South Africa Spends 16 Times More on Healthcare than Nigeria


Martins Ifijeh

A report published last week by a fact checking website,, has shown that South African Government’s health expenditure per capita is 16 times more than what obtains in Nigeria, while current health expenditure (government and private) is five times more in the country than Nigeria, when 2015 figures are considered for both countries.

It also showed that out of pocket expenditure is nine times lower in South Africa than Nigeria. That is 7.7 per cent of South Africans pay for healthcare from their pockets, while 70.3 per cent of Nigerians pay from their pockets. (This estimates to 126 million Nigerians).

The fact checking organisation, which relied on the Global Health Expenditure Database of the World Health Organisation (WHO) to make its analysis, said in 2015, the Nigerian Government and its private sector spent per person $97 per year, while that of South Africa was $471, which is about five times more.

This difference represents a steady fall from 2010 and 2011 when it was seven times more. Before that, the lowest difference was five times in 2008 and the highest in 2000, at 15 times.

“When adjusted for the cost of living, Nigeria’s per capita spend on healthcare was Purchasing Power Parity (PPP)$215 in 2015, while South Africa’s was PPP$1,086 – also five times more,” the fact checking website noted.

PPP is an indicator used to bridge international differences in the cost of living. The World Bank-coordinated International Comparison Programme calculates purchasing power parities for 177 countries.

A Global health professor at the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, Joseph Dieleman, recommended comparing health expenditure per person converted to a common currency. He said this should be so because South Africa and Nigeria use different currencies, hence the need to adjust them to a common currency, noting that US$ or PPP is appropriate for the analysis.

“Where Nigeria really falls short is in government funding of healthcare. When public funds for healthcare in 2015 are considered, South Africa spent approximately 16 times more per person than Nigeria. This is the case of both US dollar and PPP.),” the report said.

“Because of the formal sector tax base and a government priority on health (note increased funding for AIDS treatment), South Africa does put more funds into healthcare available to the general population in comparison to the level of spending in Nigeria,” Prof. Frank Feeley, who is chair of the department of global health at Boston University, told Africa Check.

“Considering the level of poverty in the country, it means that many Nigerians don’t have access to quality healthcare,” Lekan Ewenla, a health economics expert who is on the council of the National Insurance Scheme, noted.