Shona McDonald

Year founded: 
South Africa


Shonaquip builds innovative, sustainable service delivery systems and mobility devices to improve physical access and quality of life for people living with disabilities in under-resourced and rural regions in Africa.

Focus: Disability, Health, Children and Youth
Geographic Area of Impact: South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe
Model: Hybrid Social Enterprise
Number of Direct Beneficiaries: +64,500 (2011)
Annual Budget: US$ 3 million (2010)
Percentage Earned Revenue: 100%
Recognition: Regional Social Entrepreneur of the Year, Africa, 2010; SEOY, South Africa, 2009

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that globally +65 million people need a wheelchair that meets their individual physical/postural requirements, as well as the environmental conditions in which they live. Research has determined +80% of all wheelchairs manufactured worldwide are designed to the developed world and European standards, thus suiting the needs of only 20% of potential users. The requirements of people living with mobility disabilities in rural and under-developed regions have never been considered a viable market factor, so the “anything is better than nothing” philosophy of international funders has resulted in a serious neglect of this sector. Additionally, 75% of all wheelchair users need personally adapted or modified equipment to improve functionality and prevent or delay life-threatening health complications such as pressure sores and spinal deformities. Shonaquip works to improve this imbalance and ensure young children and people living in more remote and rural areas are no longer neglected in terms of appropriate wheelchairs and support services.

Innovation and Activities
Shonaquip offers an innovative approach in addressing the unique mobility needs of wheelchair users. It not only offers devices that fit the unique needs of the individuals but also provides support services and training for wheelchair users and their caregivers, family members and healthcare workers. Shonaquip provides community-based clinical services and training workshops on proper wheelchair fitting and the importance of postural support, to therapists and associated professionals across South Africa’s nine provinces, Zimbabwe and Namibia.

Through partnerships with governments, civil society, universities and the private sector, Shonaquip plays a leading role in improving the quality of life for people with mobility disabilities, in particular children, through enhanced services and the provision of customized, environmentally-appropriate equipment. One example, the Madiba Buggy (in honour of Nelson Mandela’s traditional name) was the first South African posture support wheelchair for children afflicted with cerebral palsy. It can be used on uneven terrain such as sand, rocks and hilly areas, and is now being redesigned to be more cost efficient and exportable.

Half of Shonaquip’s income is generated from government business, with 30% coming from private clients and medical insurers, and 20% from humanitarian agencies and NGOs.

The Entrepreneur
Shona McDonald was an artist until the birth of her quadriplegic daughter, which inspired her to seek a more effective solution for her daughter’s future mobility. As a self-taught entrepreneur, she started two non-profit organizations that continue to play an important role advocating for rights of people with disabilities. She then created the Shonaquip business, due to frustrating experiences trying to address the needs of the broader community in a sustainable and scalable way. She is an Endeavor Entrepreneur and a contributor and peer reviewer of the WHO guidelines on the provision of manual wheelchairs in less-resourced settings. Shonaquip was named the South Africa Social Enterprise of the Year in 2011.