Technical efficiency of human resources for health in Africa

Joses Muthuri Kirigia, Eyob Zere Asbu, Doris Gatwiri Kirigia, Obinna Onwujekwe, William M. Fonta, Hyacinth Eme Ichoku


There is growing peer and donor pressure on African countries to utilize available resources more efficiently in a bid to support the ongoing efforts to expand coverage of health interventions with a view to achieving the health-related Millennium Development Goals. The purpose of this study was to estimate the technical and scale efficiency of national health systems (NHS) in utilizing human resources for health in African continent. The study applied the Data Envelopment Analysis (DEA) approach to estimate the technical efficiency and scale efficiency among the 53 countries of the African Continent.

Out of the 38 low-income African countries, 12 countries national health systems manifested a constant returns to scale technical efficiency (CRSTE) score of 100%; 15 countries had a variable returns to scale technical efficiency (VRSTE) score of 100%; and 12 countries had a SE score of one. The average VRSTE score was 95% and the mean scale efficiency (SE) score was 59%; meaning that while on average the degree of inefficiency was only 5% and the magnitude of scale inefficiency was 41%.

Of the 15 middle-income countries, 5 countries, 9 countries and 5 countries had CRSTE, VRSTE and SE scores of 100%. Ten countries, six countries and 10 countries had CRSTE, VRSTE and SE scores of less than 100%; and thus, they were deemed inefficient. The average VRSTE (i.e. pure efficiency) score was 97.6%. The average SE score was 49.9%.

There is large unmet need for health and health-related services among countries of the African Continent. Thus, it would not be advisable for health policy-makers address NHS inefficiencies through reduction in excess human resources for health. Instead, it would be more prudent for them to leverage health promotion approaches and universal access prepaid (tax-based, insurance-based or mixtures) health financing systems to create demand for underutilized health services/interventions with a view to increasing ultimate health outcomes to efficient target levels.

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