Lincoln Wamae: Kenyan innovator making electric wheelchairs from e-waste
Founder of Lincell Technology, Lincoln Wamae is a self-taught engineer who makes electric wheelchairs from recycled parts for the disabled in Githurai, Kenya.
Though he started out building tricycles, he noticed that people living with physical disabilities trudged the muddy terrain when it rained so he decided to build a solution instead.
‘I started by making tricycles, a bicycle with three wheels. You could cycle and it had an electric motor to assist when you are cycling.
But later I saw disabled people had issues with walking and I decided to convert my tricycle into an electric wheelchair. I completed my first wheelchair in December 2018. It took me a total of three years.’
Lincoln tests his prototypes in real-life situations. He checks their stability and off-roading capabilities.
‘When I see it work, I am thrilled and it motivates me to do something else.’
Though building from e-waste doesn’t come without its challenges.
‘The issue with Kenya is I find it hard to find the material needed to build them. If I have all the materials it will take me a day to build one wheelchair. My wheelchairs are powered by lithium-ion batteries. I source my batteries from old laptops.
I usually get the parts from the wheelchairs from junkyards but there are some components you must import.’
However, there is an upside to his e-waste hunt in junkyards. Because he’s using old parts, he’s also in turn saving the environment by recycling them.
Wamae says he wants to see his wheelchairs being produced in large numbers, sold locally and outside Kenya.
Then, ‘I would have fulfilled my dreams’.
Lincoln may be well on his way to achieving his dreams because in June 2020, he received two million KSH ($20,000) from Amref Enterprises Limited and Global Disability Innovation Hub scheme, the Innovate Now Accelerator Programme.
He also won three months worth of technical-dedicated support to scale up his innovation.
For now, Lincoln’s message to young people who think they can’t do anything, he says, the secret is ‘just try’.