These interviews were recorded, transcribed and coded to identify common themes.
Results: All of the consortia have prioritized efforts to increase the quality of medical education, support new schools in-country and strengthen relations with government. These in-country partnerships have enabled schools to pool and mobilize limited resources creatively and generate locally-relevant curricula based on best-practices. The established schools are helping new schools by training faculty and using grant funds to purchase learning materials for their students. The consortia have strengthened the dialogue between academia and policy-makers enabling evidence-based health workforce planning. All of the partnerships are expected to last well beyond the MEPI grant as a result of local ownership and institutionalization of collaborative activities.
Conclusions: The consortia described in this paper demonstrate a paradigm shift in the relationship between medical schools in four African countries. While schools in Africa have historically worked in silos, competing for limited resources, MEPI funding that was leveraged to form in-country partnerships has created a culture of collaboration, overriding the history of competition. The positive impact on the quality and efficiency of health workforce training suggests that future funding for global health education should prioritize such south-south collaborations.