Kenya medical tourism depends on overseas investors

Kenya is developing a strategy to help reduce medical outbound tourism but inbound needs overseas investors.

In 2016, 10,000 Kenyans sought medical treatment outside the country, spending between Sh7-10 billion annually. Kenya gets 3,000 to 5,000 medical tourists from other African countries. These are the latest government figures and whether they real or guesswork is not known.

Kenya is developing a strategy to help reduce medical outbound tourism, says Ministry of Health cabinet secretary Cleopa Mailu; “The framework for medical tourism aims at positioning Kenya as a destination for specialised healthcare services appealing to both Kenyan and international clients to stem the rising tide of outward medical tourism.”

Mailu claims that the plan could be in place by the end of 2017, but as overseas investment is vital then several years later is more probable.

He adds: “Data from the health ministry indicates that the key reasons patients seek treatment abroad is for the management of non-communicable diseases -conditions which are on the increase in Kenya. The cost of care and epidemiological changes are some of the key driving markets forces for the medical tourism. Medical tourism could help Kenya diversify its tourism industry.”

Amit Thakker of Kenya Healthcare Federation sees a need for more incentives to increase the amount of local and foreign funds coming in for healthcare,: “Private sector healthcare providers say value added tax and duty on imported raw materials for pharmaceuticals should be scrapped to enhance growth. We need to improve infrastructure for both service delivery and training of medical personnel. We would also like the government to provide licenses for the private sector to start training medical personnel, incentives to have urban-rural shifts by the private sector and incentives to start manufacturing of both pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical products within the country.”

President Uhuru Kenyatta promises to help Indian investors keen on developing medical facilities to boost Kenya’s medical tourism, to procure land, and although mentioning no other incentives suggests they could be on offer.

The Kenyan government and healthcare business both want for fewer Kenyans to go overseas and more medical tourists to go to Kenya. But they want overseas investors to build the local hospitals and clinics and not spend local or state money on promoting inbound medical tourism. This is very much a repetition of previous political statements with lots of talk but no money spent.