National Manufacturing Kenya: Innovation Stack

Global Disability Innovation Hub
Oct. 4, 2023
Case Studies and Reports

Innovation is the process by which something new and meaningful is created that can reach people.

This paper provides an overview of a model of local manufacture of wheelchairs by Motivation. Motivation is a disability inclusion charity and social enterprise, operational for 31 years. Their development of a Kenyan wheelchair manufacturing model will help to indicate whether national manufacture can provide one method of overcoming global supply challenges, inherent in a mass-market model, and aligns with the Kenyan Government's plans to boost the manufacturing sector and improve the provision of assistive technology, and the Government’s desire to be a regional provider.

This innovation insight is developed by GDI Hub Accelerate as part of the AT2030 Programme funded by UKAid and authored by Joe Fletcher, Ben Oldfrey and Catherine Holloway.

The stack's first and most important challenge is that, as well as needing a skilled workforce to assess, prescribe, fit and train wheelchair users,  effective wheelchair provision relies on a constant supply of appropriate wheelchairs, i.e. wheelchairs that meet users’ needs and the environment they live in, provide proper fit and postural support, are safe and durable, and are affordable to buy and maintain. Increasingly, it was found that the dominant philanthropic model of wheelchair supply was economically and politically challenging.

Motivation’s work in wheelchair provision – building both the supply of appropriate wheelchairs and the skilled workforce to provide them – is delivered by a social enterprise and charity. Wheelchair supply is addressed via philanthropic funding for the design of appropriate wheelchairs, with flat packed products then manufactured and exported globally from China.

However, global funding for disability-related issues stands at just 0.5% of all development aid and challenges from manufacturing shutdowns during COVID-19 to the Evergreen shipping container becoming stuck in the Suez canal have pushed up the price per unit for shipping. With increasing costs and vulnerability in supply chains, there was a desire to seek alternative models of provision which would be more eco-friendly and provide more security for reliable and sustainable wheelchair provision.