Gulf Region

The Gulf Region in the scope of this factsheet refers to Qatar, Saudi Arabia and The United Arab Emirates. These three countries have been prioritizing and heavily investing in the healthcare sector, to meet the demands of a growing population and to increase the quality and cost effectiveness of the health system.

Key indicators

[17] Source: World Bank;
[18] Source: World Bank;
[19] Source: World Bank; 1 = most business friendly regulations.
[20] US International Trade Administration; Kenya, Country Commercial Guide

The GCC healthcare sector is currently undergoing transformation at an unprecedented pace and scale. The ecosystem is not only moving from curative to preventive care but also adopting a value-based and integrated delivery model.

Supported by postive reforms of regional governments, the LSH sector remains a top priorty for the public and private sector. As a result of this, the private sector is growing considerably. Despite the subsequent economic slowdown, regional governments continue to bear a sizeable part of the healthcare expenditure while encouraging private sector participation.

The GCC has been swift in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic with unprecedented measures to mitigate risks. Nevertheless, the crisis has caused considerable headwinds for the sector. At the same time, the pandemic has incentivized service providers to ramp

GCC’s healthcare services continue to be of high interest to investors due to reasonable returns and sustainable growth opportunities. Amid rising threat from communicable and NCDs, the need for further investments is imperative to bridge the demand-supply gap across the value chain.


  1. Hospital Build, design and equipment: Products and services concerning the design, building, furnishing, equipping, operations and maintenance of hospitals and clinics.
  2. Digital Transformation of the healthsector: Products and services within the domains of information- & communication technologies which contribute to the efficiency, effectiveness and digitalisation of the healthcare sector.Telehealth, eHealth, Value Based Health Care, Online patient and healthcare processes management (EHR, Mobile Healthcare Apps), Artificial Intelligence in health
  3. Public Health: Products and services within the domains education, training, consultancy and advisory services to optimise care capacity.
  4. Biopharma: The pharmatical market is heavily dependent on import. Up to 80% of the total of pharmaceuticals are imported.
  5. Mobility & Vitality: Products and services in the field of prevention, rehabilitation and home care.

Research & innovation

  • Digitalization & Health technologies
  • Healthy Aging
  • Research on non-communicable diseases: e.g. cancer and diabetes


The Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency (NFIA/Invest in Holland) has a foreign office in Dubai. However we do not see many investment projects within Life Sciences & Health from this region. As the Gulf region is developing its own delivery of healthcare, this does not provide a market to pro-actively target. NFIA/Invest in Holland is open to inform and assist Life Sciences and Health companies from the Gulf region that show interest in expanding to the Netherlands. We will focus on supporting companies that will contribute to the societal challenges and solutions of the future and strengthen the Life Sciences & Health ecosystem in the Netherlands.

Regional priorities

Demography & NCDs: A rise in population to 2.8 million by 2022 will stimulate demand for healthcare services in the country. Qatar citizens are overrepresented when it comes to diabetes, obesity, hypertension, cancer, heart conditions and cardiovascular diseases, and other lifestyle-related diseases This, coupled with the size of ageing population, will further augur demand for healthcare services.

Privatization: In order to meet the increasing demand of healthcare services and share the financial burden on state finances, Qatar is set to attract FDIs through PPP initiatives in the healthcare sector. By 2022, the country’s MoPH plans to increase the number of private hospital beds by 25%.

Health Insurance: the MoPH will introduce compulsory health insurance for residents, enabling them to access affordable services at private facilities as well. The MoPH is also in the midst of drafting a law on its new health insurance scheme, including those visiting the country. This is likely to attract foreign insurance players to establish their operations in the country, further aiding growth.

Saudi Arabia
Demography & NCDs: Healthcare needs will continue to rise, as the country’s population aged over 65 will expand exponentially from 2030 onwards.21 Moreover, NCDs account for ~73% of all mortality cases in the Kingdom, with cardiovascular leading the cause. Saudi Arabia ranks seventh in the world for age-adjusted prevalence of diabetes. ~18.3% of adults in Saudi Arabia suffer from diabetes and over 40% of the Kingdom’s citizens are considered to be obese. The rise in these lifestyle diseases will support demand for highly specialized medical and surgical care services in the Kingdom.

Privatization: The government is encouraging private sector participation with the aim of increasing it to 35% by 2025. It further plans to privatize 295 hospitals and 2,259 healthcare centers by 2030. It is estimated that 20,000 additional beds would be required by 2035, further creating opportunities for private players to increase their investments in the sector. Remarkable about the country’s expenditure are the initiated mega project such as NEOM, the creation of a new smart planned cross-border city which provides opportunities in eHealth. 

Mandatory Health Insurance: Since the implementation of mandatory health insurance, expatriates are obligated to have an insurance. Expansion of the coverage would increase utilization of healthcare services at private facilities in the Kingdom. Furthermore, all insurance companies in the Kingdom covered treatment for suspected and confirmed COVID-19 patients.


The United Arab Emirates
Demography & NCDs: The population that is slightly expanding with 1.4% in 2019. Approximately 13% of its population will be over the age of 50 years by 2022, and high per capita income is fueling demand for healthcare services. Moreover, sedentary lifestyle has increased the prevalence of high risk diseases like diabetes and obesity (~30% of adults in the UAE are obese). High NCD mortality rate of ~77% indicates increased health expenditure on treatment of related diseases.

