Solar Powered Hearing Aids Helping to Usher In Botswana Hearing-Impaired Workforce

Written by Makula Dunbar

From Smart Planet

After the NGO he was working at folded, Tendekayi Katsiga landed himself a good job at Debswana, the huge diamond company formed as a partnership between Botswana and DeBeers. It seemed like fate — working for the world’s largest diamond company in the world’s leading producer. But Katsiga’s job left him feeling empty. His years of work with the hearing impaired had put him in contact with people with hearing loss across Botswana, people that faced seemingly intractable problems that he felt he could ease. The electrical engineer left the diamond company and helped develop an affordable solar charger for hearing aid batteries.

Now, in partnership with American businessman Howard Weinstein, Katsiga’s company is helping train a workforce of hearing-impaired people across three continents to assemble and distribute the award-winning Solar Ear, a hearing aid and solar-powered battery charger meant to improve the lives of those with hearing loss in the developing world.

Katsiga said that the hearing impaired “have the potential to empower [their communities]. If given a chance, they can realize their dreams.”

But all too often in places like Gaborone — where the Solar Ear is assembled in Botswana — the hearing impaired are left isolated from society. “Most of the deaf people in Africa are marginalized,” Katsiga said. “They don’t have a chance to live normal lives. Eighty percent of them live in poverty.”