AFRINEAD is a disability research evidence project that has been initiated in the Medicine and Health Sciences Faculty of the University of Stellenbosch within the Centre of Rehabilitation Studies. The project was founded in Cape Town in November 2007 as a network of various disability advocacy groups, local and international acedemics and researchers, health service providers and representatives from various government departments.



Version 2

Dear Friends and Colleagues

As part of its networking activities AfriNEAD has managed to table 5 conferences, initially 2 in Cape Town (2007 & 2009) followed by 3: in Zimbabwe 2011, Malawi 2014 with the last one in Ghana in 2017. On the 30th of November – 3rd of December 2020 AfriNEAD will again table its 6th conference in Cape Town with the theme:

“Disability Unplugged – Beyond Conventions and Charters, what really matters to People with Disabilities in Africa?”

We are proud to announce that this conference will be hosted at the Artscape which is centered at the Hub of Cape Town City. This conference is the 6th of tri-annual series of conferences to be held on the African Continent, following the 2007 Symposium on Evidence-to-Action in disability (SSEAD 2007) at Stellenbosch University that launched AfriNEAD. The vision of AfriNEAD is to become a significant contributor to and facilitator around the needs of people with disabilities in Africa, by assisting in translating existing and new disability research into meaningful evidence based advocacy, practice, products and policy.  AfriNEAD aims to foster relationships that will make the Network attributes of AfriNEAD comes to fruition.

Drawing guidance from the UNCRPD and its evaluation tool:

“The ABC of research evidence –to Action: Putting the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) principles into action for a rights based change.”

The AfriNEAD conferences are offered around 8 thematic areas that are based on the 50 articles of the UNCRPD (see under call for abstracts). As we roll up our sleeves in preparation for the coming conference, we intend to draw guidance from the experiences of previous people from the three countries that hosted the AfriNEAD conferences: Mussa Chiwaula, SAFOD; Alister Munthali, University of Malawi and Anthony Edusei; Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana. One of the things we learnt from them when preparing for the AfriNEAD conference is how they engaged their institutions and their communities at large in advocating about disability related issues. The AfriNEAD conference became a prong and an advocacy tool for disability rights and Ubuntu in their areas. We learnt so much from our Colleagues.

Now that the conference is coming back home to Stellenbosch University and Cape Town, we too intend to apply what we have learnt. We started by visiting the Management of our own institution reminding it of its conscience and the need to demonstrate its strength by presenting how it has pledged solidarity to those at the margins. This has resulted in Stellenbosch University awarding an honorary degree to Ms Rachel Kachaje one of AfriNEAD’s greatest supporters and feisty disability advocates from Malawi. This was followed by Stellenbosch University declaring 2020 a year for persons with disability. The Deputy Vice Chancellor when welcoming new students also brought this understanding of the stand of Stellenbosch University on being an inclusive University and its commitment to disability issues.

AfriNEAD will have completed 13 years at the end of November 2020. AfriNEAD conferences have always been a space of revival for both the delegates and the mother body. We are very excited of the phase that AfriNEAD has entered. The network did not take its quest and journey of trying to be the African regional research network for Evidence –to- Action in disability lightly. It is within this quest that seasoned disability researchers have been identified; the relationship between researchers and Persons with Disabilities were visited, challenged and consolidated which have resulted in a strong partnership of persons with disability with researchers. It was in 2009 during these reflections that the idea behind the African Journal of Disability (AJOD) was born. As a young journal the AJOD has surprised ALL with regard to its recognition by a majority of scientific journal spaces that need to recognise a manuscript of this nature.   Thanks to Professor Leslie Swartz our first Editor in Chief who, with his golden touch, managed to steer the journal to these majestic heights. Now the journal is in the capable hands of Dr Charlotte Capri.

Developments of best models of good practice,  in disability research,  that are underpinned by good ethical practice,  where persons with disability feel they can participate on all levels of the research process,  including leading the research process is central to the message advocated by AfriNEAD. Some of models of good practice that has been coordinated under AfriNEAD were:

  • African Policy on Disability and Development (APPOD): Exploring the inclusion of persons with disabilities on poverty reduction strategies.
  • Equitable access to health Services for persons with disabilities
  • Lately the: INFO-MAP project: which is a mapping exercise to locate providers of assistive devices for persons with disabilities.

