Christian Science Monitor Profiles Young African Leaders, Including Head of Botswana's National HIV Treatment Program

The Christian Science Monitor on Tuesday profiled a new generation of African leaders, including U.S.-born Ernest Darkoh, who is the head of Botswana's antiretroviral drug treatment program. Like many young African leaders, Darkoh, who was born to Ghanaian parents, was educated in the West, having earned a medical degree and master's in public health from Harvard and an MBA from Oxford. However, Darkoh said he did not feel settled while living as a successful professional in New York and decided that he needed to go somewhere "where my input was really needed." In Botswana, 38% of the population is HIV-positive, and the average life expectancy is less than 40 years. However, the country has a "groundbreaking" antiretroviral program that distributes the drugs for free to all who need them, according to the Monitor. Before deciding to head the program, which is considered "the developing world's most comprehensive" HIV/AIDS treatment model, Darkoh said that he wanted a "clear mandate" and independence within the government sector, adding that "you can really get bogged down by a system and get nothing done. Especially in this part of the world." Many Africans who return to the continent after being educated in the West are often regarded with suspicion, and such stigma can lead to government positions filled with lesser talent, according to Darkoh. "A crisis like HIV/AIDS comes along and everyone looks to the government to address it -- but they can't handle it," Darkoh said, adding, "Major corporations do not get the results they do by hiring weak talent. The right people in the right place at the right time will deliver the right results." Darkoh added that potential donors and recipient countries need to insist on institutional accountability and results before committing funds to a program (Harman, Christian Science Monitor, 9/30).

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