Mandatory Health Insurance: Following the phased implementation of compulsory medical insurance in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, the DHA has enforced insurance companies to include COVID-19 treatment under their coverage. The DHA also adopted the ‘DRG’ model (Diagnosis Related Group) that will help insurance companies categorize hospitalization costs. This will improve business efficiency for healthcare providers.

Medical Tourism: Dubai and Abu Dhabi were ranked as the sixth and ninth most popular medical tourism destinations in the world as per Medical Tourism Index 2020-2021. Dubai hosted 350,118 medical tourists in 2019, an increase of 4.0% y-o-y, and expects the industry to contribute US$ 708 million to the GDP by 2020 with 13.0% y-o-y revenue growth. Euromonitor forecasts the UAE’s medical tourism industry to reach AED 14 billion (US$ 3.8 billion) by end of 2020 and touch AED 19 billion (US$ 5.2 billion) by 2023.

The interest of Dutch SME’s for the Gulf region is moderate. In 2019 RVO received 83 trade questions regarding the gulf region, this accounts for 1% of all registered questions. During the Research International Opportunities & Challenges 2020, 39 individual companies have indicated as being active in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Prominent multinationals that are active in the Gulf are Philips, Elsevier and Danone-Nutricia. When looking at Dutch knowledge institutes, for example UMC Groningen, Maastricht UMC and Erasmus MC are active in the Gulf region.

Most prominent nl valuechains

The value chains of Dutch SME’s in the Gulf region is highly split-up over various strengths. There are numerous Dutch SME’s present in the region, mostly represented by distributors or local agencies.

1. Value chain The digital transformation of health and care: The application of both digital information and communication solutions to support and / or improve health and healthcare processes
> Philips and Elsevier’s tools to support clinical decision making are used by high-end health care facilities
> Spectator Video Technology and CADD Emirates signed an MOU during the economic mission to the UAE with the intent to introduce Tele-care, Tele-consult and other Telemedicine & eHealth solutions on the United Arab Emirates Healthcare market.

  • barriers: High prevalence of competition, Rule & Regulations. The high amount of expat workers means systems must be in different languages. No information transfer between the countries in the Gulf.
  • preferred region(s): UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia

2. Value chain Care Infrastructure: products and services concerning the design, building, furnishing, equipping, operations and maintenance of hospitals, clinics and health care facilities.

  • barriers: Long and complex projects. High cost of pre-investments, budgets that run out or projects that are frozen or delayed.
  • preferred region(s): UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia

3. Value chain Public Health/Strengthening health(care) systems: Products and services within the domains education, training, consultancy and advisory services to optimise care capacity.

4. Value Chain Ageing Society: Products and services in the field of prevention, rehabilitation and home care.

  • barriers: Complex decision making in the region. 
  • preferred region(s): UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia

Overview milestones & flagships

  • G2G (MoU, state visits)
  • Trade (PIBs, Market studies)
  • Innovate (joint R&D projects, specific bilateral calls)
  • Invest (significant investments in the Dutch LSH sector)

Collective Trade Activities to the Gulf Region


  • PIB Middle East 12-2015 – 10-2020: TFHC goes Middle East


  • Holland Pavilion Arab Health, Dubai


  • MoU between The Ministry of Economy of The UAE and the Ministry of Economic Affairs of The Netherlands, on the topic of Innovation
  • Healthcare Mission, Qatar & Kuwait
  • Economic Mission, Dubai & Abu Dhabi
  • Holland Pavilion Arab Health, Dubai
  • Holland Lounge Saudi Health
  • Report: Opportunities for Dutch Businesses in the Gulf region


  • Healthcare Mission incl. participation GHE, Saudi Arabia
  • Holland Pavilion Arab Health, Dubai


  • Healthcare Mission, Qatar
  • Holland Pavilion Arab Health, Dubai
  • Healthcare Mission incl. participation GHE, Saudi Arabia


  • Holland Pavilion Arab Health, Dubai
  • Market Study eHealth


  • Health~Holland Digital Reconnect Gulf Region

The way forward

During the last five years there have been numerous trade missions to Qatar, the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Now that the PIB has recently finished it is important to keep building on the relationship and to investigate again the match between the local demand and the Dutch offerings.

Description of the activities:

  • Build-on long-term collaborations and relationships: The Netherlands has an excellent relationship with the local LSH stakeholders. However due to Covid-19 the healthcare sector has temporarily shifted its focus with the result that many orders and contracts have been delayed. The Netherlands should look to reestablish and intensify collaborations in healthcare to support the Dutch SME’s.
  • Strategy: Define a new strategy for the coming years, together with the Dutch LSH sector.
  • Market information: Keep the Dutch LSH sector updated on developments in the different healthcare markets via webinars and specific thematic seminars.
  • Collective activities: Maintain relations with the local health sector through the Health~Holland Visitors Programme, incoming and-outgoing missions and webinars.
  • Explore thematic dialogues: Explore possibilities to organize specific thematic sessions to engage with local stakeholders.
  • Holland Branding:  Enhance the positioning and visibility of the Dutch LSH sector.

Preferred actions

  • Collecting Market information: The Embassies are currently conducting a market research on the e-Health sector.
  • Expo 2020: Health mission during the Health week of the Expo 2020, leaded by Dutch Government officials.
  • Trade mission e-Health, Saudi Arabia & Qatar, March 12 – 17, 2022
Gulf Region

eHealth in the Gulf region, phase 2 - Mapping identified eHealth opportunities

Gulf Region

Opportunities in the Gulf life sciences & health sector