The above mentioned research projects ensured the inclusion of persons with disabilities from the onset thinking about the research question to completion. With persons with disability playing an active role in all the various roles of the research process.

There are many more examples out there of research projects conducted by researchers affiliated to AfriNEAD.

As we enter this phase of the network we are aware of the need for the network to take its rightful position by bringing out its ethos and how it has responded to its constituency in the past and that by working together we can achieve more. It is within this understanding that AfriNEAD intends in the next phase to continue giving support and playing the position of being a vanguard for disability research in Africa. It is within this quest that AfriNEAD intends to continue strengthening the platform of disability research in Africa by focusing in the next 6 years on:

Encouraging African countries affiliated to AfriNEAD to embrace and implement the concept of Research Country Working Groups (RCWGs) in their own countries to ensure that internally each disability research is given a priority while AfriNEAD secretariat focus on:

  • Coordinating research that has been done in African countries and making it available to the network members – limiting duplication – encourage repetition only on studies with weak
  • Assist and support dissemination of research evidence
  • Coordinating research methodologies and identifying best
  • Creating data base of African disability researchers (have mainly data base for the Southern African region).
  • Continuing to encourage young researchers to link with experienced researchers for capacity
  • Identifying regional and international research funding organs and sharing information with African disability
  • Coordinating disability status of countries affiliated to AfriNEAD and making this available on the AfriNEAD website sun.ac.za/afrinead
  • Supporting the work done by the AJOD and ensuring that by end 2021 a component for AT publications has been created in the AJOD ajod.org
  • Supporting the Assistive Technologies (AT) focus area and linking with both African and international partners to advance this area with regard to research and program development for various levels of


We intend to work closely with all of our partners both at local, regional and international levels on this quest for AfriNEAD to take its position as a regional hub for disability research in Africa.

We (want to) thank the governing structure of AfriNEAD for supporting this network for the past 12 years.



First welcome speech

Dear Friends and Colleagues

The ten year walk that the African Network for Evidence – to -Action in Disability (AfriNEAD)  completed in November 2017, has been a long encouraging journey that has afforded the network family with rich continental experience which contributed baskets of fruits filled with disability knowledge, research and understanding drawn from the living experiences of persons with disabilities (PWDs). This information on disability research evidence has been drawn from the tip to the top of the African continent. Since the inauguration of AfriNEAD in 2007 more than 18 African countries and 7 countries in other continents have pledged their support to advancing the debate on how disability research evidence can be used as a tool to accelerate the process of realizing equity and human dignity for PWD in Africa.

The network has managed to table four symposium since its formation in 2007, and one conference in 2017 in Ghana. The themes for these symposium and conference were:

  1. 2007: “Realising the rights of disabled people in Africa”. – in Cape Town
  2. 2009: “The ABC of research evidence –to Action: Putting United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) principles into action for a rights based change”. in Cape Town   http://www.un.org/disabilities/convention/conventionfull.shtml  
  3. 2011:  “Building communities of trust: Evidence –to- action in disability research”. – in Zimbabwe
  4. 2014:  “Intensifying disability research and practice to achieve MDGs (Millennium Development Goals) in Africa: Our experience and aspirations for the future. –  In Malawi
  5. 2017:”Disability and inclusion in Africa: The role of Assistive Technology.” in Ghana

The themes for these symposium were carefully thought and coined by both the AfriNEAD governing structure (the Core Group) and the local organizing committees in the country that hosted the symposium. I would like to draw the attention of the AfriNEAD family to the coining of the second theme for the 2009 AfriNEAD symposium whereby the UNCRPD articles and its evaluation instrument were compressed and used as a tool to develop the 9 key themes that form the basis of AfriNEAD symposium.


