As anticipation builds for Arab Health 2024, the largest healthcare exhibition and congress in the Middle East, it’s essential for UK companies to understand the areas of opportunity and what awaits them at this influential event. With a commitment to delivering world-class medical services, the UAE has transformed into a regional healthcare hub, attracting patients and professionals from around the world. For UK SMEs and exporters, this presents a golden opportunity to tap into the burgeoning healthcare market of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region.
Healthcare Landscape in the UAE
The healthcare sector in the UAE has witnessed a remarkable growth, fuelled by substantial government investments and a dedication to providing high-quality medical services. For instance, healthcare spending by UAE residents is set to grow by nearly one-third in the coming years due to a rise in the ageing population and more people suffering from lifestyle diseases. The UAE government has allocated GBP 1.1 billion (Dh4.9 billion), representing 8.4 percent of the overall federal budget, for healthcare and community protection in the federal budget for 2022-2026. The emphasis on investing in innovation, research, science, and technology reflects the UAE’s strategic shift towards knowledge-based economic development.
Key aspects of the healthcare landscape in the UAE include:
- Medical Tourism Magnet
According to a report from the Dubai Health Authority, in 2022, Dubai hosted 630,000 international health tourists, showcasing resilience in the face of the ongoing global pandemic. The UAE has effectively established itself as a prominent global medical tourism destination. With substantial investments in state-of-the-art healthcare infrastructure, including high-quality hospitals, medical centers, and specialized zones like Dubai Healthcare City, individuals from across the globe are drawn to its advanced medical facilities, cutting-edge technology, and internationally acclaimed healthcare professionals.
- Technological Advancements and Innovation Ecosystem
The UAE is at the forefront of adopting the latest healthcare technologies. In 2023, the UAE’s Ministry of Health launched Centre of Excellence for AI in healthcare, as a way to promote the digitalisation of health data, employ smart technologies to develop health capacities and offerings, and establish a comprehensive digital service ecosystem that provides service users with sustainable, innovative, high-quality services.
The government’s emphasis on research and innovation has fostered a dynamic healthcare ecosystem, encouraging collaborations between public and private entities to drive advancements in medical science. From telemedicine to artificial intelligence, digital health solutions play a crucial role in delivering efficient and patient-centric healthcare services.
Opportunities for UK SMEs and Exporters
The future of UAE’s healthcare is preventive, predictive, and precision-led. For UK SMEs seeking to expand their footprint into the UAE healthcare market, several promising areas beckon:
- Digital Health Solutions
The UAE is keen on embracing digital health solutions to improve patient care and operational efficiency. The Digital Health market is anticipated to achieve a revenue of GBP 493.1 million (AED 2.2 billion) in 2024. A steady annual growth rate (CAGR 2024-2028) of 6.69% is forecasted, leading to an estimated market volume of GBP 638.7 million (AED 2.98 billion) by the year 2028.
The UAE’s healthcare facilities are making substantial investments in technology to enhance their services. This encompasses the integration and utilisation of robotics, artificial intelligence (AI) in diagnostic and treatment processes, and the advancement of cutting-edge medical tools such as wearables and virtual reality. UK SMEs specialising in health tech, telemedicine, and health informatics can explore partnerships and collaborations to introduce their innovative solutions to the UAE healthcare market.
- Medical Equipment and Devices
In 2023, the market size of medical devices in the UAE reached approximately GBP 1.51 billion (AED 7.1 billion). Projections for the forecast period from 2024 to 2030 anticipate a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of around 8.87%. The demand for cutting-edge medical equipment and devices in the UAE and wider GCC region is on the rise.
The increasing demand for cutting-edge devices, coupled with the rising incidence of lifestyle and chronic conditions like obesity and diabetes, contributes to the heightened demand for medical devices within the healthcare sector. UK exporters specialising in manufacturing and supplying innovative medical technology can find substantial opportunities in this growing market.
- Pharmaceuticals and Biotechnology
The UAE is actively working to enhance its pharmaceutical and biotechnology capabilities. The expertise of UK healthcare professionals and service providers is highly regarded. For instance, UK companies can explore collaborations, licensing agreements, or direct exports to meet the increasing demand for high-quality medicines and biopharmaceuticals products & services, as well as contributing to the overall enhancement of the healthcare ecosystem in the region.
The healthcare sector in the UAE and the wider GCC region is a beacon of opportunity for UK SMEs and exporters. Arab Health 2024 is poised to be a pivotal event for UK SMEs looking to make inroads into the UAE, as it represents a strategic entry point for those seeking to explore and capitalise on opportunities across the wider GCC healthcare market. As the healthcare landscape continues to evolve, the collaboration between the UK and the UAE offers immense potential for mutual growth and innovation. Through thoughtful navigation and a deep understanding of the market, UK SMEs can play a pivotal role in shaping the future of healthcare in the Middle East.