Saudi Arabia’s health minister, Abdullah al-Rabeeah, says it is essential for the kingdom to develop local manufacturing capabilities for its growing healthcare industry.

Al-Rabeeah says the Health Ministry was looking to form partnerships with international companies that would enable technology transfer to the kingdom’s health sector.

“We have tremendous growth in the healthcare industry in the kingdom,” he says. “We think that localised manufacturing of healthcare equipment is something for the future and will help develop local talent. This will take time, but you have to start somewhere.”

The minister also says developing this sector would provide opportunities for the kingdom’s 160,000 overseas university students when they return to the kingdom.

The official was speaking in Riyadh at the announcement by the US’ General Electric of major investment initiatives in the kingdom’s health sector. They include the establishment of a healthcare learning and simulation centre at King Fahad Medical City as well as a breast cancer screening programme.

The minister also announced on 1 October that the recent outbreak of a respiratory virus related to Sars in the kingdom will not threaten the forthcoming Hajj pilgrimage due to take place in October.