It is decided, I am going to Africa!
I Thank Boury for agreeing to share her experience with our readers.
About a year ago, we interviewed Mylène who talked about her English experience. You will retrieve her interview here (https://blogdelarechercheclinique.com/cest-decide-je-pars-en-angleterre-interview-dune-arc-expatriee/). Today we will go on an exotic continent!
You want a change of scenery, change of life? You want to acquire a new experience or you want to go back to your roots? Why not Africa?
I interviewed Boury. She worked several years in Africa as CRA after serving in France as CSC. With this experience, she is back in France, as Lead CRA.
Hi, Can you introduce yourself briefly? What is your professional background?
My name is Boury; I am 30 years old and hold an engineering degree in Biological Engineering. I started my career as a hospital CRA at Nice University Hospital, and then I decided to put down my bags at several thousand kilometers from the French Riviera, in my home country: Senegal.
In Dakar, I held the position of CRA instructor within a CRO of human scale. Today, back in France, I continue my CRA career in a biotechnology company in Nice Sophia-Antipolis.
Why did you decide to go to work in Africa?
The choice to migrate to Africa is primarily based on personal reasons. I had never considered working in Africa before, in Senegal in particular. Finally, the desire for new challenges definitely convinced me.
How did you find a job in Africa?
From France, I began to investigate job opportunities in Senegal. Google was then my best friend! Clinical research seemed undeveloped and restricted to a few projects. I realized then that job search was not going to be easy. I contacted the main actors that I knew; Furthermore the Pasteur Institute, the ANRS, the IRD and the NGO Hope for Health. I have had two or three interviews that have routed me but have not resulted in a job offer.
On site, with an updated CV, few contacts and recommendation letters in pocket, I searched the list of NGOs in Dakar. I updated my LinkedIn profile, and provided my resume to any person or close likely to have a contact in research (in a broad sense because I considered looking for a job in basic research).
In doing so, I met with the head of an NGO and a responsible doctor at Sanofi Pasteur. This one gave me the name of a CRO. I was surprised by the presence of a CRO in Dakar but hastened to visit its website and contact its manager. A few months later, I entered the structure.
What were your missions, what was it? Are there differences in the practice of profession in Africa?
The majority of CRAs in West Africa have a doctor’s profile. It is an activity they occupy either in full time or in extra with a Freelance status. The other CRAs, to my knowledge, are expatriates with experience in clinical research in Europe. My tasks were to achieve the data quality control of a phase II and of a phase III in vaccinology. Many studies, however, are non-interventional studies, epidemiological kind.
The investigative team is composed of a principal investigator, several co-investigators, a study coordinator, nurses, technicians, pharmacists or equivalent and “fieldworkers”. Promoters are NGOs, large pharmaceutical companies or small academic promoters (then Europeans).
The “fieldworkers” are field agents in charge of collecting patient data during visits to the patient’s home, throughout the study.
A CRA in Africa follows, like any other CRA in the world, the recommendations of good clinical practice – ICH / GCP. As in all countries, there are specific regulatory requirements. For example, in Senegal, it is the principal investigator who is responsible for submitting the study to the Ethics Committee and Competent Authority (what a relief for us CRAs!).
The implementation of the study was to carry out qualification and initiation visits. To carry out the monitoring, I worked on paper CRF and electronic CRF. If followed by a classic reporting of visits. I forged my skills in monitoring from a person in the profession for years.
You should sometimes expect to harsh working conditions:
- The investigation site was located 150 km from Dakar, which could represent between 2:30 and 3:30 of road. You often arrive on-site already messed up.
- Often you will spend one or more nights there. The comfort is simple and basic.
- In Africa, expect to untimely power cuts. That is to say that you must be able to support working under excessively high temperatures. Moreover, in such conditions, increased vigilance on the study equipment and infrastructure is required.
How are Senegalese? Is it easy to fit in?
I do not have memories of integration issue within the company or within the investigative team. On site, I was always welcomed with open arms and the staff managed to make my time nice given the work conditions.
Fortunately, the Senegalese are very welcoming, open, and work with great professionalism and rigor. They are also keen to develop a clinical research of quality.
Do you have any advice for CRAs wishing to go to settle in Senegal or Africa?
My main recommendation is to arrive on site with a very significant experience in the field, preferably in monitoring, from 1 year and a half to 2 years because it will bring you a reputation among local actors.
What salary can I expect in going in Africa compared to the standard of living?
Compared to the standard of living, wages are perfectly adequate and equivalent to those of country senior executives: count on average 1200 euros.
To this net wage, are added the “per diem”; a package for your mission expenses prorated to the number of days worked on site. This is a significant advantage in nature.
The salary of freelance CRAs can reach twice the wages of CRAs internally.
What are your future projects?
My current project is to continue to carry out monitoring activities on innovative projects while strengthening my clinical research skills.
For now, I do not intend to resettle in Africa.
Is clinical research a sector which recruits in Africa and Senegal?
It is difficult to decide clearly on this point. The colleagues with whom I could work are in the field for nearly 10 years and have a fairly stable activity.
However, CRA offers are not common! If projects and the company now are present, you can get to a position.
How did you prepare for your departure?
You will need to be vaccinated against yellow fever (valid for 10 years) and your doctor will prescribe anti-malaria drugs. Locally, consume bottled water.
Plan summer clothes you will wear from April to November. Make no mistake; you can be cold in the morning and evening the rest of the year. The rainy season lasts from July to September and you will notice that in the absence of a sufficient number of pipes, floods cause traffic jams and other disappointments.
About housing, I did not have much to do, I had family there. You can rely on real estate agents to find accommodation on the outskirts of Dakar (very high rents in the city center!).
Banks exist in abundance; you will not have difficulty in opening a bank account.
The dominant national language is Wolof, although Senegalese speak French every day. Senegalese will enjoy seeing you master a few Wolof words!
Finally, you will liven up your sensuous taste buds with rice with fish or Yassa chicken. Rice remains the basis of Senegalese dishes. Millet is also a very popular cereal.
There are many restaurants with European specialties, so you will not be disoriented.
3 things you love in Africa?
- Family solidarity
- Wearing the robe at will, national attire
- Rediscovering Senegalese dishes
3 things you hate in Africa?
- Electricity and water cuts
- Road conditions and traffic jams
- Pollution and suffocating heat
3 things that you missed compared to France?
- Close friends
- Green spaces and recreation at reasonable costs
- A true shopping weekend
3 things you did not absolutely miss in France?
- The paperwork
Thank you Boury for this interview. We wish you good luck and a successful career in clinical research.