When you think healthcare – Africa isn’t often the first place you’d think of for excellent medical care. But you’d be surprised. In recent years, Africa has attracted international attention as a leading destination for cosmetic, prenatal and life threatening healthcare.
Medical tourism uses comprehensive national strategies like public-private partnerships, tax-investment incentives, and marketing. A common medical tourism strategy is to provide comprehensive packages that include assistance with medical visas, a meet and greet at the airport, private nurses, hospital accommodations before and after surgery, as well as a luxury safari post-treatment.
The global medical tourism industry is valued at $20 billion per year, with nearly 7 million patients seeking health care abroad. South Africa has emerged as the clear leader as a medical tourist destination on the African
continent, with Morocco and Tunisia well positioned in North Africa to attract European patients.
Tunisia has experienced rapid growth in its touristic health resorts with a rise in world-class facilities in Sousse, Hammamet, Djerba, and Gammarth.
The health tourism sector of Tunisia attracts approximately 150,000 international tourists annually. Tunisia’s reputation as the premier health tourism destination in Northern Africa, and as second on the continent behind South Africa, is due in large part to its thalassotherapy treatment. Tunisia ranks second worldwide after France for this medical skin treatment procedure, which uses mineral elements in its Mediterranean shores for a therapeutic experience. The properties of Tunisia’s Mediterranean seawater are believed to soothe dry skin and fight skin irritants such as acne, psoriasis, and eczema.
The Kingdom of Morocco’s market for medical tourism is not as robust as Tunisia’s, but has made major investments to become an attraction in Northern Africa. Medical tourism in Morocco is dominated by cosmetic surgery and dental treatment, with these procedures’ costs running less than those offered in Western Europe. A pleasant climate, internationally trained medical staff, and a Francophone population, along with lower costs, make Morocco an ideal medical tourist destination.
To enhance the competitiveness of Morocco’s overall tourism industry, Morocco’s Ministry of Tourism aimed to attract 1.5 billion tourists and accessible markets, with a major focus on the Western and Northern Europe region. The health and wellness tourism sectors are cited in the strategy as two major industries ripe for development and job creation.
Morocco’s investments and policies have contributed greatly to the growth of the industry. The country shares an open skies agreement with the European Union, which allows a variety of flight destinations for potential medical tourists. Moreover, Morocco has eliminated value-added taxes on cosmetic surgeries, increasing the price competitiveness of its procedures.
Morocco ranks 31st overall in the Medical Tourism Index. Being way below for average for all factors allows us to locate opportunities for the destination, in order to increase its position and total revenue from the medical tourism business. Destination environment factor came in at 31st place, mainly because a lack of cultural match and the political environment. For the Medical Tourism Index Factor, Morocco got 26th place, but not for being perceived as a cheaper healthcare option, but because it is a tourism hub trying to attract more
Imagine having body enhancement surgery at a private hospital near the Red Sea, or overlooking the Nile and the Pyramids? Before and after surgery medical tourists can relax on beautiful beaches or be pampered at one of the country’s spa resorts to help restore energy, stamina and vitality before returning home feeling refreshed and renewed.
Egypt is in the process of constructing the largest medical city in the Middle East and Africa is being built in Badr City, located 47 kilometers (29 miles) from Cairo on the Cairo-Suez road, with investments worth 20 billion Egyptian pounds ($1.2 billion). The medical city is expected to include 13 medical institutes with a capacity of 2,000 beds, air medical services, a university hospital, natural healing gardens and a medicinal plant nursery.
South Africa is ranked by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) as the leader in the African market for health tourism, and is a minor hub worldwide alongside nations like India, Singapore, and Thailand. South Africa offers a wide range of low-cost treatments, together with a level of professionalism and quality that sets its healthcare providers apart from the competition.
In addition to essential treatments, South Africa is well known for affordable cosmetic surgery procedures as well as fertility treatments, breast enlargements, cosmetic dentistry and others, creating a thriving medical tourism industry. A large number of medical tourists come from other countries within Africa, particularly for affordable infertility treatments. Many other patients also come from US, Australia, Germany, Italy, Britain, Netherlands, and other parts of Europe.
South Africa is well positioned as an ideal medical tourism destination in that it boasts the following characteristics:
- World-class healthcare sector
- Under-utilised private healthcare sector (catering for only 16% of SA’s total population)
- World-renowned doctors who are international thought leaders,
- The South African medical industry has pioneered many ground-breaking surgeries and medical research, including the world’s first heart and penile transplants and more recently the world’s first transplant of middle-ear bones using 3D printed components.
- Well-priced healthcare sector vs USA and Europe
- Shorter waiting times for surgeries (in the private sector)
- Highly rated tourism destination that caters to all tourists
- English-speaking country (therefore communication is easier for the bulk of international visitors)
- Favourable currency (vs US Dollar and Euro)