Meet the Kenyan Company Manufacturing Half of Africa’s Syringes

An employee of the company working on a syringe.
Kilifi County

Nestled between the historic 15th-century ruins and the bustling city of Mombasa, lies a small factory with a grand mission, to help Africa achieve medical self-reliance.

The Kenyan company, employing fewer than 700 workers, manufactures 300 million syringes annually, meeting over half of Africa’s immunisation needs.

So big is the footprint of this company that during the COVID-19 pandemic, when syringe shortages crippled vaccination efforts globally, Revital HealthCare, stepped up. The company shipped syringes to countries as far as Sri Lanka, Sweden, the United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, and even India, a syringe manufacturing powerhouse. “This was a very big deal for us — it broke a lot of barriers,” said Roneek Vora, Revital’s director of sales and marketing.

The company’s journey is buoyed by grants and contracts from major donor organizations, including the US and various United Nations agencies. The company’s success is a beacon of hope for African self-reliance in healthcare.

Historically, Africa’s medical self-sufficiency has been hampered by limited funding, regulatory hurdles, and logistical challenges. Against this backdrop, This company's achievements are particularly noteworthy, demonstrating that an African company can produce essential medical supplies not just for the continent but also for global markets.

Its portfolio includes 58 products, from rapid diagnostic test kits for infectious diseases to medical tubing and face masks. Notably, it developed a portable, electricity-free device to deliver oxygen to newborns, with over 200 units shipped to Ukraine in May 2022.

Workers of the Revital Healthcare-EPZ Limited.
Kilifi County

Yet, it’s the syringes that fulfill a critical need in Africa. Countries in sub-Saharan Africa require 500 million syringes annually for routine immunisations. During outbreaks, the demand spikes sharply. Syringes are often the bottleneck in these situations.

Over 80 per cent of vaccination syringes are produced in Asia, and shipping delays can stretch to months.

Its strategic location near Mombasa’s seaport, international airport, and road networks connecting landlocked African countries has significantly reduced transportation times. The company is also the only African manufacturer approved by the World Health Organisation to produce early-activation auto-disable syringes, which prevent reuse and curb the spread of diseases like HIV and hepatitis.

The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention aim to manufacture 60 per cent of Africa’s vaccine needs by 2040, with the Kenyan company playing a crucial role. “Now with the company, we can at least cover 50 percent of our needs,” stated Dr. Jean Kaseya, the agency’s director general.

Ambitions extend beyond syringes for the company. In response to COVID-19, face mask production was ramped up from 30,000 to 300,000 daily, establishing it as sub-Saharan Africa’s largest mask manufacturer. Syringe production increased dramatically from 3 million to 30 million per month within six months.

Africa’s largest manufacturer of rapid diagnostic test kits now produces 20 million kits monthly. The factory, which opened in May, plans to hire 200 more employees to meet demand, focusing on diseases like HIV, malaria, and dengue.

Founded in 2008 with 60 employees, the company remains a family-run operation. Mr. Vora, a third-generation Kenyan of Indian descent, manages the business alongside family members. Women make up about 80 percent of the workforce, surpassing the Gates Foundation’s 50 percent goal.

Just minutes from Kilifi’s beaches, Revital’s factory operates around the clock. Despite challenging conditions, including hot, sterile rooms and loud machinery, workers remain dedicated. Plans to hire over 200 hearing-impaired women to assemble syringes reflect the company’s inclusive ethos.

A doll on medical tubing at the company offices in Kilifi County.
Kilifi County