Commission A Children and Youth with Disability:

Commission B Education: Early to Tertiary:

Commission C Economic Empowerment:

Commission D  Development Process in Africa: Poverty, Politics and Indigenous Knowledge:

Commission E  Health and HIV/AIDS:  

Commission F  Systems of Community Based Rehabilitation :
Commission G  Holistic Wellness, Sport, Recreation, Sexuality  & Spirituality:

Commission H  Research Evidence and Utilization

A substantial number of African countries have rectified the UNCRPD, it is with this thought in mind that the 2009 AfriNEAD symposium organizers felt that by using the UNCRPD as a base for organizing the themes of AfriNEAD symposium, this will give the network an understanding on how disability researchers are responding to aspects that have been tabled by the UNCRPD for the advancement and equalization of rights for PWDs in Africa. The UNCRPD endorses the concept of mutual interdependence and Ubuntu (an African concept and principle that encourages us all, to support and assist each other) principles by highlighting the possibilities for a global approach to disability work, paying particular attention to Article 32- addressing International Cooperation:

“States Parties recognize the importance of international cooperation and its promotion, in support of national efforts for the realization of the purpose and objectives of the present Convention, and will undertake appropriate and effective measures in this regard, between and among States and, as appropriate, in partnership with relevant international and regional organizations and civil society, in particular organizations of persons with disabilities”.

The above statement highlights the need to continue holding hands and working together both at internal, regional and international levels. We ALL will agree that the 4th AfriNEAD symposium in Malawi was a special event that demonstrated the maturity of the network. We received close to hundred (100) abstracts and close to two hundred delegates attended the conference. Delegates came from both regional and international areas of the world. We were happy to see how the Malawi Organizing and Technical Committee worked hard to ensure that PWDs from Malawi attended the conference. As a network family and Stellenbosch University, we want to express sincere gratitude to the leadership of the University of Malawi.

The 4th AfriNEAD symposium in Malawi pointed to some critical issues that require us within the AfriNEAD secretariat to focus and remain resolute in building up this network to live up to its intentions. Kindly familiarize yourself with the report that is available on pages of this website.  We are proud of our AJOD journal (www.ajod.org). It is now an accredited journal in South Africa and Norway. It also has tabled its first supplement from the 2011 symposium papers.

We also would like to introduce the AfriNEAD membership to the GATE project -Global Cooperation on Assistive Technology -which is a WHO – World Health Organization – global initiative that aim to advance the area of Assistive Technology- AT for PWDs http://www.who.int/phi/implementation/assistive_technology/phi_gate/en/

AfriNEAD has committed to join hands with WHO in the promotion and advancement of the this area in Africa using the AfriNEAD country working groups as a vehicle that will ensure that research, programmes and advocacy is developed in this area. In small steps we are starting to develop a focus in this area starting with a collaborative project on the mapping of service providers for AT in Africa starting with countries that are linked to SAFOD http://www.safod.net/ with them being the key driver of the project. Other stakeholders that are linked to the project are Washington University in Seattle and Dimagi which is a company that offers healthcare informatics services in the fields of healthcare, clinical trials and population research.

The 5th AfriNEAD conference in 2017 which was held in Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Ghana in August  2015  focused on the area of Assistive Technology. The theme for this conference was: “Disability and Inclusion in Africa: The Role of Assistive Technology”. It was decided in the 4th AfriNEAD conference in 2014 in Malawi that AfriNEAD symposium will be in future now conferences to ensure better access to funding opportunities. The academic staff of KNUST have taken seriously the issue of assisting and encouraging their university to integrate disability issues in their academic programmes and have now a BSc in disability and Rehabilitation and MSc in disability Studies.

The 2015 deadline for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) had now gone and passed. Organs such as the UN- United Nations -General Assembly in 2011, the 2013 High-level Meeting on Disability and Development and the international community have a critical opportunity to ensure the inclusion of disability in the emerging post 2015 MDG agenda. We, as the AfriNEAD family – our experience and aspirations for the future in research evidence includes the drawing of knowledge and wisdom from the lived experiences of persons with disabilities to guide the way forward for the inclusion of disability issues in the post 2015 MDG agenda. At the cornerstone of this post MDG response to disability issues is the adoption of a rights-based vision for change stated in the UNCRPD which includes an expression of linkage to human rights; accountability; empowerment; full participation of all relevant stakeholders; and non-discrimination and attention to vulnerable groups. Our perception within the AfriNEAD family is that these are the indicators for good practice when trying to turn theory into practice – they are the soul of good scientific practice. We believe that research evidence can only fully realize its objectives when it is intertwined with the inspiration and the souls of people with disabilities.

Dr. Gubela Mji,

Chairperson: The African Network on Evidence-to-Action in Disability (AfriNEAD)