Shupavu 291; The Next Mpesa of Education

Incubation, PIVOT East

March 22, 2016

Learning has now been made convenient, affordable and interesting through Shupavu 291. Shupavu 291 is an educational platform that is accessible on a basic mobile phone and allows learners across the country to access the Kenya National Curriculum aligned lessons through SMS.

Shupavu 291 targets both primary and secondary school students. It also caters for school drop outs up to the age of 25. With only sh10 per week, students can access unlimited content, quizzes, Ask a Teacher service where a student can get to ask a one on one question with a live teacher and wikipedia – where the students can be able to access information about certain topics for one week.

The tool has over 4,000 revision questions to help students prepare for Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examinations. It also has questions to prepare secondary students for their Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examination. The content delivered by Shupavu 291 is approved by Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD)

Shupavu 291 was created with teachers in mind. It’s the “teacher’s helper”. It is not competing with the work of the teachers, it is only there to supplement and complement the traditional teaching methods and assist the students to boost their performance. This service is not just for the student alone, teachers and parents too can be able to check reports on individual student performance as well as school performance via an SMS.

The service can be accessible from any phone including a “Mulika Mwizi”. This makes it easier from students from all backgrounds to access the service wherever they are.

Since 2013, when it was piloted, Shupavu has reached over 572,000 mobile learners with 469,000 of them being primary school students while 86,000 are secondary school students. There are 17,000 teachers enrolled on the platform to assist the learners. The service has also benefited 3,000 students in Kakuma and over 20,000 students and 378 teachers in Daadab refugee camp.

Shupavu 291 which is an initiative of Eneza Education in partnership with Safaricom was officially launched on 18th March at the Villa Rosa Kempinski hotel. Eneza Education is hoping to reach at least 10 million  learners in primary school and secondary school across Africa with the service.

To access the service, dial *291#  from a Safaricom line and follow the instructions. Register for the service to enjoy unlimited educational content anywhere in the country.

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Uhasibu Launches – A fully integrated Payroll System

Incubation, PIVOT East

March 2, 2016

Uhasibu is a cloud based accounting package developed specifically for small and medium companies in East Africa. Supporting the local legislation and the work-flows actually used in East Africa.Using Uhasibu, financial management becomes more efficient, freeing up resources that can be re-deployed on the actual business.

On 1st March 2016, Uhasibu launched, its newest innovation payroll management system built specifically for the payroll rules and regulations relevant in Kenya. Unlike the traditional payroll systems, digitally manages and provides all the required paperwork for every type of worker a business can employ; it is integrated with the local stakeholders e.g., KRA’s iTax system, NHIF online submission and so on, allowing the system to automatically do the return directly without the business owner or accountant having to learn or fully understand the individual processes. Essentially it’s like an easy to use interface or secret shortcut into the world of government agencies that are relevant to payroll management.

This direct integration is extremely innovative in Kenya, an environment where organizations are only now digitizing their processes. Most of these organizations have not reached the point where they are looking beyond their own organization to directly integrate with other relevant organizations.

In short it is officially not possible in Kenya to do what can do as these stakeholders generally do not offer platforms for systems to integrate with their systems. Ideally what the team is trying to achieve with this innovation is;

  1. To offer an easy and affordable solution to businesses in the market that allows them to be fully compliant with the payroll rules and regulations and avoid the unnecessary headache that comes with payroll management.
  2. Disrupt payroll management in Kenya by offering one platform where you can manage processes that before, would have required the knowledge, use and expertise of at least 5 different platforms. With, it’s a brand new day for businesses and payroll management in Kenya!

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Kidogo Graduates out of Incubation Program


March 2, 2016

Kidogo is a social enterprise that provides high-quality, affordable early childhood care and education to support the healthy growth and development of young children living in Africa’s urban slums through play and creative activities. Kidogo improves the health and wellbeing of the children, through access to adequate nutrition and health services. They help all children reach their full potential no matter where they are born.

“Around the globe, more than a hundred million children under the age of six living in the slum, do not get quality education to prepare them for primary school and to be competitive in society. New research shows that early education starting from zero to six years is the critical and unmet need of this century. Unfortunately most parents and caregivers do not provide adequate early childhood education. Government, NGOs and private sector efforts are not enough to solve this challenge” This is according to the case study by IXL Centre for innovation, excellence & leadership.

Kidogo through their ECD centres  provide care for children from extremely low-income and vulnerable households. The tuition rates are equivalent to local centers, where the quality of care is significantly lower and feeding programs are absent. In addition, Kidogo provides existing baby-care and informal ECD centers with capacity-building and quality-improvement support. This ensures Kidogo reaches a wider breadth in the informal settlements and provides care to the most vulnerable children

Launched in January 2014, Kidogo has two early childhood “hub” centres which are currently active. They opened its first early childhood center in Nairobi, Kenya (Kisumu Ndogo, Kibera) in September 2014.  In January 2015, Kidogo opened a second early childhood centre in Kangemi.

