Message from the Chairperson

Dear Friends and Colleagues

Despite the challenges presented to the global community by COVID-19, the AfriNEAD Conference Organising Committee, after consulting and getting advice from key stakeholders of AfriNEAD, opted to continue with the planned conference albeit on slightly different dates and format:  1st – 3rd December 2020,  and virtually, for the first time.  We were aware that this might have undermined some AfriNEAD stakeholders’, gaining access to the conference as they might have struggled with issues of internet connectivity.

This conference was dedicated to MS Rachel Kachaje who died in July of 2020. She has been part of AfriNEAD Governing Board since 2007. Rachel, a previous Minister for Disability and Elderly for the Malawi Government, had a sterling record of advocating for human rights and dignity for persons with disability. She was a Chairperson of Disabled People’s International (DPI), Executive Director and Founder of Disabled Women in Africa (DIWA), Co- founder of Disabled Women in Development (DIWODE), Chairperson of Southern Africa Federation of the Disabled (SAFOD) Board Secretary for Africa Disability Forum (ADF) and recently elected chairperson of the Commonwealth Disability Forum (CDPF). We are grateful to Ms. Charlotte McClain-Nhlapo (the Global Disability Advisor for the World Bank Group), who delivered a keynote address in memory of Rachel.

The COVID-19 crisis has shone a spotlight on our pre-existing social inequalities with certain groups being doubly affected by this pandemic. Persons with disabilities already have baseline higher burdens of disease and rates of poverty than those who are not disabled, including challenges within our health systems, which are not conducive to their needs. Hence conferences like AfriNEAD conference need to continue as they offer hope in changing the above-mentioned situation. We would like to extend a word of gratitude to Edit Micro Systems for their technical support – a job well done. Edit Microsystems (Pty) Ltd is an award-winning company that has supplied technology solutions to educational institutions, corporations, and community upliftment projects throughout Southern Africa for over 28 years. AfriNEAD intends in future to use the space of virtual offering of conferences and seminars, as a learning curve and an opportunity to further strengthen the AfriNEAD network.

The 6th AfriNEAD conference with the title: “Disability unplugged – Beyond Conventions and Charters: what really matters to persons with disabilities in Africa” was a celebration of the coming home of AfriNEAD conferences, after tabling successful conferences in: Zimbabwe (2011), Malawi (2014) and Ghana (2017). The plan was to host the conference at the Artscape – Cape Town’s main centre for the preforming arts. A huge thank you to Dr Marlene Le Roux for this generous offer, had we had a face-to-face conference. I would like to extend gratitude to the Stellenbosch University Disability Unit and the Cape Town Network for Persons with Disability for their support in preparing for the conference. We also would like to thank the Stellenbosch University Rectorate especially Prof Eugene Clote, Dr Nico Elm and the Premiers Office for their Financial support.

In preparing for the conference, we also knew that this would be a time for internal reflection by Stellenbosch University (SU) on the ground covered in creating an inclusive University. It was within this endeavour that the following actions were taken: (a) tabling of monthly publication prepared by present and past students with disability, reflecting on their experience of being a student with disability at SU, (b) the awarding of an Honorary Doctorate Degree in Social Sciences to Ms Rachel Kachaje, unfortunately by the time it was awarded, she already had passed away, (c) the tabling of a sign language and disability seminars with reports from these seminars presented to the University management for their action.

The conferences received 53 papers presented in the eight AfriNEAD research areas which were supported by approximately 21 keynote addresses. This was a well-attended conference with a total number of 176 registrations and 156 that attended the conference (see details at end of this report).

The 3rd day of the conference was the International Day for Persons with disability and for this event, AfriNEAD Conference Organising Committee joined hands with the City of Cape Town in hosting this event. There were many dignitaries which attended the conference, and we are grateful for the support and the dignity they brought to the conference. The AfriNEAD partners both at local, national, regional, and international levels came out to further endorse the relevance of this network. We appreciate their support for the work done by this network.

The conference closed with critical recommendations that came from both the outcome of the 8 research areas (taken from UNCRPD Articles) and the AGM. Below are some of the critical issues that the AfriNEAD Secretariat and the Governing Board will have to follow:

  1. Structure of AfriNEAD: both physical and conceptual structure.
    • Bringing in younger people to drive the network.
    • Build on mandate that AfriNEAD is a research coordinating body.
    • Put time to generate funding.
    • Strengthen the Disability Research Country Working Groups (DRCWGs).
  • Develop framework for hybrid model of offering conferences.


  1. Membership issues: membership structure contained in the Governing document.
  • There is a framework of actions and functions in the AfriNEAD Governing document.
  • Membership fees are highlighted in the document.
  • Strengthen the document specifically the area of fee structure.


  1. Governing structure – create a clear succession plan.
  • Select a new Governing Board.
  • Implement shifts before 2023 AfriNEAD conference.


  1. Partnership – consolidating and renewing.
  • Expand international partners with AfriNEAD.

The network has been active for 14 yrs., it wants to extend gratitude to the Governing Board that has stood by AfriNEAD since its inception in 2007. We want to also thank our international partners for responding to the UNCRPD that states:


Countries are to provide development assistance in efforts by developing countries to put into practice the Convention”. 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.


We look forward to 2023 when again we will table the 7th AfriNEAD conference, and we believe that by that time we will have a hybrid model as we will have learnt how to live with COVID – 19.

Stay well and be safe.

Prof Gubela Mji

Chairperson for AfriNEAD.