South African startup Med-Afrique is spying opportunities across the continent as it taps into the growing medical tourism industry.
Formed in February 2018, Med-Afrique is a medical tourism agency launched in a bid to support patients from across the continent access healthcare services in South Africa.
In addition to helping users find the best hospitals and physicians, at the best prices, it also assists with other aspects of a client’s trip to South Africa, including pre-booking consultations, sourcing and booking flights and accommodation, arranging in-country transportation, securing an interpreter where required, and making suggestions and bookings for any other activities.
Chief executive officer (CEO) Nomfundo Komba, a nutritionist by training, came up with the idea for Med-Afrique while living and working in East Africa.
“I was hearing a lot about people travelling outside of their home country, and the continent, to access healthcare. I was then asked by some friends to assist them, in my personal capacity, to secure appointments with dentists and physicians in South Africa. It seemed to be the norm for professionals and business people to access healthcare services abroad for themselves and their families,” she told Disrupt Africa.
“Being South African, I wondered why South Africa was not the primary medical tourism destination for Africans – especially from East Africa. South African healthcare professionals are world renowned and many of them are pioneers in medical therapies and innovations that have taken place in the past few decades.”
So Komba started researching the medical tourism industry, and found a gap for a service like Med-Afrique, connecting people in countries with poor or expensive healthcare provision with South Africa’s system. She said the startup is “perfectly positioned” to grow the existing medical tourism industry in South Africa by providing services sought out by healthcare seekers, funders, NGOs and corporations on the African continent.
“The large majority of medical tourists to South Africa between 2003 and 2008 came from other African countries, averaging at approximately 410,000 medical tourists per year. Statistics show that African patients made up 88.7 per cent of the total number of medical tourists visiting South Africa during that time,” Komba said.
“These numbers are substantial and were achieved without any significant direct marketing investment to the rest of the African continent. With Med-Afrique’s unique selling proposition, ability to market appropriately and leverage existing networks throughout the Sub-Saharan region, these numbers could increase exponentially.”
The self-funded startup recently concluded a partnership with Life Healthcare, the largest healthcare group in Southern Africa with over 65 state-of-the-art facilities, to give its customers access to these facilities and the healthcare professionals practicing there. Though the business is still in its infancy, Komba said partnerships like these will be key in growing.
“Interest has been enormous both from clients and partners,” she said.
“Our priority target markets are Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, Ethiopia and Tanzania; these being the current primary importers of medical services. The Francophone countries are also key markets into which we will expand as the business grows.”
Med-Afrique charges a percentage-based service fee to patients for services rendered, with Komba saying it had steered away from a fixed service fee as the proportionate cost was heavily influenced by the type and cost of treatment sought.
“The percentage-based service fee makes our services more affordable to more African clients,” she said.