Villgro Kenya awards $150k to 12 startups fighting COVID-19 in Africa

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Nairobi-based incubator and impact investor Villgro Kenya has awarded US$150,000 in grant funding to 12 startups from East Africa with technologies and innovations that could help in testing, monitoring and managing aspects of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Launched in 2017, Villgro Kenya is an early-stage business incubator and impact investor that offers mentoring, funding and access to networks to startups in the healthcare and life sciences sector in East Africa.

Disrupt Africa reported last month Villgro has opened a call for frontline solutions and innovations that can help carry societies through the storm of the COVID-19 pandemic. Having received applications from startups with a range of solutions, it has now announced the 12 startups selected for the programme, which will share US$150,000 in grant capital.

The 12 companies selected for funding and technical assistance are KEMRI, a rapid diagnostic kit; Health-E-Net, a telemedicine platform; hail-a-clinic service Enzi Health; emergency response service Flare; remote patient monitoring device Neopenda Uganda; 3D printing shield manufacturer Maisha Technologies Ethiopia; UVC light treatment company Simbona Africa; 3D printing company Kijenzi; and Medixus, a peer learning platform for doctors.

The funding will go towards product development, scaling up production to meet local and regional demand, and improving systems to ensure more people get access to quality and affordable healthcare during the pandemic. 

Villgro Kenya will work closely with the innovators to ensure their products and services support frontline workers and widen access to quality treatment while encouraging social distancing in low-income communities.

Funding will also go to three entities locally that are manufacturing ventilators – the Dedan Kimathi University of Technology, Ventilators Africa, and Samuel Kairu.

“Innovations like these show the true resilience and grit communities have to fight health challenges in the African continent. We have come out to support these solutions because we believe they will have the greatest impact on the fight against coronavirus in Africa,” said Villgro Kenya chief executive officer (CEO) Dr Robert Karanja.

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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