As the most populated city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Dubai has now also become one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the world. Dubai’s image is shifting rapidly from just a tourist destination to a major international financial and trading hub.
After 50 years of economic growth, the city has now entered into its post-oil era, which means its continued growth relies on developing and growing other industries. In response, the Dubai government is now focused on transforming the city into a knowledge-based, innovation-focused economy – especially when it comes to the healthcare industry.
Within healthcare, this means taking advantage of Dubai’s booming tech ecosystem for tech-enabled healthcare and making the most of zero-tax Free Trade Zones. So if you are looking to build or expand your business in the healthcare industry, here are some key things you need to know.
Dubai’s Role in the Global Health-Tech Revolution
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect businesses globally, it has also presented exciting new opportunities within health-tech as a whole. Scaling healthcare services and emergency response has always been a concern globally, but it is in the midst of this current pandemic that the healthcare industry is pushed to innovate and accelerate their plans for digitisation faster than ever before.
Dubai has been at the forefront of global health-tech innovations for years now. In the fight against COVID-19, Dubai was the first to announce the first full genome sequencing of COVID-19, and has been utilising technology and 3D printing to develop and supply personal protective equipment (PPE) to frontline workers. It also regularly hosts major health conventions (like the Arab Health Exhibition & Congress and Digital Health Middle East), and recently launched their city-wide telehealth initiative ‘Doctor for every citizen’.
In fact, the Dubai Industrial Strategy 2030, an official plan developed by the government, lists ‘Pharmaceuticals and Medical Equipment’ as one of the six priority sub-sectors for the city. You can be sure Dubai will continue to lead global healthcare innovations in the years to come.
Key Healthcare Investment Opportunities in Dubai
There are 3 main areas where healthcare investors can potentially consider when entering the Dubai market.
1. Health-Tech Innovation
Health-tech in the Middle East at the moment is primarily dominated by two types of companies: telemedicine and doctor booking. According to Sajjad Kamal, co-founder of AlemHealth, this is largely due to the fact that most entrepreneurs come from a digital background and have little exposure to the actual care provided to patients.
While there have been efforts to bridge the gap between technology and healthcare practices, there is still much room for innovation – especially with the increased accessibility to blockchain, 3D-printing, artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR) and other technologies.
Dhonor HealthTech, for example, is officially building blockchain solutions for safer, secure and more streamlined organ donor matching and verification in partnership with the Ministry Of Health And Prevention. This is meant to not only prevent illegal organ trading but also save over $20 million in estimated dialysis costs every year.
2. Health Tourism
Analysing the performance of Dubai’s tourism sector for 2018, the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) and the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) reported total revenue of AED 12.1 billion (US$317 million), a growth of 5.5% from the previous year, from over 337,000 medical tourists. By 2021, Dubai hopes to attract more than half a million medical tourists from countries like Russia, China, Europe and Africa.
Top Specialities Attracting Medical Travellers to Dubai
In line with this goal, the DHA set up the Dubai Health Experience (DXH), a portal for medical tourists to learn more about health services available to them in Dubai and the procedures for obtaining them. They can also make online bookings through the website and app, both available in 6 languages (including English, Arabic, Chinese, French, Hindi and Russian) and offer a large selection of hospitals, clinics and packages for tourists to choose from.
3. Growing Local Demand
Dubai’s population is estimated to reach between 4.6 and 5.5 million, with 8% of UAE nationals being aged 60 or over, by 2030. Thanks to the introduction of mandatory health insurance in 2014, almost 100% of the city’s population benefits from health coverage, which drives increased demand for healthcare services in the city.
The DHA states that a supply gap exists in specific types of services, and there is opportunity for private sector investment within:
- Centres of Excellence in Tertiary Care
- Mental Health
- Chronic Disease Management
- Ambulatory Care
For a more comprehensive look in healthcare opportunities in the city, visit the DHA’s Dubai Health Investment Guide 2019.
Support for Healthcare Investors
Dubai is considered one of the most investor-friendly destinations in the world and is home to almost 200 regional offices of Fortune 500 companies, and over 30 Free-Trade Zones (FTZs) that offer special tax exemptions and other benefits to expatriate investors.
FTZs in Dubai offer benefits such as:
- 0% Corporate Tax
- 0% Personal Income Tax
- 100% Capital Repatriation
- And much more!
Emergency Monetary Support
The government of Dubai is committed to sustaining its economic growth. In response to economic challenges of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Dubai’s Free Trade Council introduced a Free-Trade Zone stimulus package, which includes 5 key elements:
- Postponing rent payments for 6 months
- Facilitating payment installments
- Refunding security deposits and guarantees
- Cancelling fines for both companies and individuals
- Permitting temporary contracts that allow the free movement of labour between companies operating in the free zones to continue for the rest of the year.
For more information on economic relief measures in the UAE and Dubai, visit:
- The UAE Government Portal – Economic support to minimise the impact of COVID-19
- White & Case – COVID-19: UAE's Government Financial Assistance Measures
- The UAE extending their Business Support Package to boost Dubai's Economy
Want to learn more about building a healthcare business in Dubai?
The DHA’s Health Investment Guide is a great resource for everything you need to know about the industry. We highly recommend reading that and all the other links provided throughout the blog post. If you would like to speak to someone with specific questions you have regarding opening a business in Dubai or Free-Trade Zones, the DMCC team is available to assist.