Current Market Trends
Capital: Kuwait City
Population: 4.1 million (2015)
GDP*: USD 181.0 billion (2015 est.)
Currency: Kuwaiti Dinars
Language: Arabic (Official), English widely spoken.
Reforming Kuwait’s health care system forms a key part of the government’s KD31bn ($102.9bn) Kuwait Development Plan (KDP). Taking the form of a series of five-year plans, with the most recent blueprint for 2015-2020, the KDP envisages a raft of initiatives and legislation supporting project development in health care as well as across other areas of the economy.
In line with the KDP framework, the Ministry of Health (MoH) plans to construct eight hospitals and hospital extensions at a cost of $1bn. The Ministry of Public Works has also allocated $4.2bn to build nine additional hospitals, which will boost the number of beds available in public facilities by 3334, while creating an estimated 15,000 new jobs.
The new builds will enable Kuwait to offer more specialized treatments locally, helping to bring down the national health care bill over time by reducing the number of outbound medical tourists.
Long a cause of concern, Kuwait’s growing health care bill has become a focal point for the government amidst a challenging economic environment, which has seen revenues fall on the back of low oil prices.
Although the population is young on average, the World Health Organization (WHO) indicated that Kuwait is ranked13th in the world for obesity and 7th for diabetes. In addition, WHO’s metabolic risk factor for both male and female Kuwaiti nationals indicates that 78.8% suffer from overweight, 42% suffer from obesity, and 54% suffer from raised cholesterol.
The GCC has a 5% flat rate tax on imports. Kuwait corporate income taxes for foreign corporations ranged from 15-55%, but have been changed to a flat 15% as of 2008. To be successful in the Kuwaiti market, U.S. companies often identify, develop and support a local agent, representative, or account executive to manage their marketing strategy. Some companies find having a Kuwaiti partner rather than an agent a preferable approach, in part due to the local tax law.
Prior success in other GCC countries is helpful but companies rely on local experience and knowledge to conduct their business in these markets. Knowing regulations and the general business framework is a difficult task without the support of a competent local agent or business partner. U.S. companies should seek this type of business relationship and understand that the best representatives are those who are already active in their particular sector with cultivated contacts.
In summary, selecting the appropriate agent who will work for you is the single most important step a U.S. exporter can take in Kuwait. Getting competent local legal counsel to craft an agreement that protects your company from future liability is also a key. The best local partners are those who share both the risk and profit with their American partners.
A significant number of Kuwait’s outbound medical tourists seek treatment for diseases linked to lifestyle choices, such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes. In fact, almost all of Kuwaiti cancer patients are treated abroad, as well as many nationals with diabetes.
Like other GCC member states, Kuwait has witnessed rising levels of type 2 diabetes, sparked, in part, by an influx of Western fast food outlets and sedentary lifestyles. Kuwait recorded 399,900 cases of diabetes in 2015, according to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), which is equivalent to 10.3% of the population.
The healthcare sector is moving toward becoming a regulated market sector through reform initiatives that are being implemented. The privatization initiative involves broadening public-private partnerships and giving the private sector a growing role in the provision of healthcare services.
Recently, public healthcare centers began referring patients to private medical care providers for services like IVF treatment and physiotherapy. Such soaring healthcare spending reflects the GOK’s priority to improve the quality of life for both citizens and expatriates and to treat more Kuwaiti patient’s in-country.
The Kuwait market is totally dependent on imports for medical devices; while U.S. suppliers enjoy some advantages, including competitive prices, language, and exchange rate.
European suppliers are aggressively gaining market share with their close proximity to the market and perceived high level of customer support.
Kuwait Ministry of Health requires the following for product registration:
1. Free Sale Certificate from the concern health authority of origin to be legalized by Kuwait Embassy. This certificate should mention the trade name of the product, its volumes or weight, and it should state the product is allowed to be sold freely in the country of origin.
2. Certificate of composition (exact percentages) signed and sealed by the manufacturer.
3. Certificate of analysis signed and stamped by manufacturer.
4. As well samples of each product to be tested.
5. Should have a Kuwaiti importer
The need for a Kuwaiti agent, distributor, or partner tends to add to the cost of selling goods in Kuwait.
Imports to Kuwait require three certified and legal copies of the commercial invoice, three copies of the transport documents and two copies of the certificate of origin. The certificate of origin must describe the place of origin of the goods, the full name of the manufacturing plant or producer and the full name of the freight forwarder. It must also show gross and net weight, the trademark shown in the manifest, value, type of packaging and means of transport. The certificate must be certified by the Chamber of Commerce in the exporter country and most of the time by Kuwait Embassy or any one of the GCC states mission in the absence of a Kuwaiti mission.
Kuwait Customs is strict and most of the Kuwaiti importers/companies know the best ways to get the imported items faster to the country.
Kuwait Medical Association
Kuwait Government Online
Ministry of Health
Healthcare Procurement: [weblink]
Kuwait Central Tenders Committee
Government Health Plans: [weblink]
Best Prospects [from the CCG if healthcare is listed]
U.S. Commercial Service Contact Information
Name: Yousif Almahdi
Position: Commercial Specialist
Phone: +965 2259 1487
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