Soweto entrepreneur makes prosthetics 80% cheaper

Published Oct 5, 2022


Johannesburg - Sibongile Mongadi from Dobsonville, Soweto, is the living embodiment of what it means to be able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes to gain perspective and appreciation of their struggles.

“To be honest since I was a child I’ve always loved helping people, I’ve never looked down on others. So what I did was to combine my passion and my skills and that’s how I founded my company” said Mongadi.

Mongadi is the founder of Uku’hamba, a company that produces lightweight prosthetics to improve the conditions of amputees. From her mother’s backyard in Dobsonville, she is changing lives one artificial limb at a time

More importantly, Mongadi produces prosthetic limbs at a fraction of the market price, claiming that her prosthetics are 80 percent cheaper than what is generally available on the market.

Mongadi’s business also produces prosthetic covers, braces, splints and handicap shoes.

“With the advanced state of the art technology we are using we are 80 percent cheaper than what is available in the market and the life span of our limbs is on par with what is already on the market, the general lifespan of a prosthetic is five years,” said Mongadi.

Mongadi uses a 3D printing machine to produce prosthetic limbs and she is especially proud of how unique the limbs are, as they come in a variety of bright colours allowing amputees to show off some of their personalities when wearing them.

She said “Our competitive advantage is that we cater to the client’s specifications, we involve you as a user to be part of the manufacturing process. Tell us if you want to be purple, if you want it to be pink or to twist a certain way, whatever.”

Sibongile Mongadi with one of the prosthetic legs she produces Picture: Supplied

“Apart from just being customised our prosthetics are actually lightweight and super affordable.They are also water-resistant and our turnaround time is significantly faster.”

Mongadi started her business after a chance encounter while visiting a hospital for a thumb infection. Upon witnessing the struggles of an amputee to access a prosthetic limb at the hospital, she was moved to act.

“I put myself in that amputee’s shoes. Yes it may not be me or one of my loved ones but what if it was? I went and spoke to him, to try find out what the problem was, and was told that he had been coming to the hospital for five years trying to access a prosthetic limb from the public sector,” said Mongadi

This spurred her on to do some research.

“I found that the demand for prosthesis each year exceeds the supply by a very large margin and the cost of a prosthetic is quite high, especially for the underprivileged. I then investigated the use of 3D printing technology to address the identified need of amputees, in a cost-effective manner and also using affordable environmentally friendly materials.”

“I taught myself about 3D printing then a few years later I tried to back it up with a qualification and that’s how I ended up at the University of Johannesburg, '' said Mongadi.

Uku’hamba has grown and Mongadi has received offers of partnership from some private hospitals to supply them with prosthetics. While she is grateful, she feels frustrated by the public health sector’s tardiness in working with the company to help address the backlog at state orthopaedic departments.

Mongadi’s hard work has not gone unnoticed and she has won multiple awards. Perhaps one of the most significant being recognised as a Global Digital Female Leader in Innovation.

Her dream is to inspire other young females to take up STEM careers, and while she recognises that it is not easy she hopes to pioneer a path which they can also follow.

“With whatever I do I want inspire every young person, for them to see that it is possible for a black child to thrive in a space that is male dominated; I myself have stood in front of panels before I had a prototype and judges would question my ability, but I persevered, because I know we need more women in these spaces,” said Mongadi.

[email protected]

IOL Business