Organisation Name: Deaftronics (Pty) Ltd
Country of Origin: Zimbabwe-Botswana
Brief Description of Organization:At Deaftronics we manufacture affordable solar powered hearing aids, made by deaf people for people with a hearing loss. Deaftronics manufactured the first solar-powered hearing aid unit called Solar Ear. The Solar Ear unit includes a digital rechargeable hearing aid, a solar battery charger and four rechargeable batteries. The batteries can also be used in 80% of hearing aids currently present in the market. In direct sunlight, the solar charger is able to charge three batteries simultaneously, in only two to three hours. The charged batteries last a week, but have a lifespan of two to three years.
What inspired you start this organisation? It was while l was working at Godisa Technologies Trust in Botswana -an NGO that used to manufacture hearing aids for the deaf that I noticed a gap in the market: most hearing aids distributed by international organisations and local NGOs were not being used for longer than a month. Batteries ran flat,and the replacement cost was $4 per month and that was too high for many users who have to make the choice between daily necessities and replacing batteries for hearing aids. This is no easy trade-off. An award-winning pragmatic solar powered hearing aid was invented for Africa and the world to share.
What is the next big step you hope to help your organization reach? The next step is for Deaftronics to be the center of knowledge in Africa for innovation and design for better hearing devices and eventually any program that can bring better hearing to people with disabilities. Deaftronics intends to open distribution channels in East and West Africa. We would like to provide affordable solar powered hearing aids to every hearing-impaired child in Africa, so that they can attend school. Through education, the cycle of poverty can be broken. My organization would highlight to society the special abilities of the hearing impaired, thereby creating employment opportunities for the hearing-impaired population in Africa.
What has been your biggest obstacle as an entrepreneur? Access to funding! People don’t have confidence in home grown solutions. There are no Venture Capitalists who are willing to invest in startups .
What advice would you give other emerging entrepreneurs? Being an entrepreneur is often glamorized, but in reality, starting and running a company is tough and requires grit and perseverance. When our goals are driven by a desire to serve other people, they have an entirely new depth of power. Steve Jobs said “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust something your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life”