Written by Bernard Chiira, Director Innovate Now, 01 Sept 2021
For many decades persons with disabilities in Africa, especially in Kenya where I come from have faced a myriad of challenges. These manifest themselves in social and systemic exclusion across multiple sectors such as healthcare, education and work. The biggest barrier and driver of this exclusion however has been the lack of access to assistive technology. Today, only 10% of close to a billion people globally have access to the assistive technology they need.
Innovate Now, Africa’s 1st assistive technology accelerator, powered by the Global Disability Innovation Hub and implemented by Amref Health Africa, has been at the forefront of accelerating disability inclusion by supporting innovation and ventures that are bridging the gap of access to assistive technology. We help AT Startups in Africa validate user, product, market and business model for taking affordable and high quality AT to market. This is achieved through our active learning curriculum, mentor network and persons with disabilities-focused live-lab network. 4 cohorts down the line and 22 Startups supported, not only have we demonstrated the need for more investment in the assistive technology sector in Africa, but also provided an immersive platform to dozens of African AT founders to show the world the power of innovation for disability Inclusion.
The journey towards building Africa’s first assistive tech accelerator has been one full of uncertainties, success and lessons. One of our core lessons is that of the importance of linking our local Startup ecosystem to a global community of like-minded peers to foster collaboration, growth, accelerate the impact of technology and entrepreneurship on disability Inclusion at a global scale, increase access to capital, talent and technical expertise.
That is why Innovate Now is proud to be a founding member of the Inclusive Innovation Network (+N), championing for the world’s youngest continent.
+N is a community of innovators, accelerators and investors dedicated to growing the impact of technology on disability inclusion. We believe that technology and entrepreneurship have important roles to play in ending the exclusion of those of us with disabilities.
Our mission is to connect a global ecosystem of partners who shape future technologies that lower barriers to disability inclusion. We do this by facilitating interactions and cooperation between users, innovators and entrepreneurs, capital and expertise. We believe +N will play a critical role in helping Innovate Now founders as well other AT Innovators from all over Africa build strong disability innovation ecosystems.
We look forward to building a vibrant +N Startup community in Africa! Click here to join +N