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Virtual Dubai Trek: UEA Sets its Eyes on Becoming New Global Healthcare Hub


The COVID-19 pandemic might have disrupted many sectors and industries across the globe, but healthcare’s position as the evergreen industry remains unshaken. A recent Deloitte report, “ 2020 Global Health Care Outlook” states that global health care spending is expected to rise at a CAGR of 5 percent in 2020-23, presenting many opportunities for the sector.

One country in particular where the health care sector shows promising signs is the UAE. Dubai is very well known for its Tourism, Financial, and Real Estate industry. The next strategic target for the city is its health sector, which is already rising in prominence as a hub for medical tourism in the Middle East. In addition to its tourist attractions, Dubai and Abu Dhabi boasts some of the region’s best infrastructure, facilities, and medical treatments available, making it easy to combine medical care with tourism.

This makes the UAE a fantastic place to kickstart or pivot a career. Recently, I had the opportunity to connect with experienced healthcare industry expert, Pankaj Paul, Principal at Vicaara, who shared his expert insights on opportunities in the industry as part of the Virtual Dubai Trek, an annual career trek organized by the Career Development Office of the Asia School of Business.

If you’re considering a career in the Middle East, here are the top 4 reasons why you should consider the healthcare sector in UAE:

1. UAE has strategically strengthened its healthcare position

Over the last decade, the healthcare industry has emerged as one of the prime sectors for economic diversification in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Dubai’s healthcare market alone in the Middle East is forecasted to reach USD 19.5 billion this year from USD 15 billion in 2018. Experts predicted that UAE will play an instrumental role in propelling the MENA healthcare sector growth from USD 144 billion in 2020 to USD 243.6 billion by 2023.

The UAE has already cemented its position as the destination of choice for medical tourists due to its state-of-the-art technology, affordable treatments, and highly specialized and well-qualified doctors. The growth of the UAE’s medical tourism industry has been exceptional, in line with its global aspirations for medical tourism and focus on increasing its healthcare infrastructure in terms of quality and quantity.

2. Dubai and Abu Dhabi attracting global healthcare providers and promoting medical tourism

Rising healthcare costs in Western countries, an aging population, and lack of insurance coverage for specialist procedures in many countries make a solid business case for Dubai and Abu Dhabi to be the next medical tourism hub. Dubai is home to the world’s largest medical free trade zone with its creation of Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC).

The Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT) recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Medical Tourism Association (MTA) to create successful medical tourist programs. These programs are being promoted to markets such as Russia, China, and the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council), with a focus on affordable specialty areas such as cardiology, oncology, and executive screenings. The aim is to become the region’s leading medical tourist destination.

3. The healthcare ecosystem is booming

The UAE, in its quest to become a leading healthcare destination, has been making efforts to strengthen the healthcare ecosystem, which consists of hospitals, pharmaceuticals, and medical device companies. Currently, the country is focused on adding 40 primary healthcare centers and three major new hospitals in the master plan, and medical tourism is expected to contribute USD 705 million to GDP by 2020 with 13% year-on-year revenue growth according to the next few years.

Pharmaceuticals and medical devices are prioritized sub-sectors listed under the 2030 Dubai Industrial Strategy which aims to promote the UAE as a base for knowledge-based, sustainable, and innovation-focused businesses. The UAE Ministry of Health has also proposed for 34 indigenous pharmaceutical manufacturing factories to be up and running by end of 2020. According to Omania Heath, the market value of the UAE’s pharmaceutical industry is set to go up by AED 9.5 billion (USD 2.59 billion) at present to AED 25 billion (USD 6.81 billion) by 2025.

4. A plethora of opportunities for MBAs seeking a career in health care

With the sizeable chunk of economic investment going towards healthcare, this calls for experts to run and manage the healthcare facilities towards the profits goal post. Here is where the “management doctors” – the MBAs – comes into the picture.

Where industries are booming, opportunities are plenty. As COVID-19 has pushed many industries and countries like UAE to rethink its strategies, operations, and management, MBA graduates would benefit from considering UAE as a potential destination to build a career. Some define success as the ability to start their own business. Some, view the pinnacle of success as being able to spend more time with their loved ones, and on the things they love.