Deaftronics (Pty) Ltd

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Deaftronics (Pty) Ltd: Affordable Solar Powered Hearing Aids

Gaborone, BotswanaMutare, Zimbabwe
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
for profit
Project Stage:
$250,000 - $500,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

A major problem in developing countries is not only the cost of hearing aids for hearing impaired people but also the operating costs in the form of hearing aid batteries.The solar powered hearing aid circumvents these challenges by charging batteries through the free power of the sun

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

"What if hearing impaired people design products which they use and reduce hearing impairment ?"
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

A major problem in developing countries in not only the cost of hearing aids for hearing impaired people but also the operating costs in the form of hearing aid batteries. The solar powered hearing aid recharges hearing aid batteries through solar power and is aimed especially at developing countries. A hearing aid battery which lasts for 1 week costs $2 or $96 annually. People would rather buy bread than buy hearing aid batteries.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

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 hearing aid 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 batteries last a week, have a lifespan between two to three years, and are versatile, as they can also be charged via a household light or a cell phone charger. This presents significant value for Deaftronics’ customers, as they are able to save money .


South African Designers Awards (DISA) ,National Design for Development Award (NDDA),Potential for Societal Impact Award in the 2015 GIST Tech-I Competition.,
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Having a significant number of lithium battery hearing aids provided by NGOs and Governments to Africans die in their first month.A deaf center in Mutare ,Zimbabwe were the recipients of the solar powered hearing aids.Among the first recipients was Tapiwa Mtisi,a 15 year old girl who attends high school. She was given a hearing aid by the center few years back.She had used it for a month,due to the problem that the batteries are expensive and not available in her rural area.The center gave her a solar powered hearing aid.Her grades at school improved and she can communicate and hear her friends and family. Tapiwa is able to save money that would otherwise have been spent on replacing batteries on a weekly basis.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Decreased burden of hearing loss, measured by: Increased access to education (e.g. 6K hearing impaired children in Brazil now attend school) Decrease in disease rate (e.g. HIV rate in Botswana lowered from 38% to 10%)) Employment/increased income for disabled as 55 hired by other companies Policy change (e.g. Change in Chinese workforce policy – for the first time deaf citizens can work in the electronics industry Savings of ~300K USD/individual related to loss in work productivity, special education services and medical costs Hearing impaired are able to achieve their full potential and contribute to society.By investing in disabled women, plus equipment, training and educational programs, the revenues from this sustainable project will initially create employment for people who are deaf, offer a return on social investment as well as lower hearing loss and the burden of hearing l

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

Hearing impaired population is growing – estimated at 900 million by 2025 , but with Deaftronics program will be lowered by 50% Within 5 years, lower hearing impairment for 40 million people and improve the ability to communicate for 60 million people Create jobs for 10K micro-entrepreneurs, 10% with a disability. Test over 24 million individuals per year within 5 years and 50 million per year by 2025. Technological innovations to create next generation of low-cost hearing aids (e.g. i-pod design) Designing sustainable hearing health by overcoming barriers of .

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

The sales forecast for year 1 is 3000 units, year 2: 5,100 units, year 3: 6,600. Experience has shown that far (5x) more solar chargers and batteries are sold than hearing aids, as consumers and INGO’s purchase these products for their existing hearing aids. Also, the gross margin on both of these products will be higher than the hearing aid. As the volume of orders increases, the operation will be scaled up using the same criteria.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

There are two competing hearing aid battery charger manufactures.These two manufactures,the Impact Foundation,and Comcare International are therefore Deaftronics competition.The Impact solar charger is designed to charger two #675 or #13 batteries simultaneously with a 14-hour charging cycle.Comcare developed a body worn hearing.The hearing aid is priced high for a body worn-hearing aid at $200. Deaftronics solar-powered hearing aid 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

Founding Story

Life’s calling moments happens at any time. Mine took place 10 years ago, when l met a boy called John in a mall. John brought a newspaper to me, he wanted to know the contents of the newspaper. My mind wondered why a 12 year old boy could not read a newspaper .In the midst of our pivotal moment, l realized that John is hearing impaired .For a moment, l was frozen. Out of curiosity l visited John’s school and realized that John goes to a deaf school. The school has been a recipient of Hearing Aids through Non-governmental Organisations.The hearing aids were only used for a month. Due to the problem that the batteries were not available and the batteries are expensive. Solar charger.


1 )Tanya Eveleyn Goromonzi(Part-Time) Master of Science, Clinical Audiology The University of Western Australia, Australia 2) Tshepo Tsheko-Advisor FSVC Programme Manager (BIH) Bachelor's Degree of Science-Computer Science & Engineering Pennsylvania State University 3) Howard Weinstein (MBA)-Board Member 4) Tendekayi Katsiga-Operations Manager(Full Time) Higher National Diploma in Electronics Microlink College,Canada 5) Sarah Phiri -Director(Full-Time) Diploma in Electronics 6) Clement Bagwasi -Assembler (Full time) Diploma in Electronics 7) Mpho Daniels-Accountant(Full-Time) Chartered Accountant (ACCA) Limkokwing university 8) Dwiliani Kelaotswe-Assembler (Full-time) Diploma in Electronics 9) Botsile Ntshekesang-Assembler (Full-time) Diploma in Electronics 10) Thato Nokayaphiri-Assembler (Full-time) Diploma in Electronics
CO-CREATION IDEA: Please offer a brief description of how you imagine a win-win partnership with Boehringer Ingelheim to better serve unmet needs in health. (Hint: Please mention the underlying business model envisioned that would make such a partnership sustainable.)

