Economic Update

Published 30 May 2017

A drive to promote the emirate’s health care sector is gaining traction, with the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) estimating that the sector’s value will rise to $2.4bn in the next two years, up from around $2bn last year.  

The industry has also been identified by state agency Invest Sharjah as central to its aim of increasing FDI by 15% to Dh1bn ($272.2m) this year.

“Looking ahead, there are several sectors that will play a vital role in Sharjah’s development. These include the renewable energy sector, waste management, transportation, health care, tourism, manufacturing and education,” Mohammed Al Musharrekh, director of Invest in Sharjah, told local media in mid-April.   

Working with European partners

The push to draw investment into Sharjah’s health sector was given a significant boost in mid-April, when the Arab-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Ghorfa) signed a cooperation agreement with the management of the emirate’s flagship health project Sharjah Healthcare City (SHCC) – a free trade zone dedicated to health care and related services that is being developed on a 2.4m-sq-metre site near Sharjah International Airport.

Under the terms of the deal, Ghorfa will promote the SHCC throughout Germany and other European countries.

Ghorfa will also identify key investors for the SHCC and work in partnership with the authorities to foster cooperation between Sharjah and Germany in the field of health care.

The move should help attract investment into the SHCC and support its commitment to providing excellent health care services, according to Abdulla Al Mahyan, chairman of the SHCC.

“The agreement with our partner, Ghorfa, aims to support the SHCC’s vision of attracting the health care industry’s most respected entities into the UAE through the SHCC,” Al Mahyan told local media following the deal. “We expect this agreement to further elevate Sharjah’s position as a formidable player in the global health care sector.”

UAE buy-in

Even without the assistance of Ghorfa, the SHCC has been attracting high-profile investors. In mid-March, for example, UAE-based Ahalia Medical Group announced plans to establish a 100-bed hospital in the hub.

Expected to be the first hospital established in the SHCC, the project will add to the group’s existing stable of health care facilities in the country. Ahalia currently operates three hospitals, 14 medical centres, two specialised ophthalmology medical centres and more than 25 pharmacies across the UAE.  

“We are proud of Ahalia Hospital for being the first to occupy SHCC premises, particularly because of its homegrown status, and we believe they will inspire other UAE health care organisations to follow suit,” Al Mahyan told local media after signing the agreement.

Building a reputation

Having been awarded “healthy city” status by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in September 2015, the emirate has since looked to share its success story with other countries in the region.

This was evidenced most recently in April, when representatives from GCC nations, as well as the UAE’s Ministry of Health and Prevention, visited the emirate in April to tour destinations that helped Sharjah become the first city in the MENA region to be awarded this WHO accolade.

WHO officials have also said that Sharjah will become a regional training centre for other cities looking to the join the programme.

However, with lifestyle issues and diabetes among the primary health concerns of Sharjah residents, according to a recent survey conducted by the Sharjah Supreme Council for Family Affairs (SSCFA), the emirate is not standing still in raising awareness of disease and illness prevention among its citizens.

To this end, the SSCFA recently concluded its annual campaign, “Sugar Sweet and Bitter”, a series of lectures and workshops aimed at raising diabetes awareness among primary and preparatory school students, with close to 6000 young people reported to have benefitted from the project this academic year.