- Published on 25 June 2020
The Botswanan firm behind a successful solar-rechargeable hearing aid has been steadily breaking into markets throughout Africa and Brazil.
The Solar Ear is the brainchild of Tendekayi Katsiga and his Deaftronics firm, which he started after emigrating from his home country of Zimbabwe and chancing, in a shopping mall in the Republic of Botswana, on a young boy, Johnny, who had communication problems, partly because he could not afford batteries - at US$1 a piece - for his hearing aid.
The global black news platform Face2Face reports the enterprising electronics technician as explaining that it was his meeting with Johnny that inspired him to found Deaftronics as a solution suitable for hearing-impaired people in the developing world. In 2015, Katsiga won the Potential for Social Impact prize in the GIST Tech-I Competition. That same year, sales had topped 10,000 units in southern African nations for Deaftronics' stellar product, Solar Ear, a sun-powered hearing aid that comes with a one-year warranty and after-sales service. Since then, distribution has reached Brazil and South America.
Batteries for Solar Ear last from two to three years. And the first recipient of this hearing aid was the boy, Johnny. “His life has changed for the better, and his goal is to become a doctor and help other hearing impaired people,” said Katsiga.
“We came up with the solar rechargeable hearing aid when we realised that most people in Africa and in developing countries are given hearing aids by non-governmental organisations,” affirmed Katsiga.
As part of Deaftronics' efforts to help the deaf in Botswana, the firm has developed its own hearing healthcare programme called DREET (detection, research, equipment and therapy), published an awareness booklet for the deaf, and run a scheme to teach bank cashiers sign language. Katsiga stressed the difficulties of integration for people with hearing loss.
“They faced many challenges and with the spread of HIV/AIDS deaf people were not spared. While there were many campaigns to create awareness, it was not in their language. We produced an awareness booklet for deaf”.
“There are 525 million people with hearing loss and 70% of them live in developing countries. So it’s a big market, the market is so huge, and the impact is so profound,” enthused Katsiga,