Uganda’s Bodawerk wants to use electric wheelchairs to enhance PWDs’ participation in economic growth

Bodawerk International

2019 continues to cast a bright future for Bodawerk International, a Ugandan-based startup that recently stunned the mobility industry with its cutting-edge tech that converts gas engines of motorbikes to electric ones.

The 2-year-old engineering startup, which was founded by Jakob Hornbach, an industrial engineer, was in April awarded by StartUp Energy Transition (SET) Award 2019, a prestigious challenge organized by the German Energy Agency (dena) in cooperation with the World Energy Council.

Now, the firm has announced that it has qualified to receive up to US$10,000 (about Shs37.6 million) to turn its idea of creating electric wheelchairs into a company. The funds, which will be provided by the organizers of the 12.4% disability challenge, will see the firm roll out its prototypes.

The 12.4% disability challenge falls under the Make 12.4% Work Initiative that brings together key stakeholders to create enabling conditions for inclusive economic growth and allowing persons with disabilities to fully access the job market. 12.4% is the percentage of the population of Uganda that currently live with a disability according to the 2014 national population census.

This initiative serves to trigger the private sector and civil society actors to open employment opportunities and programs to persons with disabilities and prove that people with disabilities have abilities just like everybody else.

As a challenge requirement, candidates were required to show the relevance of their solution for economic participation of people with disability in Uganda and why it is the best solution and show how it can better position people with disabilities in the Ugandan economy.

Additionally, candidates were expected to show the viability of their projects by showing how it can improve access to services, the inclusion of people with social-intellectual disability and/or multiple disabilities as well as building confidence into economic self-reliance.

In this challenge, Bodawerk International came up with the E-Wheely, an electric wheelchair that is set to economically empower the disabled who are faced with various challenges of transport and mobility which have a direct impact on their effectiveness, efficiency, and inclusion in the job and other economic activities.

“Bodawerk’s e-mobility solutions are geared to revolutionize and transition from diesel to electric transport that is a far cheaper, safer and cleaner energy option in Uganda, East Africa and Africa as a whole not only for other modes of transport but for the disabled as well,” officials said in a statement.

“The main components of this wheelchair include a motor, controller, joystick which will propel the movement of the wheelchair and batteries which are the major raw material Bodawerk uses to run all its e-mobility projects. The project will be headed by a one Ms. Barbara Wandukwa an engineer and technician at Bodawerk.”

This challenge brought together different ideas like the professionalizing of personal assistants for persons with disabilities, designing an electronic wheelchair and designing a coffee mobile shop managed by persons with hearing impairment.

With this project Bodawerk International says it will not only firm its goal to transition to clean energy but together with the “make 12.4% work initiative” will also support the government goal to promote economic and social opportunities and inclusion for everyone and combat disability discrimination in the workplace and leap towards equality of opportunities for all.


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