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Umhlathuze Welcomes First Pan-African Health Tourism Congress

Africa has been earmarked as a sophisticated healthcare hub as the world takes advantage of the outstanding medical care available on the continent. With this in mind, the City of uMhlathuze will be hosting the first Pan-African Health Tourism Congress from 08-09 June 2017 at the Tusk Umfolozi Casino in Empangeni, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

From the moment the world’s first human heart transplant was conducted on the shores of South Africa back in the 1960s, the world has engaged with the country as a hub of medical excellence, and its impact has cast a larger net across the continent, as it grows from strength to strength.

South Africa has a history of excellence in healthcare and healthcare innovation, having positioned itself at the forefront of some of the world’s most celebrated procedures. In recent years, the country has emerged as a serious contender within the Health Tourism industry; one of the fastest growing globally. However, Health Tourism in South Africa and the rest of the continent is relatively new and lacks the organisation and statistics needed to maintain its rise globally. As such, a dire need emerged for the creation of a platform that will allow for open discussions on its current state.

In response to this need, Pan-African Health Tourism Congress was born. The first of its kind targeted at not only South Africa, but the rest of the continent, the Congress will bring together experts from around the world who will give presentations linking medicine and tourism, and build a business case for the viability of the industry. Poised for significant growth with South Africa in particular, Health Tourism in Africa is currently being positioned to play a significant role within the global framework, given its pioneering role in the medical field, highly-skilled doctors, exceptional medical care, supported by state-of-the-art facilities, along with one of the world’s fastest growing tourism industries in the world.

Leveraging A Global Footprint

Globally, the Health Tourism industry is valued at USD20 billion per year, with some seven million patients annually travelling to different regions across the world to seek healthcare. South Africa, Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco, and Mauritius have emerged as the clear leaders in the continent with South Africa gaining a reputation as a destination of choice. Furthermore, South Africa, alongside other African countries such as Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana have a sophisticated, well-developed and organised tourism industry which competes comfortably with some of the best tourism destinations in the world, especially regarding the provision of recuperation facilities.

With the above in mind, the opportunities for Health Tourism on the African continent are extensive. “It is necessary to create a Pan-African platform for engagement and sharing of ideas amongst all the parties in the industry value chain as well as amongst African countries who can benefit from a coordinated industry approach,” shares the Mayor of the City of uMhlathuze, Cllr Mduduzi G. Mhlongo. “The Congress will engage industry thought leaders, practitioners, regulators, public sector officials, and international investors to shape the regional and industry agendas of the health tourism sector.”

According to Mhlongo, the uMhlathuze Municipality has seen exponential growth in the number of healthcare institution developments in the past few years and future projections indicate that the sector is expected to substantially contribute to the GDP of this region and become a pillar of the economy further encourage investment and development.

“With 4 new medical facilities developments in this area, we hope this move will only encourage adjacent sectors that include the pharmaceutical industry to further invest in drug development facilities that will service a chain of hospitals at their doorstep, while creating jobs for our youth to directly tackle the escalating numbers of youth unemployment ‘Africa’s ticking time bomb’ while bridging the skills gap,” he explains. “The presence of global healthcare players in the country has positively increased competition and enhanced the image of South Africa as a high-tech medical hub with the healthcare sector now shifting gears towards export of services and positioning itself as a health tourism platform for Africa. Africa has grown into a sophisticated healthcare hub with the world taking advantage of the outstanding medical care available in this continent.”

Congress Objective

Pan-African Health Tourism Congress was conceived as the African Health Tourism Sector‘s ‘flagship event’ with the specific purpose of exploring a collective strategy that Africa can adopt in order to coordinate its efforts at maximising its potential within the industry. A diverse continent, African countries offer different opportunities along the health and tourism sectors and these can only be fully explored in a coordinated manner. The stated objective will be achieved by engaging industry thought leaders, practitioners, regulators, public sector officials, and international investors to shape the regional and industry agendas of the Health Tourism sector in order to match their changing business needs.

“One of the key highlights of the conference is that it will showcase existing opportunities for further development, establish South Africa as a thought leader in the African industry and identify much-needed policy and regulation issues,” Mhlongo imparts.

Embracing Collaboration

At the event, delegates will have the opportunity to engage with Mayor Mhlongo, and a select group of esteemed guests of industry thought leaders, practitioners and public sector officials in a discussion panel on the role of medical tourism in improving our GDP, as they highlight the aims of the Congress to be hosted in June.

For more information on the Pan-African Health Tourism Congress contact Yasmine Kazadi on +27 (0)72 082 2681 or +27 (0)11 436 9014.

About the City of uMhlathuze: Situated on the north-east coast of the province of KwaZulu-Natal, about 180 kilometres north-east of Durban, the uMhlathuze area covers 795 km² and incorporates Richards Bay, Empangeni, eSikheleni, Ngwelezane, eNseleni, Felixton and Vulindlela, as well as the rural areas under Traditional Councils namely, Dube, Mkhwananzi, Khoza, and Zungu (Madlebe). The population is estimated at 334459 (2011 Census). The municipality borders a coastline that spans approximately 45 kilometres. The N2 highway traverses the uMhlathuze Municipality in a north-east direction towards the Swaziland border and south-west towards Durban. It effectively forms a division between Empangeni and Richards Bay. The R34 Provincial Main Road passes through Empangeni towards Melmoth.