Matibabu, a Ugandan based hardware device company will be graduating from the Villgro Kenya incubation program. Matibabu partnered with Villgro Kenya in 2016 at a time when Villgro Kenya was looking to take a more structured and hands-on approach of engaging with startups in the health domain in East Africa.

With the objective to tap into Villgro Kenya’s global startup ecosystem, Matibabu was able to have direct access to high-potential partnerships that fit their key focus area: closing the gap between communities and access to basic healthcare.  

Since the incubation started, Matibabu has received hands-on mentorship and access to large platform pitches, including the Gates Foundation and Grand Challenges. They also worked with Makerere University, under Villgro Kenya’s guidance, to conduct a pre-clinical study support and protocol design, and then to conduct the study itself. The pre-clinical trial was carried out at the molecular lab in Mulago on the selected sample size and compared with the existing malaria screening techniques such as PCR, Microscopy, and rapid diagnostic testing (RDT), resulting in conclusive results.  

The partnership featured frequent capacity-building support, one-on-one sessions, monthly diagnostic panels, a scientific review committee, and educational degrees to enhance Matibabu’s business approach. 

Additionally, Matibabu managed to collaborate with a list of foundations and organizations during Villgro Kenya’s incubation period. These include Lemelson Foundation, ASME’s iSHOW, Gates Foundation, mHealth Kenya, ResilientAfrica Network (RAN), and Makerere University. The collaboration also gave Matibabu the opportunity to leverage on several networks, both at the local and international levels.

Their next steps include getting through large-scale trials and scaling the malaria digital platform that is currently in 50 hospitals and reaching the next milestone of over 200 hospitals. 

It has been a learning experience for the Matibabu team, which has had insights into innovation and collaboration with both the public and private sectors for early-stage medical device development.

Medixus, a knowledge-sharing app that enables health care workers to connect and collaborate in real-time, has made a number of strides since they joined the Villgro Kenya portfolio.

The company, which has been offering health care facilities with free subscriptions to improve patient care during the pandemic, has offered health workers a platform to consult with doctors outside their specialty and an opportunity to upscale their medical knowledge.

The COVID-19 response grant they received from Villgro Kenya has enabled them to allow other cadres of health providers to benefit from the resources and connections on the platform. They have also been able to add additional features to enhance their product. 

“Besides the funding we received, Dr. Sylvia Shitsama, the mentor assigned to us by Villgro Kenya, has been very instrumental in contributing to content on the platform and opening up her network to us. The diagnostic panels have also helped us hear from a wider point of view of experts. So much has opened up and enabled us to progress a lot faster,” said Dr. Jean Kyula, Director of Business Development at Medixus.

The platform which currently serves over 900 health workers recently partnered with Gertrude's Hospital, the most established pediatric hospital in Eastern and Central Africa, to improve pediatric care throughout the country.

The partnership with Gertrude's Hospital will leverage their expertise in order to provide all 47 counties in Kenya with quality pediatric care. After an initial pilot, this will be done through consultations on the Medixus platform with facilities that have been selected in collaboration with the Ministry of Health. This will help reduce the amount of time and finances patients spend traveling to receive treatment in Nairobi and will lead to improved quality of services at the point of care.

“The essence of the app is that you are able to take a specialty and take it closer to areas where it is scarce. Their specialty will help better patient care to remote areas of the country by providing access to better care faster,” Jean mentioned during an interview.

Mr. Onesmus Kamau, Head of E-Health at the Ministry of Health, validated the need for a wider reach of the product saying,  “This needs to be a day-to-day tool for hard-to-reach counties, but also those within cities. This is really great, they can use this to consult an expert who is within a county or outside a county - even within a clinical team, peer-to-peer consultations is also important … this is a game-changer.”

Bioscience Innovation Bootcamp SM

BioInnovate Africa is a regional science and innovation-driven initiative, supported by Sida and implemented as a programme of the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe). It operates in Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda. We also collaborate with partners in South Sudan.

BioInnovate Africa enables scientists in Eastern Africa to develop and translate innovative bioscience research ideas, technologies and inventions into practical uses in society, which promote economic growth, create jobs, and reduce poverty. Thus, BioInnovate Africa fosters the development of a sustainable bioeconomy in the region by strengthening the capacity of scientists and institutions to link innovative ideas from the bench to business.

