The failure of leaders to improve health care and stem brain drain also carries a heavy price.
A 2011 report estimated that nine African countries – including Nigeria and Kenya – had lost USD$2.17 billion of their investment in health care professionals.
This figure might be higher now.
On top of this, African hospitals that were previously world class have been reduced to symbolic edifices due to political negligence.
For example, Lagos University Teaching Hospital was once deemed to be one of the best on the continent.
Recently, it was criticised for decadence.
Not far away, Ghana’s flagship national health insurance scheme is ailing.
Essentially, when people charged with responsibility feel they have no need for public health systems because they can afford private health care at home or abroad, ordinary citizens bear the brunt.
The effective health systems in western and Asian countries that are being patronised by African leaders only exist because they were developed, and are consistently maintained, through political commitment and visionary leadership, qualities that are clearly lacking in Africa.
To bring change, African citizens must start condemning political medical tourism.
They must also push for regulations to curb the shameful practice.
Taxpayer funded medical trips should be banned and criteria set detailing what sicknesses that can be covered by the public purse.
Though a law to this effect exists in Nigeria, it appears to be ineffective.
It must, and should work.
Essentially, if the leaders do not experience the poor state of health care, they might never strive for any positive changes to it.
By Tahiru Azaaviele Liedong. This article was first published by The Conversation