Johannesburg, South Africa – In an historic moment of recognition, the 2023 Special Olympics South Africa National Team received a profound honour yesterday as His Excellency, President Cyril Ramaphosa, warmly welcomed them to a special ceremony hosted at the iconic Union Buildings in Pretoria.

This event, a significant milestone in South Africa’s history, is especially poignant given the late President Nelson Mandela’s support for Special Olympics South Africa.

For the first time, the National Government of South Africa officially acknowledged and celebrated the extraordinary achievements of individuals with intellectual disabilities in the realm of sports.

This momentous occasion was imbued with pride and inspiration as President Ramaphosa congratulated the 2023 National Team for their exceptional achievements on the global stage at the 2023 Special Olympics World Summer Games held in Berlin, Germany. Competing against 7,000 athletes from over 180 countries, they exhibited unwavering determination and sportsmanship, returning home with an impressive medal haul that included 22 Gold Medals, 20 Silver Medals, and 7 Bronze Medals.

The team’s dedication and sportsmanship have not only filled South Africa with pride but have also cast a brilliant spotlight on the immense talent within the community of individuals with intellectual disabilities.

This recognition by President Ramaphosa exemplifies the importance of acknowledging and empowering individuals with intellectual disabilities through sports, reaffirming South Africa’s commitment to inclusivity in society.

During the 2023 Special Olympics World Games in Berlin, a record number of government ministries from the African Region were represented. Furthermore, five countries, namely Angola, Ghana, Kenya, Seychelles, and South Africa, are poised to sign the Special Olympics Global Leadership Coalition for Inclusion pledge—a ground breaking multilateral effort supported by Special Olympics to advance the cause of people with intellectual disabilities. This initiative unites governments, industry, philanthropy, and the development community in a shared global commitment to enhance inclusive practices in education and sport, creating more inclusive schools and communities.

The inaugural Coalition members were announced at a high-level leaders’ roundtable hosted on the side-lines of the 2023 Special Olympics World Games in Berlin, with five African countries making their commitment to inclusion.

Yesterday President Ramaphosa confirmed South Africa’s commitment to being an active member of the Global Coalition.

Dr Mathews Phosa, Chairperson of Special Olympics South Africa welcomed the President’s commitment to the Global Coalition “Our athletes want to be heard, and they demand inclusion, respect, and equal opportunities. They declare that they are here to show the world their talents and abilities, and they deserve nothing less than our unwavering support.”


ohannesburg, South Africa – For the first time since the pandemic, the annual Africa Leadership Conference is taking place in person at the Ethiopian Airways Skylight Hotel in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Over 100 delegates from 39 African program countries are attending three days of sessions. This year marks the 19th Special Olympics Africa Leadership Conference, happening during the 55th anniversary year of the Special Olympics movement.

Special Olympics Ethiopia is extremely proud to host the largest Africa Region event of the year, and to share its experiences and activities at this Africa Leadership Conference. The inclusion message of Special Olympics has already had a great impact in local communities since we started our Program in 2018, and we plan to reach more athletes with and without intellectual disabilities in more locations in the next five years,” said Mihret Nigussie Chengerei, Chair of Special Olympics Ethiopia.

The conference opened this morning and will continue until Wednesday. As part of the official opening this morning the Africa Region recognised Dr Mathews Phosa, Chairperson of Special Olympics South Africa, for his many years of service to the movement and for hosting the Leadership Conference for 17 years in South Africa.

Dr Phosa, has been instrumental in the growth of the Special Olympics movement in South Africa and has also served on the international board of directors, “I am very humbled to receive this recognition. I have had the privilege of serving in the Special Olympics movement for over 15 years and remain committed to promoting the inclusion revolution both in South Africa and across the African continent. We need to work together as governments to ensure that all people with an intellectual disability have access to human rights”.

In a historic move, Ethiopian Airlines, signed the first of its kind agreement in the Africa Region to be the official carrier of the of the Special Olympics delegates.

“Ethiopian Airlines is a proudly pan-African airline – we have welcomed a partnership with Special Olympics Africa Region to include those who are differently abled and bring to them much needed awareness.”stated Nigusu Worku, Acting Vice President of ET-Holiday and Digital.

The Special Olympics movement is growing rapidly across the continent and the Annual Special Olympics Leadership Conference allows countries to access expertise from a number of invited speakers and of course from each other.

The 19th Annual Special Olympics Africa leadership meeting is proudly supported by Ethiopian Airlines, Lions Club International and A Very Special Christmas Grant.