Mixture of health and holiday builds up hale, hearty enterprise

Tshepo Maaka is a doctor who started a health tourism company in the upmarket suburb of Parktown in Johannesburg.

Through hard work and impeccable service Serokolo Health Tourism has managed to capture a large portion of the African medical tourism market and is now eyeing the ever-growing global medical tourism market.

Medical tourism was born of combining tourists' willingness to travel for their medical needs.

South Africa is a popular destination because it provides first-rate medical facilities much cheaper than Europe or North America.

Serokolo Health Tourism offers medical tours and health retreats tailored to the needs of groups and individuals, mixing health and medical care with a magnificent South African holiday.

Surprisingly, health tourism is not limited to international visitors, but is also available to locals.

Facilities in Johannesburg, for example, might not be available to patients in outlying areas.

The company will act on the patient's behalf to secure appointments with specialists and liaise with hospitals to arrange admission.

Case managers look after clients' needs from arrival to departure and throughout their stay.

Serokolo is the name of an indigenous herb.

It is used by the Bapedi of Limpopo to heal various ailments and diseases.

South Africa is known worldwide to be a pioneer in heart transplants and for the invention of the CAT scan.

South Africa has the best medical facilities of all African countries. This sophistication attracts many Western tourists who choose to have advanced operations here rather than in their home countries.

After finishing high school in her home town of Motse Marian, Limpopo, Maaka studied medicine at the University of the Witwatersrand.

She worked in the private sector for a short period and then specialised in anaesthesiology and public health.

She then worked for various hospitals, but after 11 years started Serokolo Health Tourism in April 2004.

Maaka decided to attract patients from overseas to South Africa for cost-effective medical treatment from the best local doctors, while they enjoyed a South African holiday.

She had to dig deep into her own pocket to do market research for her innovative idea, but it is now paying healthy dividends.

Why did she leave the security of the corporate sector?

"Nothing will ever stop the passion and love I have for innovation.

"Running my own business gives me the platform to be innovative and the ability to do what I love at my own pace and time.

"It's time Africans did it for themselves and follow the Nepad dream."