Health tourism a force for good

PRESS OFFICE: Pan-African Health Tourism Congress

The role of the African diaspora

In 2014 the Ethiopian North American Health Professionals Association (ENAHPA) was planning to establish a Medical Zone in Addis Ababa, with the blessing and help of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Diaspora Engagement Affairs Directorate-General.

This initiative would help Addis Ababa become a Medical Tourism Destination. The Diaspora Affairs Directorate General was established with the aim of meeting the needs of the growing number of Ethiopians and Ethiopian diaspora residing abroad interested in contributing to Ethiopia’s development and wellbeing. Moreover, the Directorate-General liaises closely with Ethiopian missions abroad in order to encourage the participation of the Ethiopian diaspora in investment, tourism and trade, as well as technology transfer.

The Directorate-General is also tasked with organising the annual Diaspora Day celebrations which highlights the achievements of the diaspora and encourages their heightened participation in their country of origin. The Directorate-General maintains and updates a database of Ethiopians living abroad, persons of Ethiopian origin and friends of Ethiopia.

Serving as a good paradigm

Locals often observe and emulate the habits, customs and practices of “foreigners” – especially if these are seen as in some way socially superior and status enhancing. As such, inbound Health Tourism can act as an influencer, motivating locals towards paradigm shifts. People learn not by what they are told – but by what they see.

In them seeing foreigners caring about their health – maintaining, restoring or enhancing it – not only through “treatment” (surgical procedures and medical therapies) – but also through lifestyle and practices (e.g. sport, correct diet, regular check-ups). Can a Health Tourism destination credibly promote itself as such, while being populated by unhealthy citizens who are oblivious to healthy habits and lifestyle?

Brain drain in reverse – ‘brain regain’

Development of Medical Tourism motivates and incentivises prominent and well-trained health professionals to stay at home and those amongst the diaspora, to return. In the context of the diaspora, there’s a new phenomenon of healthcare professionals (doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, and allied health workers), originally from African countries, returning home to offer their expertise and services.

In many instances, these highly qualified professionals often return home from the “developed world” where their services are becoming less appreciated and they are paid less. Even if primarily attracted by the prospects of treating “well-heeled” international patients (in the context of Medical Tourism) these professionals often end up also attending to the needs of the local population (whether it be in the private or public sector).

The role of Health Tourism conferences

Aside from acting as catalysts for Health Tourism development while addressing ‘brain regain’ amongst other important issues, the idea for the Pan-African Health Tourism Congress was to serve as a motivator and catalyst:

  • For continent-wide Health Tourism development
  • To prompt African governments to improve the quality of services at public sector facilities
  • To help “incentivise” health sector professionals of the African diaspora to return home and capitalise on the opportunities opening up with the development of Health Tourism

The Pan-African Health Tourism Congress is scheduled to take place from 7-9 June at the uMfolozi Hotel Casino Convention Resort, Empageni, KwaZulu Natal.

For more information contact Ashley Santos on 011 436-9014, or email her at [email protected]. You can also visit the Congress website,, or see the event listing on How we made it in Africa. Join the conversation on Twitter @PAHTC2017 #PAHTC2017.