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As of March 2022, Africa had a population of approximately 1.4 billion people. The health needs of this population are massive, and they are increasing by the day. Unfortunately, local manufacturing of medical commodities in Africa is not growing at the same pace as the population. Africa is importing more than 80 percent of her medical products. This heavy dependence on other nations for the supply of medical commodities predisposes the continent to disruptions in meeting health needs in the event of political, economic, and/or social upheaval in the countries that it depends on. The effects of this dependence became evident in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic where some African nations could not respond to the demand for medical services due to lack of essential medical commodities. Although the need for self-reliance through local production of medical commodities existed long before the COVID-19 pandemic, its cruciality was continentally acknowledged following the full-blown effects of the pandemic.

Why Local Manufacturing of Medical Commodities is Crucial

Through local manufacturing of medical commodities, Africa can meet the snowballing needs of the population quickly. Shipping of medical commodities from one continent to another lasts weeks to months. If the environment in the country supplying a product is disrupted in any way, the waiting time becomes longer, and depending on the health need, lives may be at risk. In an evidence brief published in the German Health Practice Collection (GHPC), local manufacturing will help to establish strong health systems in Africa. National governments will be prompted to increase funding for production to improve medicines access, enhance skill in readiness for local manufacturing, and public and non-profit procurements will become more responsive to health needs.

While prioritizing local manufacturing of medical products, it is important for us to realize that this does not only entail setting up manufacturing plants. We must also focus on quality of the products so that we attain better health outcomes for our population.
Manufacturing of Quality Products
We should view manufacturing beyond the assembly of the raw materials and aim to break the stereotypes that locally manufactured products are of low quality. As African countries and a continent, we should emphasize on the quality of medical products and commit to producing superior products that can meet global standards. We should not use the milestones attained by multinational companies to gauge our capabilities and limit our efforts. Rather, we should view them as indicators of possibility. We should invest heavily in quality improvement of medical commodities.
Revital Healthcare (EPZ) Ltd (Revital) is the leading and largest essential medical disposable manufacturer in Africa, located in Mombasa, Kenya.

Revital has been contributing to continuously improve Africa’s public health for over 15 years with the manufacture and supply of over 45 Medical Devices to over 27 countries around the world, including supply to WHO and UNICEF.

Their vision to become a global manufacturer and supplier of Medical Disposables has continued to progress exponentially. Revital Healthcare currently manufactures over 1 billion Medical Devices annually while constantly developing innovative products such as Immunization Syringes, Auto-Disabled and Re-Use Prevention Syringes, COVID-19 Viral Transport Medium (VTM) Kits, Rapid Diagnostic Tests, Oxygen Delivery Systems and many more.

Some of the notable highlights that we recorded in 2021 are as follows:

1. Receiving $4M in grant funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for the expansion of our 0.5ml Auto-Disable Syringe line to manufacture 300,000,000 units in 2022, given the global syringe shortage the world is facing.

2. Being contracted to supply more than 300M 0.5ml Auto-Disables Syringe to UNICEF warehouses in Dubai and Copenhagen and 50M 2ml Vaccine Syringes to India. This was the first time in history that a company in Kenya and Africa, was exporting essential medical syringes to India. Additionally, contracted an LTA for the World Health Organization to supply more than 10M vaccine Syringes.

3.Receiving $3M in PE Funding from two Japanese funders to assist in achieving our strategic company expansion and diversification.

4.Partnership with Vayu Global Health (USA) to being an exclusive manufacturer of the world’s first and only bCPAP (bubble Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) system that functions without electricity to support neonates worldwide.

5.Diversifying the portfolio to introduce Rapid Diagnostic Test Kits (RDT’s) of COVID-19 and Malaria tests and aiming to expand to HIV, Hepatitis B, Pregnancy and many more.
Development of Innovative Solutions

Africa carries a heavy burden of many diseases globally. According to the World Malaria Report 2020, Africa reported approximately 228 million cases of malaria, which accounted for 95% of the global burden and about 602,000 deaths, which accounted for approximately 96% of deaths globally. Six African countries accounted for about 55% of the cases globally and more than 50% of deaths.

About two-thirds of the deaths were caused by disruptions paused by COVID-19 pandemic for the supply of diagnosis, management, and treatment commodities. World Health Organization recommends early diagnosis and treatment of malaria as a critical action of reducing the disease burden and mortality rates. Still on the same subject of disease burden, approximately 120 million children under 5 years suffer due to distress in their respiratory systems.

While there are existing solutions to address this challenge, most of them have been designed for high resource settings. Majority of, if not all, African countries are far from being classified as high resource settings.

Looking at these two scenarios, several factors stand out. One, prompt diagnosis of diseases cannot be achieved if the manufacturers and users of the medical products are miles apart and are at risk of being pushed further apart by environmental changes. With that in mind, we should aim to locally produce the solutions.

Two, we should not view the disease burden as an insurmountable problem, but rather a catalyst of development through in-depth research. This means that manufacturers should work closely with researchers and agree to develop solutions locally. Three, as Africans, we should use our deep understanding of our continent’s socio-economic statuses to develop the most suitable solutions.
Revital Healthcare (EPZ) Limited has taken a step forward into the production of Rapid Diagnostic Test Kits (RDTs) and Vayu bubble Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (bCPAP), thus addressing UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG):

SDG 3: Good health and well-being

RDT
By 2030, end the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and neglected tropical diseases and combat hepatitis, water-borne diseases and other communicable diseases.

Vayu bCPAP
By 2030, end preventable deaths of newborns and children under 5 years of age, with all countries aiming to reduce neonatal mortality to at least as low as 12 per 1,000 live births and under-5 mortality to at least as low as 25 per 1,000 live births.
Promoting Manufacturing through Human Capital Empowerment
Local manufacturing is much more than infrastructural setup. It also depends on the people steering the sector, which means that if they are not equipped with the necessary skills, they can easily cause the industry to collapse. In that case, we should purpose to empower the workforce to create the next generation of leaders.
In 2008, we started off with only 2 products and 54 employees. We are proud to state that as of 2021, we manufacture over 45 medical devices and work with over 500 employees, with 80% of them being female, thus empowering and uplifting the community around.
To conclude, we often say that “Africa can, and Africa will”. There is no better way of proving this statement than promoting quality healthcare through local manufacturing of medical commodities.
About AHB
Africa Health Business (AHB) is a pan African boutique consulting firm, headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya, that aims to improve access to equitable healthcare in Africa. Our expert team provides clients with effective, evidence-based solutions for today’s complex healthcare challenges. Clients in government, the development space and the private sector rely on our research and advisory to inform and transform interactions with and use of healthcare systems.

Learn more: Our solutions
About AHBS- Africa Women’s Health: The Role of the Private Sector in Advancing Women’s Health in Africa.

AHB curated the Africa Health Business Symposium (AHBS) under the theme: The role of the private sector in advancing women’s health in Africa with the objective to prioritise, explore and strengthen the role of the private sector in advancing women’s health on the continent.

Learn more at: www.africahealthbusiness.com