Founded in 1992, the organisation is an internationally acclaimed and award-winning Social Enterprise with a hybrid structure consisting of Shonaquip (Pty) Ltd and a not-for-profit company, Uhambo, the Shonaquip foundation.  

Shonaquip is Africa’s leading paediatric wheelchair services provider and strives to influence this sector in its shift from charity and pity to medical responsibility through the design and manufacture of innovative mobility devices and seating solutions for users living in under resourced and rural regions.  

Uhambo Foundation conducts research, provides training, acts as an advocacy for special interests group and builds partnerships. The company currently employs 47 persons, 1 in 4 with disabilities.

The organisation was formed in response to Shona’s  need to find solution for her own daughter who was born with severe cerebral palsy.  This has grown to address the driving needs of  over 70 million people globally who require wheelchairs to function efficiently.  These need to meet their individual needs, be appropriate to local environmental conditions and provide proper fit and postural support, based on sound biomechanical principles (WHO, 2011).   For the past 20 years Shonaquip has been working with government, civil society and private sector to provide a unique local and community outreach seating assessment and fitting service in Southern Africa.  This service is provided at all levels of need through existing government hospitals, clinics, schools, institutions and to private individuals, care centres and homes.

Shonaquip’s turnover in the past financial year (March 2012 – February 2013) was R17 million (≈USD 1.8m).  All profits are reinvested into the work of Uhambo the Shonaquip Foundation.

The organisation’s unique competence is two-fold:

  1. Innovative modular wheelchair design and manufacture. All Shonaquip products are unique. As children living in diverse regions across South Africa have inspired innovative designs, the chairs and devices are built specifically for unforgiving environments. The premise is that a wheelchair is a body orthosis (mechanical aid to support or assist movement of the body), not just a form of transport or a place to sit.
  2. A well-developed, holistic training and service provision model, with extensive community development networks and outreach clinical services. Shonaquip has developed a training and service provision model based on the concept of incubation through Regional Hubs that will be implemented over the coming months in Africa.

Shonaquip has impacted the lives of over 70 000 young wheelchair users by following a client-centred approach, backed by the Foundation’s advocacy and local partner development. For every client served, Shonaquip estimates that an additional 7 people in the client´s direct community and support network are also impacted, which expands the reach and impact of the two entities to over 450.000 people.

Children and young adults with disabilities in less resourced settings seldom achieve the full human potential of which they are capable. This is a loss both to the individuals who are unable to enjoy the fullest possible quality of life, and to their communities who are unable to access their talents and may experience their care as an excessive burden. This unnecessary waste is often a result of the absence of services, equipment, and training which could facilitate the expression of these children’s abilities, and minimize the challenges stemming from their impairment.

This situation stems not just from lack of resources, but also the lack of availability of products, services and training well matched to the users and their physical, social and economic setting, as well as insufficient skills and/or knowledge on the part of agencies who supply products, services or training.

Thus, although many organisations manufacture wheelchairs and/or provide support, very few other company, as part of their service offering, provides early interventions, outreach training and support services for the community, parents and caregivers of the children needing wheelchairs.

Based on 20 years of experience and client impact research results, Shonaquip has identified a huge market need in the area of awareness-raising, education and the provision of appropriate mobility devices.


Shonaquip has grown from a small staff of two operating out of Shona McDonald´s garage to a well-established and reputable business that employs a staff of 47. Staff is made up of therapists, seating practitioners, trainers, technicians and seamstresses, with 1 in 4 being disabled themselves.

  • Shonaquip staff contingent includes 32 full time employees and 5 part time employees.
  • Uhambo foundation staff contingent includes 3 full time employees and 6 part time employees.


The vision is an inclusive society, without barriers, for persons with mobility disabilities.


The mission is to assist children in under developed regions with mobility disabilities by increasing the availability and access to appropriate, well-fitting mobility and posture support products, services and training, thereby addressing inequality, enhancing human capability and empowering communities.


A range of modular, adjustable and customisable mobility and seating support devices and 24-hour posture-management and positioning systems include:

  • Buggies
  • Shona Buggy (custom-made)
  • Madiba Buggy
  • Madiba2Go Buggy
  • Active posture adjustable paediatric chairs
  • Sully Manual (1 year to 6 years)
  • Sully Power Chair  (18 months to 6 years)
  • Sam Manual Chair (6 years to adult)
  • Sam Power Chair (6 years to adult)
  • Back support systems
  • Tess ridged back
  • Gibby contour back
  • 24-hour posture management  
  • Snoekie upright wheeler, (1 year to 8 years)
  • Standing frame (1 year to young adult)
  • Side / back positioner
  • Bus  /car positioner
  • bath seat
  • Therapy equipment
  • Therapy plinths – height adjustable and fixed
  • Therapy mats
  • Balls, blocks, rollers, wedges
  • E-tran communication system
  • Ndinagona stimulation program & training kit

Favourite model

The Madiba Buggy was the first South African appropriately designed, robust, modular wheelchair that could be easily used over uneven terrain, in sand, over hills and rocks, and not only on flat paved roads and urban areas. 15 years after its introduction, many of the original wheelchairs from the first production batch, are still in use in rural areas of the country.


The products range in price from $ 650 to $ 950.

Modular concept Competitive edge

All Shonaquip products are unique. As children living in diverse regions across South Africa have inspired innovative designs, the chairs and devices are built specifically for unforgiving environments. The premise is that a wheelchair is a body orthosis (mechanical aid to support or assist movement of the body), not just a form of transport or a place to sit.

