Kwame the Cabby, Brain Drain and Health

I took a cab this morning – it was a Ghanaian taxi driver. He remembered picking me up several years ago. What a memory he has. Anyway, he has 4 children, two older ones one of which is a doctor. He also has two younger kids in private school. All his kids seem to be doing exceptionally well, and he is paying for elite schooling from his taxi driver salary. Many have spoken about the positive effects of the brain drain. Kwame, this morning’s cabby, made those arguments real to me. Why do we never consider the benefits to the migrant when talking about the African brain drain? (See AidWatch blog.) I was so proud of all of Kwame’s successes from what I know is an extremely difficult job.

Anyway, Kwame said he is glad to see me, but he nearly died this year. “Died?” I asked, not sure I heard him clearly through all the Manhattan traffic. Yes, he explained, he got malaria while in Ghana; it was cerebral malaria which was not properly treated.

I will be at dinner with the Minister of Health for Ghana this evening. I should tell the Minister that Kwame believes something should be done about the open sewers in the country and there should be more spraying (of insecticides) as was the case in the Nkrumah era.

I finally got off the taxi, and left a huge tip. I felt very proud of Kwame as I thought of his 4 children educated off his taxi earning. I also reminded myself to redo the calculations on the pluses and minuses of the Brain Drain to account for the Kwame’s.