The  two “hub” centres support over 110 children collectively. The children are between the ages of 6 months to 6 years. The mothers are charged a small fee which helps to sustain the centres. One of the centre in Kagemi has been able to break even and is fully self-sustainable. In addition to charging the mothers a small fee for the services, the startup is exploring at other ways for generating revenue for the community hubs.

The centers offer safe and stimulating physical environment, trained early childhood development (ECD) caregivers from the local community, and a health and nutrition program, as well as an exploratory play-based curriculum using learning stations and child-centered strategies. Kidogo also prides itself in ensuring child development occurs within a culturally appropriate context by actively engaging the broader community, sourcing locally available resources and services, and engaging parents in effective child development practices.

In addition to establishing community “hub” centres, Kidogo is supporting and empowering local women from the community to start or grow their own babycare centre through their micro-franchising program. The program which is at its pilot stage is an innovative “business-in-a-box” model which delivers training, resources (e.g curriculum materials, branding support, etc) and an ongoing support to the mama-preneurs who are running their own centres.

In October 2014, Kidogo  joined m:lab East Africa’s incubation program. The incubation space offered a quiet and dedicated space conducive for team building and “heads down” focus. Incubation at m:lab East Africa also improved access to resources including investors, mentors, potential partners, mobile trainings and an avid mobile community. Kidogo has since moved location from m:lab East Africa on 3rd floor Bishop Magua Centre to its new offices in Adam Arcades

Kidogo is developing “The Kidogo Way,” a proprietary early childhood curriculum and teacher training program that combines global best practices with traditional local child-care practices. They hope the program will have the potential to be patented and licensed to other early childhood providers

Kidogo has participated in numerous programs and challenges including, Grand Challenge Canada, Spring, amplify challenge, Seed gender equality award and echoing green where both Afzal and Sabrina (co-founders) are echoing green fellows. The startup has cumulatively raised over USD 430,000 from the programs. They are looking to raise more this year.

For more information visit their website, you can follow them on twitter @Kidogo_ECD and like them on facebook


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Interview with Sheilah Birgen, Lead of m:lab East Africa

Incubation, Mobile Testing, PIVOT East, Training

March 1, 2016

m:lab East Africa is a consortium of four organizations (eMobilis, World Wide Web Foundation, University of Nairobi, and iHub) that aim to become leaders in identifying, nurturing, and helping to build sustainable enterprises in the knowledge economy.

The consortium’s mission is “to facilitate demand-driven innovation by regional entrepreneurs, ensuring that breakthrough low-cost, high-value mobile solutions can be developed and scaled up into sustainable businesses that address social needs.”

We met in Finland with Sheilah Birgen, m:lab East Africa CEO and Team Lead. She participated in Slush, the largest startup event in northern Europe drawing 1,700 startups and 800 investors to Helsinki. infoDev-affiliated digital entrepreneurs and mLabs participated to increase their exposure to international investors, mentors, and industry players.

Q: Tell us a bit about yourself and how you joined m:lab East Africa?

A: I joined because I am passionate about technology and entrepreneurship. I like things that are progressive and move quickly. You can’t get any faster than technology.

In 2012, I quit my job and came to m:lab East Africa as an intern. After two months, I was hired as the communications lead. A year later, I became the community lead after working with entrepreneurs on investor relations and partnerships. Then, the previous m:lab team lead decided to go back to school and I stepped in as the m:lab East Africa team lead and CEO. We have a small but amazing team at m:lab East Africa who are very motivated and get things done.

Q: What innovative offerings do you provide to entrepreneurs in East Africa to help them grow and scale?

A: Our three main offerings are: 1) market-driven training on different platforms, 2) business incubation, and 3) a testing lab for apps.

Some of our best support for entrepreneurs comes from Pivot East [East Africa’s premier mobile startup pitching competition]. It provides our clients a platform to connect with other entrepreneurs in the sub-region. We believe that exposing them to fellow entrepreneurs gives them a different mindset and perspective on their own business. It also enables them to enter different markets. Each year we receive amazing applications.

We also organize sector-specific forums on how to best utilize technology. For example, we held a forum on the agribusiness sector and posed market challenges to developers. These forums offer opportunities for developers to tap into on-the-ground challenges in the markets in which they hope to operate.

Q: How are you leveraging local and global partnerships?

