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Africa yet to market itself as a medical tourism hub

Health Opinion

The realm of global medical tourism is expanding, as individuals increasingly seek healthcare services beyond their national borders.

Patients travel across continents in pursuit of specialised medical treatments and advanced procedures, transforming this phenomenon into a worldwide trend.

Africa’s healthcare system encounters challenges, such as limited access to specialized medical procedures, prompting many Africans to seek treatment abroad, especially for non-elective surgeries. This migration of patients to Europe, Asia, and the USA results in a substantial loss of revenue for African nations, impacting the financial health of local healthcare systems. This emphasises the necessity for innovative solutions to retain medical expertise and revenue within the continent.

A potential answer to Africa’s healthcare challenges lies in minimally invasive surgery (MIS), a transformative approach utilising advanced technologies to perform procedures with smaller incisions. This leads to reduced trauma, quicker recovery times, and minimised scarring compared to traditional surgical methods.

MIS is versatile and applicable across a spectrum of medical interventions. With the modern lifestyle demanding efficiency, the shortened recovery period associated with MIS becomes crucial. This aligns not only with the global trend of multitasking but also enables patients, especially those from foreign countries, to swiftly resume their routines. It’s essential to note, however, that MIS isn’t universally applicable, as its suitability depends on a case-by-case basis and must be diagnosed by specialists.

Challenges in making these procedures a reality persist, including the requirement for specialised equipment such as robotic systems, whose high costs pose hurdles to widespread implementation.

While medical tourism is a well-established concept, Africa’s potential in this industry remains largely untapped. Beyond the medical procedures, patients seeking elective surgeries often desire a holistic experience, including recovery in serene settings. Africa has yet to market itself as a complete medical tourism package, missing an opportunity to capitalise on its diverse attractions.

The integration of minimally invasive surgery holds the promise of transforming Africa into a formidable contender in the global medical tourism arena. Success requires overcoming challenges related to infrastructure, costs, and adopting comprehensive marketing approaches.

-Kenneth Njeru is a medical tourism consultant and Director of Africa Afya Healthcare.

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