Kenya: most developed private healthcare in sub-Saharan Africa

A report, “Tourism for Transformative and Inclusive Growth” by the Netherlands Enterprise Agency has noted that the private health sector in Kenya is one of the most developed and dynamic in sub-Saharan Africa. The country should take advantage of existing assets in the medical sector to attract other African nationals seeking specialised treatment services abroad.

Kenya is a leading destination which African nationals visit seeking high-end specialised medical services. Inbound African medical tourism is also increasing in Egypt, Mauritius, Morocco, South Africa, and Tunisia.

Kenya is strategically placed given its accessibility from many African countries and a balance between quality and price. Kenya is well connected within Africa by air, road and water providing good connectivity for patients. The biggest strategic advantage that Kenya has is its base in tourism as it attracts 2 million travellers internationally and regionally.

Yet, despite this, according to the Health Ministry, 10,000 Kenyans travel abroad annually in search of medical treatment, spending USD 10 billion. Many Kenyans go abroad for cheap treatment in India and Thailand.

Kenya is emerging as a preferred healthcare destination for patients from East and Central Africa, and the government has begun to mention medical tourism, but so far little has happened to promote it.

Kenya can offer elective surgeries of joint replacements, cardiac related issues, cancer management, neurosurgery, IVF, organ transplant, cosmetic surgery, and dentistry. The only active renal transplant programme in the region is in Kenya.

The new report says that there should be collaborations between the Health Ministry and the Tourism Ministry to market the country as a medical destination for international and domestic medical tourism. For Kenya, it would save on lost foreign currency and increase inbound medical tourism from neighbouring countries in Africa.

The government also needs to work with private hospitals. Mediheal Hospital and Fertility Centre in Eldoret, for example, provides high-quality medical services in Kenya and East Africa. Mediheal has invested heavily in access to sub-specialised treatment including 120 dialysis chairs, 20 operating theatres and 120 ICU beds. Mediheal was the first hospital to perform laparoscopic donor nephrectomy in East Africa for kidney transplant.

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