As part of the initiative, a 5-day bioscience innovation bootcamp has been organized for entrepreneurial scientists in eastern Africa to empower them to develop innovative and commercially viable biological-based ideas in areas including but not limited to;

Who is eligible to apply?

This call shall be limited to citizens and/or nationals of the seven (7) BioInnovate Africa participating countries attached to a university, research institution, private company, or other related organization (either as an employee or student).

How you will benefit

Selection criteria

How to apply

Applicants are invited to submit the following as part of their application:

All applications will be uploaded through the online portal

Application deadline

The deadline for receiving applications is 5th October 2020 at 23:59hrs Nairobi Time. Late submissions will be disqualified.

Next Steps

Successful teams will be notified through email by 9th October 2020 Selected teams are expected to participate in the bootcamp for five days on 17-21 October 2020.

The teams will pitch their innovative ideas during the 1st Regional Bioeconomy Conference to be held on 22 October 2020.

For more information about the call, please contact:
Villgro Kenya
Email: [email protected]
BioInnovate Africa Programme Management Office (PMO)
Email: [email protected]

 Download the Bioscience Innovation Bootcamp Call for Applications


Wekebere Limited, a Ugandan based e-health startup developing a remote fetal monitor is among eleven startups that have been selected to join the first Artificial Intelligence Accelerator Program in Ghana.

The selected participants will receive business training and capacity development required towards building highly scalable AI businesses out of their innovative solutions. The AI focussed accelerator  program is run by Ghana Tech Lab in partnership with  Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and IBM 

Earlier this year Villgro Kenya awarded the team a $20, 000 grant with technical assistance for their hardware based innovation which incorporates data analytics to increase access to care, provide personalized feedback to mothers, and help doctors earlier predict and manage pregnancy complications in low resource settings.

The makers of the affordable fetal monitor aim to reduce fetal and maternal mortality in Uganda and Sub- Saharan Africa. According to data from UNICEF, Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest maternal mortality ratio with over two thirds of all maternal deaths yearly worldwide. The device currently monitors fetal heart rate, fetal movement and contractions. 

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Villgro Kenya’s open call for COVID-19 response solutions presented an opportunity for Lishe Living, a digital wellness and nutrition platform to reach more people living with non-communicable diseases. Lishe Living offers them a nutrition solution to manage their conditions during the pandemic.

Sharon Olago, the founder of Lishe Living, applied for the grant after learning that persons living with non-communicable diseases were distressed and particularly vulnerable to COVID-19.

“At the onset of the pandemic, I received a call from the Kenya Defeat Diabetes Association’s Reuben Mogaka to come up with a solution for their members who were at high risk of dying from COVID-19. We decided to run an online clinic on Whatsapp with two trained medical microbiologists and two nutritionists to offer individualized nutrition programmes to 400 members,” said Sharon.

Following a healthy diet and maintaining a healthy body weight are key to the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases. For many patients living with diabetes, the cost of insulin continues to be a challenge. Through the Lishe Living group, a member mentioned that she was able to save Ksh 4,000 per month on money she would have used to buy insulin. 

“My insulin has reduced by 5 units that's saving 2 pallets per month roughly Ksh 4,000. Lishe Living is a great group, it encourages us to eat healthy and right portions to help me get good sugar control and do exercise according to fitness levels... those tests have helped me learn about my health and diabetes,” the member posted on a survey done by Lishe Living.

Speaking of the support she has received from Villgro Kenya, Sharon mentions that the diagnostic panels and the mentorship program have helped move the company forward towards their goal of profitability and sustainability.

“The grant has helped us sustain our nutritionists’ contribution as we test this model, and the diagnostic panels help us think through how to make the model profitable in the long run. Through Villgro Kenya, we are not only getting the finance but also the technical support which is more beneficial for us. Our mentor Ankit Jhanwar has also been very helpful in our operations through our weekly check-ins”.

Unlike HIV, tuberculosis and malaria, access to care for most non-communicable diseases such as diabetes is a major problem especially among the poor, a situation which has been exacerbated by the pandemic. With interventions like Lishe Living, more patients can get access to personalized information from professionals on how to manage their conditions.