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A young entrepreneur hailing from the Eastern Cape has developed an innovative wristband for millions of deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals as a springboard to venture into business.

Zuko Mandlakazi says his flagship product, Senso, works by picking up sounds and communicating them to the user through vibration and colour-coded LED lights.  The device, he says, provides the convenience of alerting through vibration and light instead of sound, which can be distorted in the presence of other external noise.

Senso will be able to help four million hearing-impaired people in South Africa and 360m abroad. Mandlakazi says the idea to develop the device was sparked by a relative with a hearing impairment. “I was concerned for her missing out on life-saving sounds as she was always alone during the day while everybody was at work,” he says.

He then started looking around for devices she could use but they were too expensive and intrusive. This prompted him to come up with his own innovative solution to the problem, Senso.

The Walter Sisulu University accountancy graduate has travelled to Ghana, Rwanda, China, Switzerland, Austria and Sweden. In 2013, Senso won the Gauteng Accelerator Programme ICT award and the SAB Social Innovation award in 2014. Senso was also selected among Top 50 African Innovations at the African Innovation Summit in Rwanda in June. 

Recently, Mandlakazi was handpicked by the Red Bull Amaphiko Academy, among 16 of the top social entrepreneurs in the country, to attend their in-house training course, and he benefited from a one-on-one mentorship programme.

The entrepreneur says Senso, is currently focusing on helping people be more alert and connected to life-saving sounds in their homes, offices and classrooms.

Mandlakazi says they are also keeping a close eye on new and emerging Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies, and stresses that there will be more innovations to keep up with the changing needs of Senso’s customers.