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Despite President Muhammadu Buhari’s constant foreign trips for medical care, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, has urged the private sector and other investors to explore opportunities in the nation’s health sector.

She made the call in order to make health care services affordable within the country and discourage medical tourism.

Ahmed explained that the sector should be the focus of wealthy individuals, who are looking to invest their corporate social responsibility (CSR). She assured that such a move would make quality and affordable services available to millions of Nigerians, who can’t access high standard medical care.

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She made the suggestion while inaugurating a cancer centre built by the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA). The centre was built in partnership with the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) but is on public-private partnership (PPP) model.

A South African company, Healthshare, with its 150 years of experience of general management in the healthcare industry, would operate the centre. According to Ahmed, the investment made on the equipment at the cancer centre would avert capital flight and foreign exchange (forex) spent for medical tourism yearly; 80 patients were being treated at the centre daily, and foreigners are expected to be among the centre’s patients.

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While speaking about the essence of the investment, Ahmed said the centre also promises a high return on investment, as NSIA intends to hand over the centre to LASUTH once its investment on the project is recovered.

She added that “The cancer centre is built to enable patients to obtain the precise treatment they received abroad and would also minimise the need for medical tourism. 

“It is a beneficial investment which is safe and sustainable. It provides not only adequate returns for the investment but also give them an opportunity to provide social support for people who cannot afford to pay for the treatment.

“The PPP is executed as a Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) and it is designed for the investors to recover their resources from an investment over a period of time and subsequently the centre will revert to LUTH after 10 years of operations. I, therefore, urge individuals as well as corporate sectors to consider channelling some of their corporate social responsibilities (CSR) to project like this especially to help people that cannot afford to pay for the services.

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Leading by example to spur investors: While Ahmed wants the private sector and other investors to invest in the health sector, the government will have to lead by example, as President Buhari is known for his medical tourism. This makes the President one of the notable names that encourage capital flight or waste foreign exchange on medical tourism.

If the president continues to seek medical care abroad, it is a sign that the government doesn’t have confidence in Nigeria’s health care system, thereby discouraging investors from seeing the revenue potential in the health care market.

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