From Havana With Love: A Critical Case Study of South-South Development Co-operation Operating Between Cuba and South Africa in the Health Care Sector
This dissertation considers the impact of an inter-governmental agreement between Cuba and South Africa in the health sector. The agreement, first signed in 1997, seeks to mitigate the shortage of doctors in South Africa, especially in rural areas, through two strategies; firstly by providing trained Cuban doctors to work in South Africa for a period of up to three years, and secondly through the training of South African students from disadvantaged backgrounds in Cuban medical schools. Through informal interactions, interviews, existing literature and direct observations the motivations for, and impacts of, this agreement will be considered. This agreement, taken in conjunction with Cuba’s long internationalist history, suggests that South-South development cooperation offers a viable alternative aid modality. The Cuban government and doctors appear to be involved both out of a sense of moral duty, or proletarian internationalism, and as a means to accrue material and symbolic capital. The South African government is involved out of a need to mitigate the shortage of medical staff in the country. The decision to work with Cuba has been affected by the longstanding friendship between Fidel Castro and Nelson Mandela, their commitment to help those countries which supported the ANC under apartheid, and Cuba’s rapid offer of assistance. Whilst the perceptions of the South African in the street are initially negative, these rapidly become quite positive once the issue is discussed in more depth. The perceptions of South African medical professionals were on the whole exceptionally positive of the impacts, and whilst the Cuban doctors interviewed raised a number of concerns, they too were on the whole positive about the scheme. Overall it appears that this development cooperation is having a very beneficial impact in South Africa, and is genuinely helping the disadvantaged in this society.