From Cuba with love. Lessons in healthcare from Havana


Dr Desmond Kegakilwe is stretched. Travelling up to 300 kilometres per day, his job as chairperson for the Rural Doctors’ Association of Southern Africa takes him to all corners of Mafikeng in the North West, the town where he was born. The roads are in poor condition, as are some of the 29 nursing clinics he visits to provide mentorship and share the expert skills he acquired abroad with the hope of improving HIV/AIDS and TB clinical treatment issues.

It’s been a decade since Kegakilwe returned to South Africa. Unable to pay for his medical studies, he accepted a scholarship to pursue his dream in Cuba in 1998. While the communist state has controversial politics, one thing that the international community is unanimous on is its stellar healthcare system, which the World Health Organisation has described as a model for the rest of the world.

The experience that Kegakilwe gained overseas set him up as a respected professional who could have used his position for self-elevation. But instead of chasing financial reward and success in first-world countries, he chose to come home and build his nation. South Africa’s medical system needs ‘stayers’ like Kegakilwe – professionals in all spheres of life who are not just talented, but selfless.