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Themes: Assistive Technology

Global call for innovative African AT solutions - up to £200k funding available

It is estimated that at least 135 million Africans are without access to much-needed Assistive Tech (AT) solutions. The Assistive Tech Impact Fund (ATIF) is changing the prospects of innovators in this space, providing up to £200k of grant funding alongside expert-led venture-building support to facilitate the growth of the AT sector in Africa.

Launched out of the UK Aid-funded AT2030 programme led by Global Disability Innovation Hub (GDI Hub), the ATIF is a collaboration between GDI Hub, Brink, Tamara Giltsoff and Catalyst Fund. The partnership combines deep expertise in AT, innovation and venture building in Africa.

1 billion people globally live with a disability, but 90% of these people lack access to affordable AT which would drastically improve their quality of life. Despite the sector being steeped in innovation and creativity, many products are not getting to the people who need them. The ATIF supports AT innovators, alongside other sectors key to unlocking sustainable scaling solutions (such as manufacturing, distribution and finance).

The ATIF is looking for entrepreneurs committed to bringing AT innovations to Africa, who have evidence of business model traction in an African market, this could include; hearing assessment and hearing aid devices, eye testing and eyeglasses, prosthetics solutions (and innovative means of their production) and mobility solutions.

The fund is also seeking distribution, financing or innovative manufacturing ventures that could play a role getting AT to the populations that most need it. Successful applicants will receive tailored venture building support and coaching from world-leading experts, alongside brokering and matchmaking to partners and investors.

Submissions must be received by 21st February 2021. Successful innovators will be notified by the end of March, following a shortlisting and pitch process. By growing AT companies in Africa, the ATIF will help launch and scale solutions while facilitating the growth of the wider African AT ecosystem.

“It’s easy to throw numbers around when it comes to the scale of the issue, but one billion people lacking basic access to AT is 1 in every 7 people on planet earth. It’s a privilege for Brink to play a small part in exploring how a fund might support the positive growth of the sector and create massive change in this reality.”

Lea Simpson, ATIF Director and Brink Co-founder

“Our UK Aid funded AT2030 programme has been developed to test ‘what works’ to improve access to life-changing Assistive Technology (AT) for all. The Assistive Tech Impact Fund is a new mechanism to accelerate the AT market in Africa – where need for innovation and access is greatest. By combining our AT Innovation know how with our partners' wider business model and behavioural economic expertise we aim to unlock new solutions for scale, building AT ecosystems and driving change.”

Professor Cathy Holloway, Academic Director of GDI Hub

The problem

At least 135 million Africans are without access to much-needed AT solutions. Those without access are mostly likely low income, and/or live in an LMIC. To fix this, there are three key problems we look to address:

  1. There is a lack of access to AT: There are simply not enough companies providing AT solutions in LMICs, where companies do exist it is mostly NGOs. And where AT product does exists in LMICs, it struggles to get to rural and low income users.
  2. There is a lack of a sustainable local ecosystem: The whole sector is still very reliant on grant funding. There is very little local manufacturing of AT and even less infrastructure available to provide on-going provision or support - this results in AT companies feeling like they have to do it "all" themselves.
  3. Devices are often not appropriate and affordable for users: AT product in Africa is often imported and low quality in order to keep prices down. Commercial AT providers often lack the incentive to offer more affordable options - all of this results in huge rates of AT abandonment.

Investment timeline

  • 10th February: Launch event and call opens
  • 11th-19th February: Support clinics to assist with proposals (book here)
  • 21st February: Call deadline
  • 5th March: Shortlisted applicants notified
  • 8th - 16th March: Pitch day preparation
  • 17th March: Pitch day
  • 29th March: Successful applicants notified

Applications have now closed.