An African techpreneur named Tendekayi Katsiga has created the world’s first solar-powered hearing aid called ‘Solar Ear’. Katsiga, who is also the founder of Deaftronics, was able to create the solar-powered hearing aid battery charger from a workshop in Botswana.
Katsiga who has gotten global recognition since introducing his invention to the world said in an interview, “we came up with the solar rechargeable hearing aid when we discovered that most people in Africa and in developing countries are given hearing aids by non-governmental organizations.”
The whole idea was birthed when Katsiga, a technology entrepreneur, relocated to Botswana from his home country, Zimbabwe. He bumped into Johnny – a young boy at a local mall – who had requested him to read from a newspaper.
Katsiga realized how cumbersome it was for the 15-year-old to communicate. He realized that even though Johnny had a hearing aid, it was not functional, because he couldn’t afford the cost of batteries. They sell them at $1 per piece.
The passionate electronic technician thought of a solution which birthed Deaftronics, while it was launched in 2009. According to Katsiga, he founded Deaftronics as a solution suitable for hearing-impaired people living in third world countries.
His tech company produces affordable, solar rechargeable hearing aids in Botswana and distributes them to other parts of the world including African countries, Brazil, etc. “There are 525 million people with hearing loss disability and 70% of them live in developing countries. So it’s a big market, the market is so huge and impact is so profound,” he revealed.
Katsiga stated that the batteries can be used in 80 percent of hearing aids on the market today. “Most of the materials used in building the device came from other hearing-impaired folks. Solar Ear comes with a warranty for a year, the batteries have the capacity to last for 2-3 years and we also have after-sales service.”
Deaftronics reported that in 2015, it enabled over 3, 000 hearing-impaired children to attend school and have sold over 10, 000 units in Zimbabwe, Botswana, Angola, and South Africa combined.
Kitsaga further revealed that Johnny was the first recipient of the Solar Ear. “His life has changed for the better, and his aim in life is to become a doctor and help other hearing-impaired people”.
Katsiga said Deaftronics is mandated to manufacture affordable products for the deaf, to employ hearing impaired people, and create awareness about the hearing impaired and also train them so that they better adapt to society.
Beyond the production of hearing aid, Katsiga was also disturbed with the lack of integration the deaf had with the mainstream community. “They faced many difficulties 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 awareness booklet for the deaf”.
“After the incidence of HIV/AIDS among the deaf, the rate reduced from 38 percent to 9 percent between 2009 and 2013. When the deaf went to banks, bank-tellers don’t understand sign language, we got the deaf to teach bank-tellers sign language beginning with the First National Bank of Botswana – the country’s biggest bank that is also present in South Africa,” Katsiga said.
His company has grown into a global brand and has been recognized by governments in Africa and stop international levels. He got an invite from a company in Brazil to create a joint venture to design and manufacture the Solar Ear which would be sold in South America.
Daktronics has successfully launched a branch in Aman, Jordan. The company plans to open solar ear centers and implement their self-created program called DREET (detection, research, equipment, and therapy), a tried and tested health care program that looks to break down these barriers by taking a holistic approach to solving the threats posed by the community.
In 2015, Katsiga was a beneficiary of the Social impact prize at the Tech-I Competition. He said: “I am neither a scientist nor an engineer, but I saw a problem and I wanted to solve it”.