Original Research

Success in Africa: People with disabilities share their stories

Tom Shakespeare, Anthony Mugeere, Emily Nyariki, Joseph Simbaya
African Journal of Disability | Vol 8 | a522 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ajod.v8i0.522 | © 2019 Tom Shakespeare, Anthony Mugeere, Emily Nyariki, Joseph Simbaya | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 05 April 2018 | Published: 25 April 2019

About the author(s)

Tom Shakespeare, Norwich Medical School, University of East Anglia, Norwich, United Kingdom
Anthony Mugeere, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda
Emily Nyariki, School of Public Health, University of Nairobi, Nairobi, Kenya
Joseph Simbaya, Institute of Economic and Social Research, University of Zambia, Lusaka, Zambia


Background: Whereas most narratives of disability in sub-Saharan Africa stress barriers and exclusion, Africans with disabilities appear to show resilience and some appear to achieve success. In order to promote inclusion in development efforts, there is a need to challenge narratives of failure.

Objectives: To gather life histories of people with disabilities in three sub-Saharan African countries (Kenya, Uganda and Sierra Leone) who have achieved economic success in their lives and to analyse factors that explain how this success has been achieved.

Methods: Qualitative research study of economic success involving life history interviews with 105 participants with disabilities from both urban and rural settings recruited through disabled people’s organisations and non-governmental organisation partners, framework analysis of transcripts to chart success and success factors.

Results: Participants had faced barriers in education, employment and family life. They had largely surmounted these barriers to achieve success on an equal basis with others. They were working in private and public sectors and were self-employed farmers, shopkeepers and craftspeople.

Conclusion: The findings of this study suggest that, given the right support, disabled people can achieve economic success, with the implication being that investment in education or training of disabled people can be productive and should be part of overall development efforts for economic reasons, not solely to achieve social justice goals.


disability; education; employment; Africa; achievement


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