The Sharjah Healthcare City (SHCC) project, which aimed to transform Sharjah into a world-class healthcare hub, was initiated some years ago. What progress has been made?
SHCC was decreed in 2012 by HH Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, UAE Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah with a vision to establish Sharjah as one of the most preferred destinations for quality healthcare. Since then a lot of preparation has been made with regard to the feasibility study, legal structure of SHCC, its business model, master planning and designing, branding works, market sounding exercises, and so forth. We believe that a project of this size requires a great deal of preparation prior its launch. Our objective has always been to position SHCC as one of the most preferred healthcare investment destinations.
In recent years, Sharjah has firmly positioned itself as a destination for medical tourism. In what way does the Sharjah Healthcare City, under the auspices of the SHA, provide a stimulus for this?
Sharjah is known as the Islamic Culture Capital of the Arab World. One can find true Arab culture here. Apart from that it is also an educational hub of the region with the sprawling University City. At SHA, we are trying to add value to the Emirate of Sharjah and to the UAE by building the SHCC, which not only would provide a culture of care to citizens and residents of the UAE but also become a destination of medical tourism.
SHCC offers ample opportunities for foreign investors who are keen to invest in Sharjah's rapidly growing healthcare sector. What can you tell us about these opportunities and the SHA's modus operandi for attracting investment?
Sharjah already has a growing healthcare infrastructure with about 16 hospitals and many private clinics catering to various sectors. The latest addition to the hospitals is the 325-bed (210 inpatient beds) Sharjah University Hospital. With the growing population of Sharjah and the adjoining Emirates, which is expected to reach 2.7 million by 2025, there is an acute need for more healthcare facilities. It is also estimated that Sharjah alone needs about 630 additional beds by 2016 and the overall healthcare industry is expected to grow in the region considerably. Supply of specialized surgery centers, cancer centers, advanced diagnostics, rehab centers, cardiac care centers, and neurology centers are currently limited or lacking and represent an excellent opportunity for investors. The scope of healthcare-related investments in the region is enormous and SHCC will be the finest platform for its investor friendly atmosphere.
Could you elaborate on the benefits of SHCC's single window service system, and its status as a free zone?
SHCC operates as a free zone and thus the investors can enjoy a 100% ownership of their entity, zero tax and duties, 100% repatriation of capital and profits, single-window service, hassle free licensing, and world class infrastructure. In fact, the investors would not be required to meet with any other external agencies as all approvals including the free zone company registration and licensing, leasing of facilities, facility licensing, and professional licensing would be done by SHA or SHCC.
How does the SHA cooperate with other countries and foreign entities to strengthen Sharjah's healthcare, and what are you doing to increase that cooperation?
SHA promotes investments opportunities in SHCC heavily across the globe among the targeted healthcare community. SHA has already entered into a MoU with Ministry of Health in Seoul, South Korea. Bilateral cooperation is under discussion with other countries as well. Recently SHA conducted an investment seminar in London with the leading healthcare operators in the UK. SHA was also among the invited delegates to the US, Europe, and the Far East in recent years. Going forward we are looking at more international associations and collaborations.
What is the growth trajectory of Sharjah's healthcare sector for the next five years?
The healthcare sector in Sharjah is growing rapidly and it is promising. The next five years are crucial with the opening of SHCC and many landmark healthcare institutions entering the market. By 2020, the GCC may require more than 25,000 additional beds with the current level of care. With projects like SHCC, Sharjah will contribute substantially to this increase in healthcare demand.