A: In the past, we’ve had partnerships with Microsoft and Intel on capacity development for developers. We want to continue these types of partnerships because they bring more developers into the market. We also want to nurture the growth of game developers. For example, Leti Arts has a partner in Kenya and was incubated at m:lab East Africa. I want to encourage more young folks to go into the gaming industry. It also spreads the reach of the m:lab to other industries that could possibly have the next unicorn.

In the public and non-profit sector, we are seeking partnerships because technology offers solutions for many of the challenges they face. For example, why can’t I use my phone to report that I’ve lost my ID card, rather than taking five buses to issue a report at a police station? The traditional way of doing things does not work anymore.

Q: How is m:lab East Africa ensuring inclusiveness and gender balance?

A: Twenty percent of businesses that apply to Pivot East have a woman founder or co-founder. A majority of these firms make it to the finals—based purely on the viability of their business. What this tells us is that even though fewer women apply, the businesses they are leading are solid.

To create a stronger pipeline of women in this industry, we’re collaborating with partners such as Akirachix. We offer internship opportunities to the young women they are training from high school. However, it becomes more challenging to offer internships outside of Nairobi.

This is where government organizations and other partners can help out. For example, if governments organize events at the county level, we can hold sessions with these groups outside of urban areas. Collaboration with different stakeholders will help us expand our reach.

Q: The Global Entrepreneurship Summit was recently held in Nairobi. In what ways does the m:lab serve as an important resource in improving the ecosystem for entrepreneurs?

A: m:lab East Africa can inform the Kenyan government and other stakeholders in the ecosystem about real-life challenges faced by entrepreneurs. For example, some of the top concerns for our entrepreneurs are: 1) the lack of tax incentives for entrepreneurs and investors, 2) the lack of an efficient system for patents, and 3) the lack of an open market in East Africa, which limits market size for entrepreneurs.

Q: What do you think is the biggest impact of m:lab East Africa?

A: Our entrepreneurs are the biggest and proudest impact we have at m:lab East Africa. Several of the entrepreneurs across sectors are making a positive difference in people’s lives.

  • In education, Eneza now has over 500,000 users and are providing additional income for teachers as content developers.
  • In finance, Kopo Kopo has created jobs in Kenya and has over 40 employees.
  • In health, Toto Health is helping over 30,000 mothers monitor their maternal health and child’s development.
  • In agriculture, mFarm is multiplying sales of farmers and increasing income for their families.  A mother is able to buy paracetamol for her child because she is able to earn an income via mFarm.

This is the kind of impact of which I am most proud

This article was written by InfoDev

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Facebook partners with m:lab East Africa in FbStart Program


February 10, 2016

Facebook has partnered with m:lab East Africa in one of their program fbstart to help mobile startups succeed.  FbStart is a program that provides app developers with free tools and services via three tracks: Pre-launch, Bootstrap and Accelerate.

Facebook has partnered with some great partners in the program and they are offering a package of free tools and services designed to help app developers build and grow their mobile apps. They are providing year round mentorship opportunities to connect directly with the Facebook team as well as an exclusive community of global startups

The program is accepting the following developers into FbStart;

  • Pre-launch track: Developers that have not yet launched an app but intend to launch one within the next year and are associated with one of facebook’s venture capital, accelerator, or incubator partners
  • Bootstrap track: Any developer who’s launched a quality, working mobile app in the Apple or Google Play app stores
  • Accelerate tracks: Any developer who’s launched a working mobile app in the Apple or Google Play app stores and has seen a sustained level of growth in their target markets

All those who will be accepted to the program will be placed into the track most relevant for their stage of development as determined by size, growth, quality, and engagement, among other factors evaluated. Once accepted into a track, developers receive a set of free tools and services meant to serve your app development needs.

All the members in the program will receive three main offerings;

  • Benefits – you’ll receive a free package of tools and services valuing up to $80,000 from Facebook, Parse, and 23 third party partners including Adobe, Salesforce, MailChimp, Hootsuite and UserTesting
  • Mentorship – you’ll have opportunities throughout the year to connect with product managers, engineers, partnerships, and operations through events, office hours, webinars, email and more
  • Community – meet others in the startup community through the member portal, forums, meetups and events

Developers with more than one application can apply for the program with the apps but are encouraged to prioritize their apps in the application form by listing their most engaging and successful apps first. Only one app will be selected for inclusion in the program, and you’ll only receive one set of benefits even if both apps qualify.

Your company is approved as a whole, rather than your individual apps. So while you can submit several apps for consideration, only one app per company will be accepted to FbStart, and you’ll only receive one set of benefits.

If you wish to benefit from this opportunity, fill in the form provided below. We will then send you a referral code which you will use to apply here

For more information visit or

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