Africa’s ‘health tourism’ presidents must be ashamed: S. Africa minister

South Africa’s health minister, Aaron Motsoaledi, has slammed African leaders who seek treatment abroad. He added that health tourism is something Africans should be ashamed of.

Motsoaledi was speaking during a World Health Organization (WHO) meeting of African health ministers in Zimbabwe.

“I have said this before and I will say it again: we are the only continent that has its leaders seeking medical services outside the continent, outside our territory.

“We must be ashamed of that. This is called health tourism. We must promote our own,” he added in reference to the need for leaders to better equip local hospitals and boost healthcare systems back home.

The 67th session of the WHO regional committee for Africa took place at Victoria Falls. The week-long conference started last Sunday and is expected to end September 1. Ministers are discussing ways to improve the health and wellbeing of Africans.

The conference was officially opened by Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe, who falls in the category of leaders who fly out to for medical checks. The 93-year-old has flown to Singapore twice this year for what his handlers say is a problem with his eyes.

The most recent African leader caught in the medical tourism web is Nigeria’s Muhammadu Buhari, who spent over 100 days in the United Kingdom seeking medical attention for an undisclosed ailment.

Other African leaders who engage in overseas treatment are Patrice Talon of Benin, Abdul Aziz Bouteflika of Algeria and outgoing Angolan president Jose Eduardo dos Santos.

A stand out case is of Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir who underwent minor heart surgery at a local hospital in the capital Khartoum back in December 2016. In November the same year, wife of Tanzanian president, John Magufuli was also treated in a local hospital.

Photos of Magufuli visiting the First Lady at the Muhimbili National Hospital in the commercial capital, Dar es Salaam, flooded social media. It earned the no-nonsense leader a lot of praise for departing from what would ordinarily be the case – flying his wife to seek treatment outside.