Africans Flock to South Africa in Search of the Perfect Body

    11 November, 2014

    From VOA Learning English, this is the Health Report.

    How far would you go for a perfect body? Many people these days are going as far as South Africa to get their version of perfection. People from across Africa and the world come for so-called surgery "safaris".

    There are no animals to see on these safaris. The visitors look instead for smaller stomachs, firmer bottoms or perhaps a new eye, nose or chin. Businesses that provide medical safaris say they have seen a large increase in African customers.

    VOA's Gillian Parker spoke with several cosmetic surgeons in Johannesburg for her report. South Africa is becoming the leading country in Africa for people seeking cosmetic surgery.

    For years South Africa has appeal to medical tourists from Europe and the United States. But local cosmetic surgeons say now more clients from Africa's growing economies are interested in such operations.

    Lorraine Melvill is a doctor with Surgeon and Safari. She has been performing cosmetic surgeries for nearly 16 years in Johannesburg. She says that more than 80 percent of her clients now come from sub-Saharan Africa. She says this is because Africa did not experience the economic problems that hit other parts of the world.

    "When the West started having its economic downturn, it was almost a symbiotic change and the scales just tilted. And we know Africa wasn't as affected by the economic downturn. There is also a huge emerging African middle class that has come to the fore...for us, the growing market is the sub-Saharan African market... Africa is where we are looking to the future," Lorraine said.

    Her clients are treated like movie stars. Assistants take them from the airport to a luxurious guesthouse. They explain in detail the medical operation to be done. Doctors operate the next day.

    Clients can spend anywhere from $5,000 to $7,000 on a cosmetic treatment. They might spend an additional $2,000 on the cost of the hotel while they heal.

    For many African women, less is more. Ms. Melvill says the most popular forms of cosmetic surgeries for African women are breast reduction and liposuction. Liposuction removes fat from the body. So-called tummy tucks are also common, this treatment removes fat from a person's middle.

    South Korea is also a popular spot for cosmetic surgery. But the leading treatments there are operations to create larger eyes, thinner noses and pointier chins. A 2009 report from the research company Trend Monitor said one in five South Korean women has had plastic surgery. But South Africa is catching up.

    I'm Anna Matteo.