Postgraduate Medical Education in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Scoping Review Spanning 26 Years and Lessons Learned

J Grad Med Educ. 2019 Aug;11(4 Suppl):34-46. doi: 10.4300/JGME-D-19-00170.


Background: Investments in training physician specialists through postgraduate medical education (PGME) are critical for Sub-Saharan Africa, given the increasing burden of non-communicable diseases.

Objectives: The objectives of this scoping review were to (1) understand the breadth of publications on PGME from Sub-Saharan Africa, and (2) conduct a thematic analysis of lessons learned by specific training programs.

Methods: We conducted a literature search of 7 databases for PGME literature published between January 1991 and December 2016. Two reviewers independently reviewed titles and abstracts for inclusion. Full-text articles were then reviewed, and bibliometric data were extracted to create a profile of PGME-related publications. Two authors coded the manuscripts to identify articles written about specific PGME programs. These were analyzed for lessons learned.

Results: We identified 813 publications that reported on postgraduate medical education in Sub-Saharan Africa. Most articles were published between 2005 and 2016. Nations leading in publication were South Africa and Nigeria, followed by Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Ghana, and Malawi. The largest number of articles related to general surgery training, followed by family medicine, emergency medicine, and anesthesiology. Thematic analysis revealed advantages of training programs for health facilities, challenges related to teaching, resourcing, and standardizing of training, and lessons learned related to international partnerships, faculty engagement, and research support for trainees.

Conclusions: PGME in Sub-Saharan Africa has evolved over the past 26 years. Future growth will require strategic support to scale programs, support new specialties, trainees, and teachers, and leverage best practice models to sustain PGME programs.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Africa South of the Sahara
  • Education, Medical, Graduate*
  • Emergency Medicine / education
  • Family Practice / education
  • General Surgery / education
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency*
  • Teaching*