Until today the national languages of African countries predispose them towards political, economic, cultural and scientific language – and – hence – also nation- oriented collaboration in the field of medicine, medical training and research collaboration and in particular specialized training in e. g. neurology, neurosurgery, neuroradiology or neuroscience at large. Since decades French neurologists have been extremely successful in teaching both neurology, neuroscience and clinical skills and implementing collaborative research – on the spot – in French speaking West-African countries. Many of these neurologists are by now outspoken representatives of this field in West-Africa, well-known and highly acclaimed all over and even beyond the entire African continent. Just to name a few French and West-African francophone neurologists as most influential examples: Prof. Dr. Michel Dumas, France; Prof. Dr. Amadou Gallo Diop, Senegal; Prof. Dr. Eric K. Grunitzky, Togo, and Prof. Dr. Pierre Marie Preux, France. Neurology and neuroscience have developed as in many other parts of the world slowly but steadily in South Africa as well as in the Northern Arab-speaking countries. In contrast to the rather smooth evolution of neurology and neuroscience in these parts of the African continent single persons have been responsible for local and regional development of neurology, neurosurgery as well as neuroscience in English-speaking, Portuguese-speaking or former English-speaking (e.g. Tanzania) countries, to name a few: Prof. Dr. Renato Ruberti, Kenya; Prof. Dr. Alfred Njamnshi, Cameroon, or Prof. Dr. William Matuja, Tanzania. In many cases, close collaboration with interested and highly engaged/motivated European physicians and neurologists, neurological skills, knowledge and research has evolved locally/regionally in Eastern African countries. Such collaboration was clearly fostered by neurologists like Dr. William Howlett, Tanzania, who edited the seminal handbook of neurology in Africa; or Dr. Andrea Winkler, Germany.
A huge step forward in particular in times of financial and economic restraints was the decision by the European Federation of Neurological Societies (EFNS) under the leadership of Prof. Dr. Jacques de Reuck, at that time president of the EFNS, continued by his presidential successor Prof. Dr. Richard Hughes and supported by Prof. Dr Jean Michel Vallat, France: Prof. Dr. Gian Luigi Lenzi, Italy and Ms. Eveline Sipido, to design teaching courses in a wide range of neurological topics and themes to be proposed and suggested by African participants. In 2009, this initiative has been started and been extremely successful throughout the past 5 years with teaching courses in Dakar,Senegal; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Abidjan, Ivory Coast; Yaoundé, Cameroon; Nairobi, Kenya, and 2013 again Dakar, Senegal.
The close collaboration of the EFNS with WFN and sponsoring scientific societies, in 2013 e.g. Movement Disorders Society and European Stroke Organization, allows to invite world renowned speakers to these teaching courses, but also, equally important, the participation – for free – of a large number of neurologists and trainees/ residents in neurology from all over the African continent. This initiative has received an enormous acclamation and very positive reception by African neurologists and African trainees in neurology. It is exactly this type of financial, economic and intellectual support which brings together different cultures, neurologists from different continents and will yield at the end not only improved neurological care for the African population but also close personal interaction leading to scientific collaboration which, at the end, will enable African neurologists to become teachers and professors in medical schools and medical faculties of African Universities. But also European patients, neurologists, students and researchers benefit from improved knowledge in exotic – rarely seen in Europe – diseases of the nervous system imported by tourists, businessmen/-women and migrants alike. A mutual benefit is the most promising motor for continuing efforts, also in neurology, neurological training, neurological research and neurological patients’ care.
More information on the projects in Africa can be found on the EFNS website.
Erich Schmutzhard is Professor of Neurology at the Department of Neurology at the University Hospital in Innsbruck, Austria and organiser of the RTC in Sub-Saharan Africa.