Robert Kisembo struggled to keep up in school because of his poor eyesight, his family could not afford to take him to see an optician. The resident of Makindye says his father did menial jobs to support the family while his mother sold Kabalagala, a local deep-fried cake that is made from bananas and Cassava flour.
For many children in Uganda, a simple eye exam is out of reach due to the costs involved. Coupled with the high cost of buying prescription glasses, it becomes impossible for many of these children to get eye care.
Brenda Katwesigye founded Wazi Vision to provide alternative eye care that could be accessed by more Ugandans. On a trip to get her eyes tested, Brenda was surprised at how much it costs to buy glasses. She realized then that these costs were prohibitive and above what many Ugandans were able to afford. Wazi Vision sells eyeglass frames at prices starting at $19 (Ush70,000) which is considerably cheaper than rates in the market that start at about $100 (Ushs350,000).
The glasses are stylish and made from recycled materials such as wood, plastic, horn, and barkcloth. These materials are sourced from within Uganda where they are pre-processed and readied for production.
“Yes, the entire process starts and ends in Uganda,” Katwesigye said in a previous interview.
By using recycled materials, the company is reducing environmental degradation by cutting down on the volumes of waste that end up in landfill sites.
The company also gives affordable eye care tests using a Virtual Reality testing kit to children in communities that are do not have optometrists or easy lack access to eye care services.
With the support of partners, the company was able to organize eye camps and carry out eye tests on 5000 children in 2017.
The social enterprise has a focus on giving employment opportunities especially for Ugandan women who manufacture the frames. They also custom assemble the eyeglasses, coordinate delivery logistics and carry out eye tests in communities.
Who many people does Wazi Vision currently employ and where?
Wazi Vision hopes to be the market leader in eyeglasses in Uganda while at the same time socially impacting those with vision impairments. Brenda was the recipient of $75,000 entrepreneurship grant funding to upscale Wazi Vision, the proceeds were used in designing and producing frames plus skilling workers.