Health informatics degree programs in Africa

This topic is intended for discussions about implementing a new and high-quality health informatics degree program in Africa.

Health informatics is a rapidly emerging discipline.Emerging technology provides an understanding of the value of health informatics and how it can reduce healthcare costs, increase access and patient safety, and improve the quality of healthcare services.

Let’s discuss the needs of the program, challenges and best practices.


One of the major challenges is the lack of a skilled workforce, capacity building is still on the low which negatively affects, the design, development, and implementation of these courses. Secondly, most of the content delivered to students is out of the African context, most of it is borrowed content from the west.
There is a need for capacity building and developing content that aligns to the African Health Informatics needs


Bhebe etal do not mince any words when they rightly quote that, “Lack of skilled workforce capacity is consistently one of the major challenges faced in the design, development and implementation of relevant health information systems.”

But that argument aside, I do believe that while we know the immeasurable benefits the use of IT in health care presents, our systems continue to side step addressing the challenges. As African we have settled for the norm.

I really hope that we can get the relevant minds on board and propel this discussion into gear because this could be the missing cog to get some wheels turning.

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That is a very important topic, thank you very much. Could somebody please guide me to the relevant background materials, like curricula or legislation?

For example, in Austria we have at the Technical University of Vienna a bachelor curriculum (, and there is an official homepage provided by the government for all laws, including university laws ( and e.g. Federal Act on the Organisation of Universities and their Studies (Universities Act 2002 – UG) ). Is there something similar in Africa, e.g. for the Moi University in Kenya? Or for South Africa?

And there is also something called the Bologna process which allows to exchange students and degrees from whole Europe (and more). Does something exist like this in Africa? Thank you very much!

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@ehagenbichler I know of:

  1. Moi University in Kenya. It has a PhD, MSc program at the Institute of Biomedical Informatics (IBMI)
  2. Makerere University in Uganda (

I can’t agree more @mpmysight, capacity building is extremely important and yes we need health informatics champions in policy and decision making positions to push the cause

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@ehagenbichler, thanks for your great insights there, I believe they can serve as a benchmark for Africa as we move forward. I have not come across something akin to the Bologna process in Africa particularly East Africa but I do know that some universities sign MOU’s to facilitate student exchange programs.

@gwright what could you tell us about South Africa?

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Very interesting topic. I really do agree that high quality education training in health informatics is paramount.
This program is very much needed in each and every country of Africa. Customizing is always possible but we don’t have to stay behind the latest standard because we have just started.
I strongly believe that once the infrastructure is in place, we can make a high jump.

Most importantly, we have to sit on the table where eHealth policy are discussed and elaborate clear input and contribution that are expected from these engineers. Otherwise, I am afraid that health informatics engineers who got the highest quality education will not be able to practice.


@zamzamk Thanks for your contribution, I concur with you, we need to sit on the policy and decision-making table if we are to push the health informatics agenda in our academic institution and the continent at large.

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You’re right Zamzam, one of the most frustrating things we have seen with the African MSc Health Informatics programs in the past is the fact that they don’t match with the reality of the job market. In most countries, the public health systems are in the best position for defining the required competences and for creating relevant job opportunities to fill these in. But too often still, a lack of digital health expertise at the decision making level doesn’t allow to complete that process. The result is that digital health related positions only exceptionally find their way to the official position lists for public health structures. As a consequence, I have seen so many graduating MSc HI students returning to their old job without really being able to put into practice their newly acquired skills and knowledge.

It is so important that (i) future digital health degree programs be competence driven in order to respond to real world needs and (ii) integrate with a global digital health strategy of their countries in a way that graduating students will find a relevant place on the job market. Therefore I believe that the development of these degree programs cannot be seen as an isolated activity of academic reflection and that most probably, given the dependency on national e-health strategies, there may not be some one-size-fits-all solution for the continent.

So yes Zamzam, let’s find a way to sit at the table where digital health strategic decisions are being made, not only to provide input and support from the academic field but also to make sure that future digital health education programs can be better aligned with societal needs and opportunities.


Hi, a couple of years ago I participated in the curriculum review for the MSc Health Informatics program at the University of Rwanda. We have been using the “Recommendations of the International Medical Informatics Association (IMIA) on Education in Biomedical and Health Informatics” and a thorough analysis of national/regional competence needs as a guideline. The review document can be found here: Many of the findings may also fit the broader EAC setting.


Thank you very much, Frank!

This is an important point @fverbeke, I can’t agree more. We need digital health champions at the decision-making level, else efforts channeled towards capacity building in digital health will always be counterproductive as trainees return to their old jobs

Thanks for sharing Frank

Just an update about our case:

From Zimbabwe we have started our first undergraduate and post graduate courses. They are hinged on producing digital solutions that address current health programmes, and also core competencies in data analytics. We are aware that without tangible skillset deliverables (e.g. specific software artefacts in the real world), these degrees risk just being on paper. :slight_smile:

We are in the learning phase.


Timely discussion,

I teach BSc. Health Information Management at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology. My background is BSc. Computer Science, MSc. Medical Informatics, and PhD Health Information Management.

My view is that the topic of discussion is very timely. However, our BSc. program kicked-off pretty well as Health Information Management & Informatics only to meet resistance from the Health Records officers union which felt a bit scared by the new developments and our curriculum had to be reviewed to make it appealing to the Health Records for the employability of our students…

However, I would like to state that the challenges we have faced in our program;-

  1. Lack of relevant skills - human resource to conduct the training.
  2. Curriculum not purely Health Informatics and not focused at market demands. This applies to all programs in Kenya focused at the subject.
  3. Lack of labs or the infrastructure necessary for Health Informatics related practical. Kind of training materials and the likes…may be viewed differently. For example, our University expects all students to have laptops. However, this is far from reality considering the fact other students come from really poor backgrounds.

There are more issues to talk about. Otherwise, this is a good place to begin. Thanks for the invite.


@simbinit - glad to hear about Zimbabwe’s new health informatics initiatives. I had a couple of questions that I have found challenging: (1) What differentiates your bachelors from Masters in health informatics? (2) What are the qualifications for each - i.e. do I need to do the bachelor’s first before I join the Masters? (3) Do you have any tracks - e.g public health informatics? (4) What has guided your selection of competencies? Looking forward to learning from you.


One of the on-going discussions around this is to have recognized health informatics positions within countries - as part of a workforce strategy. Does anyone know of efforts in this regard?


Thank you @aolwend for your contribution. You bring up several important points. On lack of human capacity, it would be good to discuss how we can support mobility of faculty and course credits across institutions. @fverbeke - are you able to share some of your thoughts on this especially in reference to efforts underway in Francophone countries? I know East Africa has the East African community with the Inter-University council of East Africa ( that sets Credit Accumulation and Transfer (CAT) mechanisms. This should allow mobility for students, faculty and credits for harmonized curricula.


@martinwere this an important discussion, to the question you ask at the end, I personally don’t know of any official efforts particularly in Uganda that are aimed at establishing recognized health informatics positions, though these positions exist in some of the private health organization (Mostly NGOs- the government side is not pushing hard enough. Government is a significant player in Africa in regards to health management, so our strategy should be aimed at fully engaging different Ministries of Health to help actualize this cause


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