Deaftronics and Boehringer Ingelheim are exploring joint venture partnership , to allow the two entities to gain competitive advantage through access to the partners resources such as markets, technology, capital and human resources which will result in growth and expansion of the business.
This partnership not only provides an opportunity for the exchange of information and experiences but also serves to constantly remind us of people with disabilities, especially women and youth, who are encountered with difficulties in entering the job market and economical empowered.

NEEDS: Based on you response above, please specify which of the following resources, operations or expertise by Boehringer Ingelheim you imagine leveraging to actualize the proposed co-creation opportunity. Please check all that apply. (Hint: while financing is often critical to scale, we are also interested in understanding what other assets or expertise could be leveraged).

Distribution Channels, Research and Development, Specific Disease Expertise, Relationships/New Contacts, Manufacturing, Marketing/Communications Support, Human Resources, Legal Support, Technology Expertise, Access to Capital.

EXPLANATION OF NEEDS: Please explain your choices in more detail.

In order to remain ahead of the competitive curve, Deaftronics will be expanding its products it will require technology Expertise in the Research and Development of new products.It requires assistance in distribution channels of its products.Deaftronics will also require assistance in Specific Disease Expertise on hearing impairments.Human Resources and access to Capital is needed for scalability.New Relationships /new contacts are very important for business expansion and market penetration.

OFFER: What are the main assets you may contribute in a co-creation partnership with Boehringer Ingelheim that would better serve unmet needs in health?

Deep understanding of an unmet need in a specific market/context, Access to and established trust with customers/beneficiaries, Insights into pricing and financing of health products/services, Insights into marketing, Insights into distribution, Insights into behavior change.

FOCUS AREAS: Which of the following best describes the main focus of your project? (select all that apply)

Improving the affordability of healthcare (e.g., microinsurance, reducing the economic cost of care), Increasing physical access to healthcare to people with restricted mobility or restricted access (senior people, people with disability, remote or difficult areas, etc.), Holistic solutions that work across the entire care continuum (including education, prevention, detection, treatment, management, follow-up), Models that engage other industry players (e.g., nutrition, athletic, mobility organizations)., Remote care solutions for health management, treatment, and diagnosis, Packaging of health products and services to address needs currently unmet.

Please share what your organisation and Boehringer Ingelheim will Co-Create together

We would like to establish a sustainable holistic Healthcare program with knowledge and hearing health centers throughout sub-Sahara Africa. According to the WHO, there are 200 million people with a hearing loss 80% of which occurs after birth and 50% is preventable. Lack of maternal hearing health education is the primary cause of after birth deafness. We will implement a holistic program called DREET (Detection, Research, Education, Equipment and Therapy). Boehringer Ingelheim can help us design the maternal hearing health program. As well as transfer of knowledge to many of their customers, which will make it more accessible to more mothers.

Please specify what your Co-Creation will result in:

a new service, a new distribution channel, a new market/customer group.

If you selected "other" above, please explain:
Please provide a 1-2 sentence summary of your Co-Creation idea

Establish a sustainable holistic hearing health approach and solution, which will lower hearing loss and the burden of hearing loss to over 10 million people a year, mainly children in Sub- Sahara Africa.

How does this project link to the core mission of your organisation?

Our mission is to provide high quality very affordable solar powered hearing aids to the 88% of general population, who are presently excluded given the high price of traditional manufactures today. We will expand our program from just products to services with the goal of lowering hearing loss also going after the causes of hearing loss not just providing a solution.

Beyond social impact, how does this project link to Boehringer Ingelheim’s core business?

Our core businesses are health, and is congruent with their lead and value through innovation focus. We share many common customers in addition; we will be able to establish new distributors for both organizations, for example micro-entrepreneurs.

What are the specific inputs and actions that each side will contribute to this Co-Creation idea based on each of your unique competencies and experiences?

My organization will contribute:
We will be the centre of knowledge then transfer to our partners in 14 regions our holistic health and information program. We also will employ the latest technology via tele-audiology where a child can have her hearing tested in real time and in her language at one of our centres. BI brings the medical knowledge in helping us design a prevention program.

Boehringer Ingelheim will contribute:
By providing medical knowledge, they can help us design part of our maternal hearing prevention program. Their power of distribution will enable us to expand the of knowledge and services to more organizations and people. They can also help with regional regulatory approvals on our products.

Please describe the potential revenue model for this Co-Creation idea.

The Detection $1, Equipment $60- $200, and Therapy will generate over $72 million USD by year 5. We will include over 11,000 micro-entrepreneurs who presently sell other heath products and services generating an additional income for them.

What possible risks or challenges do you foresee?

● Unequal distribution of hearing healthcare professionals.
● Geographical obstacles and distance.
● Costly referral and information pathways.
● Lack of professional Audiological training.
● Regulatory product approvals.

Is there anything else you would like to share about your Co-Creation idea?

We have 14 years’ experience in scaling our activities and some of our health outcomes, in not only Africa but also South America and China. This new initiative will take a business approach to the problem having not only specific activities to reach the solution but also clearly defined outcomes and quantitative indicators. The methodology will be Results Based Management program (RBM) insuring that what gets done gets measured. The impact of this new program will lower healthcare costs for governments, as well as increase the wealth of countries in Africa as the educational opportunities of its population will be dramatically affected by this program.

How much input do you hope to receive from Boehringer Ingelheim?

I’d like to implement together, I mostly need strategic advice.

If you selected "other" above, please explain:
Besides Boehringer Ingelheim, what other types of partners might be valuable to carrying out your Co-Creation idea, and why?

Academia – collection of Research data, interpret it and then share with Ministries of Health with the goal of making newborn screening mandatory given the high incidence of hearing loss in their country ranging from 5-14%.
NGOs- like local and international Lions and Rotary Clubs who work in rural Africa on other health products and services to children.
International NGO’s –UNICEF- who purchase our products today.
Ashoka – micro-entrepreneur network.