Botswana’s Hearing Aid Pioneers Are Betting on Solar Power to Go Global
Tuesday, July 7, 2015
Six years after developing the prototype of a solar-powered hearing aid, Deaftronics, a Botswana-based company, is readying to take its technology global.
Later this month, the company will pitch its pioneering solar-powered hearing aid at the Global Innovation Through Science and Technology (GIST Tech-I) in Kenya. The global contest–which takes place on the sidelines of US President Barack Obama’s Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES)–is an initiative of the US Department of State that seeks to find impactful science and technology companies making a difference in over 74 countries.
Since the launch of the company in 2009, Deaftronics has sold over 10 000 solar-powered hearing aids. Priced at $200 per unit, each unit hearing aid comes with four rechargeable batteries that can last up to three years and a solar charger for the rechargeable batteries. The product is cheaper than many popular hearings aids, that can start from around $600.
It was while working at Godisa Technologies Trust in Botswana–an NGO that used to manufacture hearing aids for the deaf–that Tendekayi Katsiga noticed a gap in the market: most hearing aids, distributed by international and local NGOs, were not being used for longer than a month. Batteries ran flat, and the replacement cost, $4 per month, was too high for many of the users.
“People have to make the choice between spending money on necessities and replacing batteries for their hearing aids. This is no easy trade-off,” says Katsiga.
By the end of 2008, Godisa Technologies Trust ran out of funds and closed its doors.
“We couldn’t let this project die. So the six of us came together and decided to form Deaftronics–a company that would build on Godisa’s work.”