India-Africa healthcare opportunities

A stethoscope on top of a map of Africa

A new study by India Exim Bank, “India-Africa Healthcare: Prospects and Opportunities” identifies healthcare as remaining an important pillar of India’s development cooperation with Africa. It recommends financing five regional-hub hospitals across Africa, run in partnership with India’s major hospital groups.

India has long been working with several African nations to alleviate various infectious diseases, through providing generic medicines and vaccines at low cost.

According to the India Exim Bank’s latest study, India’s export of pharmaceutical products to Africa more than doubled from US$1.3 billion in 2010 to US$3.2 billion in 2019, making it the largest pharmaceutical exporter to the continent.

However, Africa’s healthcare development remains uneven, as reflected in the Universal Health Coverage Service Coverage Index (UHC SCI), with seven countries in Africa having UHC SCI higher than the global average of 66, vis- à-vis the African average of 46 in 2017. Africa’s growing population, along with its demographic and urban transition, could further add to the limited healthcare system in the coming years.

India Exim Bank study suggests setting up a US$100 million fund for financing the construction of five 100-bed capacity tertiary hospitals across Africa, spread across the five regions of the Continent.

The study highlights that India, on an average, attracts over 50,000 African medical tourists annually, reflecting the demand for India’s affordable and quality healthcare. It suggests Indian hospital majors that have gained significant experience in running hospitals under the PPP framework could be ideal partners for meeting Africa’s healthcare infrastructure needs.

The study also suggests developing a pharmaceutical value chain in collaboration with the African countries and establishing regional pharmaceutical or vaccine manufacturing plants, along with joint facilities for R&D and cold storage facilities under the PPP model, contributing to building resilient supply chains.

The other areas of cooperation suggested in the study include, strengthening hospital management and IT infrastructure, digitalisation of healthcare, facilitating medical tourism and wellness centres in Africa, developing medical equipment value chain, providing medical education and capacity building of health personnel, fostering healthcare innovation, among others.

The study states that the healthcare and wellness sector in Africa is expected to be worth US$ 259 billion by the year 2030. It suggests the COVID-19 pandemic has emerged as a window of opportunity for Indian hospitals and related companies to collaborate to build a resilient Africa, giving the India-Africa Partnership a new dimension.