Saving Lives for Africa’s Most Vulnerable in Ethiopia

It’s not about entrepreneurship; it’s about making a difference

A young man named Habtamu did not wake up one morning wanting to be an entrepreneur. Instead, he watched pre-term babies dying unnecessarily and wanted to make a difference.

What did Habtamu do? In the under-funded and under-equipped bio-medical labs in Jimma, Ethiopia, he designed a prototype that could reduce infant mortality while being affordable en masse for rural Ethiopian health care providers.

Habtamu prototype

Habtamu shares an early prototype in Jimma, Ethiopia. Photo courtesy of AEA.

It’s not about innovation: it’s about circumnavigation

Jimma University enrolls over 40,000 students and is the leading national public research institution in all of Ethiopia. Jimma is a quiet city, surrounded by coffee and tea plantations, cattle, saturated with tropical rains much of the year.

The founder of Simbona Africa Healthcare realizes the potential impact of his Simbona baby warmer prototype. And so, with steady perseverance, he leaps over, circumnavigates, and wrestles with hurdles to bring his baby warmers to the market.

For his efforts, the 2015 African Entrepreneurship Award granted $25,000 for a project with the “Most Potential for Long Term Impact.” And now, Habtamu is on the journey of turning potential into impact.

It’s not about business plans: it’s about being mentored

Winning mentoring and funding from the African Entrepreneurship Award started Habtamu on the journey from idea to fruition. He wisely says, “Smart ideas by themselves can’t bring the expected impact that we spend our time dreaming about.” Award mentoring, along with fiery crucible of the 2015 Boot Camp and the Presidential Jury, made Habtamu into an entrepreneur, founder of the Simbona Baby Warmer business.

It’s not about business: it’s about changing history

Habtamu confidently states: “Simbona Baby Warmers can save the lives of thousands of pre-term babies in many regions due to its affordability in remote regions of low and middle income families.” By recent estimates, Ethiopia has a population approaching 100,000,000, the second highest in Africa. And, while the access increases daily, according to the World Bank only 27% of Ethiopians have electricity, and, infant mortality is still too high.

With Simbona Baby Warmers, Habtamu desires to make preventable infant mortality a tragedy reserved for only history books.

From One Idea, to Five Employees

When Habtamu started the journey with the African Entrepreneurship Award in 2015, he started alone. This one-man show from Jimma now employs 5 permanent staff. His team works with him on design and product development. Habtamu hopes that with the launch and local manufacturing of some of the units he can “create job opportunities for many Ethiopians.”

Habtamu says, “When we involve ourselves in a significant impact for Africans, whether it is big or small, we should know the commitment and dedication is bitter and deep!” Despite this struggle, Habtamu is “eager to see the difference we are going to make for society.”


A new innovation for young and old in Jimma

In addition to developing his product, Habtamu has launched the first of its kind, healthcare innovation hub at Jimma University. The hub is located in the newly renovated Jimma University medical center. The University, already a pioneering leader in biomedical engineering, is now a hub for engineers and business experts all over the region.

Habtamu envisions an innovation hub where students, graduates, and outside experts together can “solve the Ethiopian healthcare challenges.”