Volume output

Currently the factory manufactures 4000-5000 units annually.


  • Provision of individual professional seating, assessment, fitting and follow up services across Southern Africa.
  • Local Hubs for seating clinic services with outreach to remote communities.

Prior to Shonaquip partnering with the South African government, the health care system was not providing (a) early interventions focused on the prevention of secondary health complications, and (b) devices that fit young children. This resulted in:

  • Secondary health complications, which are expensive for families and government health system
  • Loss of body function
  • Social isolation
  • Disenfranchisement of children

These issues are a barrier to accessing family, communities, school, work opportunities, broader society and adds to poverty profile of the family unit and the country as a whole.

In collaboration with Shonaquip, government has instituted processes and services to meet the need of this sector.

Through research, Shonaquip has identified that other sub-Saharan African countries and under resourced regions have similar health care system deficiencies and aims to reach out and provide similar services.

Export to emerging and under-resourced markets with limited existing infrastructure

Shona McDonald’s contribution to the WHO Guidelines, peer reviewing of the WHO Basic and Intermediate Training Programs and her involvement with the WHO Global Workgroups on Appropriate Wheelchair Provision has resulted in growing interest and requests for the  new range of paediatric wheelchairs and posture support devices


  • Design Indaba 2014 Innovation Award for the Madiba2Go Posture Support Buggy
  • Western Cape Entrepreneurship Recognition Awards 2013
  • SAB Foundation Innovation Award 2012
  • Impumelelo Innovation Award Social Enterprise of the Year 2012
  • Shoprite Checkers Woman of the Year  2011 – Socio-economic business developer
  • World Economic Forum – Outstanding Social Entrepreneur – South Africa 2010
  • Winner of the Ernst and Young Social Entrepreneur Awards 2009
  • Schwab Foundation Fellow 2009
  • Endeavor Global  Entrepreneur  2008
  • NPI productivity award Western Cape and National 2008: Emerging business sector
  • BWA regional business award 2008: Social entrepreneur 
  • SEDA Technology awards 2007: Best performing IT intervention

UHAMBO The Shonaquip  Foundation

Uhambo´s Clients and Stakeholders include:

  • Government Department of Social Development
  • International foundations and funders
  • Local NPOs
  • Corporates
  • Caregivers, parents, wheelchair users

Uhambo foundation is working on the following influencers of the market and policies:

  • Global and regional policy makers (e.g. WHO, Unicef,  Government Departments and Ministries ) in the disability sector
  • Health care professionals and Community care and rehab workers
  • Education and social development professionals
  • Community development organisations


Training for children´s parents, caregivers, rehabilitation professionals and other stakeholders

Extensive community development networks

Outreach clinical services – general assessments, community training and skills development, assessment of children´s needs, on-site customisations, modifications and repair

Job creation model through Regional Hubs and Incubation Apprenticeship Programs

Training and awareness development through Uhambo Foundation projects

Current programme initiatives include:

  • Surveys on children and youth with disabilities, as well as family and care givers
  • NDINOGONA “I CAN”” stimulation programme for children with disabilities
  • NDINOGONA “I CAN”  outreach programme – focus groups
  • NDINOGONA “I CAN” parent champion programme
  • NDINOGONA “I CAN” awareness and peer education programme
  • NDINOGONA “I CAN” basic wheelchair and device repair programme

Regional Hubs

Uhambo is seeking to establish Regional Hubs: self-standing, economically sustainable centres in local communities throughout Africa.  The vision is to establish a mixed-industry, entrepreneurial hub as an Uhambo enterprise brand that stands the test of time for inclusive, sustainable transformation for people with disabilities in the marketplace.

Products and services include:

  • Wheelchair seating and mobility services
  • Clinical support and therapy
  • Training for support individuals
  • Parts, repair and servicing

Regional Hubs will be set up as a joint undertaking between Uhambo and a local (in country) partner, creating social enterprises.  Uhambo will leverage Shonaquip professionals to help launch each Regional Hub.  Each local partner will be provided with low-cost initial product inventory, Shonaquip clinicians and therapists to train the local team to provide specific services, and initial operational support based on funds raised, to achieve this aim.  Start-up funding will be required to launch regional hub operations; however the Regional Hub model is projected to be self-sufficient in just three years. Periodic evaluations will be performed by Uhambo to ensure ongoing quality service and alignment with core values over time. These Hubs will assist in driving WHO guidelines into countries by raising awareness and advocating for people with disabilities within the local community and with appropriate government agencies.


There is an urgent need to provide preventive health interventions and appropriate service infrastructure to children with disabilities in the most remote areas in developing countries. The appropriate service approach and infrastructure assesses the human need of a child and any other beneficiary, and provides appropriate services offering with a quality level device.

Shonaquip has been highly successful to date in filling this gap. What differentiates Shonaquip from other market players, aside from innovative product design, is the client-centred approach backed by advocacy, local partner development, sustainable support services, training, and local capacity development and job creation through the Regional Hub assembly model.

The key benefits for Shonaquip beneficiaries are:

  • Prevention of secondary health complications due to easily adjusted and fitted wheelchairs and devices.
  • Improved quality of life for children as customised, fitted equipment and regular care services enable improved function and breathing.
  • Access to school, community and inclusion in society as a whole.
  • Supplementing support services where the government services are unable to reach everybody.
  • Reducing health care costs at state hospitals.
  • Reducing health and care costs to the users, their families and surrounding communities.

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