KABAGE: Cuban doctors: Why we must accept to learn from foreigners - Daily Nation

Cuban doctors: Why we must accept to learn from foreigners

Saturday June 9 2018

Cuban specialist doctors

Doctors from Cuba arrive at JKIA on June 5, 2018. PHOTO | MARTIN MUKANGU | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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Early this year, President Uhuru Kenyatta, while on a state visit to Cuba, negotiated for about 100 Cuban specialist doctors to be deployed in counties to ameliorate the shortage of skilled personnel in our hospitals.

This has been met with opposition by some in the medical profession as well as sceptics who allege that the importation of doctors is uncalled for.

Nevertheless, it is evident that the quality of health services in most public hospitals is seriously wanting.

The case of the Cuban doctors is against the claim that we have many highly trained doctors who are yet to be employed.

There may be some valid arguments but the point is the ratios of Kenyan doctors to patients is very high.


However, what is in issue is whether we are self-sufficient with the talent we need in all fields, medicine included. The answer is resoundingly no.

Let us make a contrast case with “the beautiful game”, commonly known as football.

A majority of Kenyans love and are ever eager to switch on their television sets to particularly watch the English football clubs playing.

A majority of the fans identify themselves with the top clubs in England, but hardly ask themselves how these clubs attract support worldwide.

Some fans have even been known to kill or commit suicide in their emotional support for or against one or the other club.

The interface between the Cuban doctors in Kenya and the beautiful game has the following startling findings and, hopefully, lessons.

Prof John Goddard of Bangor University and a world leading expert in the economics of professional sports has found that from 1992/1993 to the end of 2016/2017 season, the average overseas manager in the English Premier League (EPL) demonstrates a higher propensity for success by a staggering 14 points.

This explains why owners of the best teams in the EPL hire foreign managers, as typified by Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur, by employing the likes of José Mourinho, Arséne Wenger, Antonio Conte, Jürgen Klopp, Pep Guardiola and Mauricio Pochettino respectively.


Despite the fact that football, as a game, started in England in 1863, they still look externally for proven talent.

Much more notable is the local-versus-international footballers in Europe that attracts 65 different nationalities.

According to the report, the EPL currently has a higher proportion of foreign players than any of the other top 12 leagues in Europe.

In 2015/2016, of all Premier League players, almost 66.4 per cent in England, 59.1 per cent in Belgium, 57.9 per cent in Italy, 57.4 per cent in Turkey, 55.6 per cent in Portugal, and 51.1 per cent in Germany were foreigners.

The above statistics reflect fundamental realities, that when it comes to the question of expertise, nations have realised that you don’t always have to source people from within your borders.


You search for the best and the brightest wherever they are found in the global market.

And this explains the fanatical following by Kenyans and most of the world generally towards the English and European football.

The simple point is, Kenya is facing a plethora of challenges which we have to confront but must not necessarily think the solution will be found from among ourselves only.

The world outside us is the greatest recruitment platform for talent. If we find ourselves in difficulties, we have nothing to be ashamed of by seeking answers beyond home.

For instance, we are currently facing an existential threat due to corruption, which is threatening the very fabric of the Kenyan society.

If we are honest to ourselves, the time has come to seek help from other jurisdictions with requisite competences and skills to combat the looming danger to our nationhood.

We have tried since 1991 to enact various laws and create institutional and regulatory frameworks without success, either due to our collective incompetence, lack of political will or indifference.

One thing is certain, corruption today is endemic and should be declared a national emergency.

The NYS scandals being revealed daily are reflective of a national disease and, as Nation columnist Macharia Gaitho put it, probably “the NYS heist reminds us revolution is the solution to grand corruption”.

I don’t support a revolution situation because it has its attendant and unforeseen consequences that are too ghastly to contemplate.

But short of that, we must muster the courage to seek external help.

The irony is that Kenya has great potential.

However, we shall consistently underperform in the production of goods and services, vis-a-vis other nations, because corruption is undercutting our potential.

To the extent we can learn lessons from the success of football and the Cuban doctors, Kenya has a great promise for the future generation.

The writer is an advocate of the High Court of Kenya. [email protected]