Africa's Underfunded Health System Craves Private Coverage

The IFC estimated that Africa's healthcare market had reached $35 billion by 2016, with the private sector driving much of the growth.


As public systems are often overstretched, underfunded, and offer poor quality service, private players are stepping into the breach to meet rising consumer demand. The main growth markets are, firstly, private hospitals, and secondly, equipment providers, especially for the detection of non-communicable diseases.


Rising middle classes have driven a steady flow of medical tourism from the African continent to places such as India, Turkey, and the European Union. 40% of the medical tourists that India receives are from Africa, and in 2015, East Africans spent $1 billion on medical services in India alone.


Cash-rich Indian hospital groups have pivoted to this opportunity by building hospitals in Africa, as they see the applicability of the same low-cost high-value model which brought them success back home.


Apollo Healthcare and Moolchand Healthcare have operations in Nigeria, South Africa, Mauritius, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe. Fortis Healthcare, India's second biggest hospital group by market value, partnered with CIEL Healthcare of Mauritius to run hospitals in Uganda and Nigeria.


In addition, Indian groups also see a rise in demand for specialist tertiary care. For example, Medanta Africare, a joint venture between Kenyan investors and Delhi-based Arjay Group of India, is building a 200-bed tertiary care facility for $18 million in Nairobi.


On the equipment side, African consumers are turning to quick and easy consultations. So-called “nutritional consultations” in pharmacies are popping up across the region. Yaya Chemist in Kenya, for example, offers 50-cent blood pressure tests, $2 blood sugar level tests, and $5 cholesterol tests.

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