TAX INCENTIVES A BOOST TO THE ACCESS TO ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGIES

Among the biggest gainers of the 2022/2023 budget as proposed by the Treasury Cabinet Secretary was the health sector with an allocation of 146 billion Kenya Shillings. In addition to these, pharmaceutical companies were tax exempted as well as consumers of medical oxygen, urine bags and adult diapers. Other gainers in the tax gift were the upcoming Konza Technopolis, Kenya’s Silicon Valley. The project under the Ministry of ICT received Ksh 5.2 billion with government ministries departments and agencies being encouraged to utilize the National Data Centre at the facility.

It is no secret that access to assistive technology is a challenge for PWDs in Kenya. Among the challenges involved is the challenge of cost to buy various devices and tools such as wheelchairs and braille as well as manpower to make these devices and logistical challenges to get them to where they are needed. Mobility and other assistive devices are largely accessed through charity organizations due to the challenge of cost by a majority of PWDs especially those without any source of income. Cost is also high due to the importation expense incurred as well as the material expense to manufacture these devices locally. With the devices being donated for free from the government or private disability organizations, not many are encouraged to venture into the business of assistive technology manufacturing.

The tide is however changing due the paradigm shift in matters disability. Other than being seen as a medical issue to be solved with therapy and medicine, disability is now being viewed under the parameters of a social problem that involves everyone and its no longer an individual problem. Evidence of these is the resolve by the corporate world to have the PPP model from just being about the bottom line to a more broad-based focus on what organizational success means. PPP meaning People Planet Profit. With this model, there is focus to empower PWDs as well as take care of the other through environmentally friendly processes. As a result of these, PWDs are then able to afford assistive devices at a shorter period instead of depending on government social subsidies which will fully foot the bill for assistive devices. It also means that the Assistive Technology Centres being put up by various organizations and institutions will have a demand for their services and products. Innovate Now, is an incubation platform for assistive technologies under the stewardship of Benard Chiira a technologist and a strong champion for technology for inclusion. Second in this endeavor is the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, who are in the process of putting up an assistive technology centre to ease access to these devices as well as provide a training ground for its students in the medical field such as physiotherapy or occupational therapy. The tax exemption proposed in the budget will come in handy in the assistive technology sector looked at it from a medical and technological perspective.

In the current economic setting, China is second only to the US. The backbone of this has been a robust export industry so much so that China is christened the factory of the world. China began this process by investing in a highly skilled labour which is also a huge market for manufactured goods. With a high amount of disposable income, most people in China can afford luxury goods nowadays just like in Russia when the oil wells were privatized to give rise to oligarchs after the fall of the USSR. China is now investing its capital in Africa to seek new opportunities for growth.

With the tax incentives, companies should now venture into assistive technology full scale to further increase accessibility to the devices and bring down the cost of these items to fast track the full participation of PWDs in productive activities. It not only gives them the opportunity to diversify their portfolio especially with impact investing, it also gives PWDs a chance to lead in the making of new things and bring their ideas to life, just like China built itself building products for other countries and became the Asian Tiger that it is today. With this setting, ideas spread faster and the quality of life among PWDs is improved by solving the most pressing challenges of PWDs with technology.  

Invent it, make it, sell it, live it.   

BY

MURITHI NDIRITU