In a recent analysis by a health tourism expert, there is a recognition of the significant potential for expanding health tourism avenues in the African continent.
Speaking to Gulf Times on the sidelines of Qatar Travel Mart 2023, Alioune Gueye, president director general at Afrique Challenge, highlighted the importance of having well-established universities for training doctors, advanced hospitals, cutting-edge technologies and a complete value chain from middle management to clinical laboratories.
He cited countries such as Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, South Africa, and Senegal, currently recognised as medical destinations due to their robust healthcare infrastructure. He stressed that not every country can be a medical destination.
This is key because you know a hospital is not a hotel as comfortable as it could be… Now, (there are) more and more startups because you have artificial intelligence, you have biotechnologies, you have so many technologies that are now rising,” said Gueye, noting Africa’s potential to attract more people from other countries seeking medical treatment.
With these advancements, he expects medical tourism destinations to maintain high standards of healthcare and offer cost-effective treatments, in addition to effectively managing logistical issues and potential complications. Gueye also underlined the significance of establishing cultural links before exploring the business of medical tourism. He suggested fostering connections and understanding the cultural context, which he said is crucial before embarking on any healthcare-related initiatives.
The Afrique Challenge official added that these African countries hold a favourable position, as individuals seeking health solutions, especially Africans, are more inclined to stay close to home rather than traveling to international destinations in other regions.
Gueye pointed out that geographical proximity remains a factor and plays a key role in influencing decisions, citing examples such as the three-hour journey from Senegal to Morocco compared to the longer travel time of 10 to 12 hours to reach another destination. He said time sensitivity becomes crucial, especially for patients who may be in less-than-ideal health conditions, making long-distance travel challenging.
Gueye shed light on the logistical challenges associated with international health transfers, stressing the need for special infrastructure, including specific planes equipped with medical facilities, doctors, and respiratory support. These factors, he said, contribute to the complexity of long-distance medical travel, reinforcing the preference for local solutions.
He anticipates that the African Continental Free Trade Agreement will facilitate easier access to medical treatments across the continent, making it more feasible for individuals to seek healthcare in neighboring countries. Gueye explained, however, that some individuals may choose international destinations for privacy reasons. “They want to be in places where nobody knows them… like a minister… it’s important for them to have these kinds of remote areas”. About challenges in post-operative treatments, he acknowledged the return of high-level doctors and surgeons to Africa after experiencing brain drain. However, he stressed the importance of developing a strong value chain to ensure the continuity of quality care after surgery.