Over the last decade, patients from Africa have flocked to various parts of the world in search of medical treatment, driven by factors such as inadequate healthcare infrastructure at home, growing incidence of non-communicable diseases, and higher disposable incomes. Nigerians alone spend a billion dollars a year seeking medical care abroad.
However, an interesting twist to the tale is starting to emerge. Major healthcare providers, particularly from India, are establishing operations in Africa, often partnering with local players. This year alone, publicly-listed Indian operators including Narayana Health and Health Care Global have announced such plans, while others like Fortis and Apollo have been active for several years.
In a continent that bears 25 percent of the world’s disease burden but has only 3 percent of its healthcare workers, the increasing interest of high-quality international operators in Africa is a welcome development. Many of these new ventures are in the Sub-Saharan region, which is seeing a surge in non-communicable diseases like diabetes and related complications such as cardiac and renal conditions that require chronic and increasingly specialized care.
While large sections of the population continue to depend on the public healthcare system for these treatments, there is a growing middle class that is willing and able to pay for healthcare in private facilities. This has created a thriving hospital sector across most of the large economies in Sub-Saharan Africa. Hospitals such as Aga Khan in Nairobi, Kenya, Nakasero and IHK in Kampala, Uganda, and Lagoon and Redington in Lagos, Nigeria have emerged as quality providers of secondary and tertiary care.
As these hospitals look to scale up, several have received private equity capital and have established partnerships with international players. IHK and Lagoon, for instance, have secured investment from, and are managed by, Ciel Healthcare, a partnership between the Mauritius-based Ciel conglomerate and Fortis Group, a leading hospital operator in India. The partnership’s broader goal is to develop a pan-African healthcare group. IFC is an investor in the venture, along with Proparco, the private sector arm of France’s development agency; the Africa-focused Kibo Fund, a private equity instrument; and Investment Funds for Health in Africa.