Chinese Medical Teams: Knowledge Transfer in Ethiopia and Malawi

Image: Flickr, ILO Asia-Pacific
Image: Flickr, ILO Asia-Pacific

Officially tasked with patient care and training medical professionals in host countries, China has been sending medical teams to Africa since the 1960s.

Training provided by the Chinese Medical Team (CMT) program and the resulting knowledge transfer has not been thoroughly examined, however. This paper explores two CMT programs in Ethiopia and Malawi to analyze the scale and effectiveness of knowledge transfer between CMT members and host country medical personnel. Data collected from qualitative interviews with CMT members, host country medical and administrative staff, and government officials suggests that only limited knowledge transfer results from the program. Systemic constraints, including language barriers and underdeveloped program management practices, limit CMTs’ ability to operate at their full potential as trainers and practitioners. These constraints also limit the program’s overall ability to adapt and address evolving health needs in the host-country. The program, however, has vast potential, as demonstrated by isolated success stories identified by this research. These successes suggest that targeted strategies could leverage China’s ongoing investment in the program to increase its value as a development mechanism.

1 Mar 2020