For many outsiders, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) remains an enigma. Few Western medical device manufacturers understand the culture and often skip over the KSA to pursue other markets. But there are good reasons to pay attention to this growing market.
First, there are shortages of hospital beds and healthcare resources in the KSA as compared to other markets of equal size. The Saudi government has said they want to double the number of hospital beds in the KSA by 2015. That’s an ambitious goal but the government has the cash and willpower to make it happen.
Second, the Saudi royal family is spending billions on healthcare infrastructure because there is general dissatisfaction among the population that the standard of care has been falling. The government also sees what has occurred in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Syria and Bahrain, and wants to ensure discontent does not spread to Saudi Arabia.
That means for the near term, substantial investments will continue to be made in new medical equipment to outfit new public and private facilities, and presumably more ongoing demand as citizens have increasing access to healthcare. It remains to be seen whether that type of infrastructure investment will continue beyond 2015.
While many things about Saudi Arabia remain opaque, one thing is clear to understand: Saudi Arabia has significant upside potential for intrepid medical device manufacturers. The combination of government investment, growing GDP and a surging population should make this a promising market for many years to come.