x

Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 October 2018

Arab Health shapes up robustly

Global companies eyeing the lucrative medical market of the Gulf and the UAE make a beeline for Arab Health 2014.
A busy scene last January at the Arab Health expo in Dubai. This year’s show begins tomorrow and is expected to draw 3,900 companies. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
A busy scene last January at the Arab Health expo in Dubai. This year’s show begins tomorrow and is expected to draw 3,900 companies. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

The American geneticist Khemissa Bejaoui from Wisconsin is keen to explore business opportunities in the Middle East.

Along with her, the company she works for, PreventionGenetics, will be at the Arab Health trade fair for the first time this month.

At the 39th edition of Arab Health, PreventionGenetics will be among eight companies attending as part of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation’s trade venture, whose second stop will be Dubai after Qatar. The trade show starts tomorrow at the Dubai International Exhibition Center.

PreventionGenetics, however, is not new to the region.

The company analyses blood samples shipped in by hospitals and clinics, including those from the Gulf, for genetic disease or disorders that form the basis of further physician diagnosis.

“We currently provide services to [Qatar’s] Hamad Medical Corporation, [Al Ain’s] Tawam Hospital, the National Reference Laboratory in Dubai, [Oman’s] Sultan Qaboos University Hospital, King Abdulaziz Medical City and King Fahad Medical City [in Riyadh], and Kuwait Medical Genetic Centre,” said James Weber, president and chief executive of PreventionGenetics.

It’s easy to understand the attraction for Wisconsin companies. The UAE ranked 17th in the state’s global exports, supplying goods worth $305 million, last year, according to the UAE embassy in Washington, DC.

In her venture, Ms Bejaoui will be among thousands of medical professionals and representatives of companies who will attend Arab Health this year. While her company is not setting up a booth at the trade show, 297 companies from the United States are exhibiting besides thousands more from other countries. And new companies from across the globe are eyeing the health care industry in the Emirates after Dubai joined Abu Dhabi in the mandatory health insurance scheme.

While China will be sending the highest number of exhibitors at 548, it will be followed by Germany, the US, the United Kingdom, the UAE and Italy.

“It’s my ninth [Arab Health]; it’s a promising scene for this year and we have had a waiting list since last summer,” says Dave Panther, sales director for the exhibition and trade show organisation company Informa, which is in charge of Arab Health. “Pharmaceutical and biotech companies are about 15 per cent of the exhibitors, around 40 to 45 per cent are medical device manufacturers, and the rest comprises healthcare service providers such as Cleveland Clinics and hospital groups, turnkey solution providers to hospital builders and IT sector.”

This year, more than 3,900 companies are exhibiting. Among the newcomers is an official group from Palestine with 30 companies, a small Iraqi group of five companies under the Iraqi ministry of health, a pavilion from Pakistan with 30 companies, and Morocco’s pharma manufacturing companies.

The Jebel Ali Free Zone also has a big pavilion this year in its efforts to attract companies to the free zone.

Arab Health is the second largest trade show in the sector after Medica, held annually in Düsseldorf, Germany.

Last year, about 3,500 exhibitors from 64 countries attracted about 81,000 visitors – with a majority from the Arabian Gulf – to the four-day show. The visitors included representatives of public and private hospitals, followed by those from governments, clinics and laboratories.

The demand means the cost of setting up a booth has risen. This year it costs $630 per metre, an increase of 5 per cent on last year.

According to Mr Panther in 2012 the US contingent alone sealed contracts worth about $40m.

The trade show has grown in stature and attendees. The introduction of mandatory health insurance in Dubai – a scheme which will begin its roll-out later this year – is expected to boost it further.

Medical insurance makes health care more affordable, although not necessarily cheaper, and subsequently, leads to higher demand for health care services, said Sanjay Vig, managing director at Alpen Capital.

“The mandate will benefit all the concerned stakeholders – including insurance providers, healthcare facilities and most importantly patients,” Mr Vig said. “Effects of an increase in health insurance penetration in the UAE and development of the healthcare sector are expected to percolate on to the pharmaceutical industry due to the increase in demand of drugs and medicines.”

The increased spending from hospitals in the Gulf is another reason trade shows such as Arab Health, where companies showcase their latest gadgets and services, has been gaining traction.

Last year, the UAE’s healthcare budget was around $12bn, and spending on health care as a percentage of the GDP of 3.3 per cent is the third highest in the Gulf, after Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, according to a report from Colliers International last month.

About 36 per cent of UAE hospitals are owned and operated by the Ministry of Health, while the private sector catered to 64 per cent of the entire population in 2011, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

This year, the Ministry of Health had allocated Dh519 million for procurement of medicines and medical equipment, reported The National’s sister publication Al Ittihad earlier this month.

The trend of high spending on health care is expected to continue with the UAE population expected to touch 12 million by 2018.

Wisconsin, among other parts of the world interested in the Gulf market, has a strong medical device and health-related sector.

That includes corporations such as GE Healthcare to small and growing bio-tech start-ups boosted by research being conducted at the state’s Marshfield Clinic, the University of Wisconsin and the Medical College of Wisconsin, says Stanley Pfrang, market development director for India, the Middle East, and Africa for Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation.

“The fact that Arab Health is such a large trade show and draws attendees and exhibitors from such a large portion of the globe, makes it an ideal opportunity for Wisconsin companies to investigate key players and changing market conditions,” he says.

ssahoo@thenational.ae