What is it about?

With the renewed impetus directed towards re-establishing African value systems against the iniquities of imperial domination, our central focus in this article is to demonstrate that the practice of traditional medicine is deeply rooted in African culture, which under the African human rights system is granted as a human right. In essence, the advancement of African culture and by implication African traditional medicine constitutes an integral aspect of the right to socioeconomic and cultural development enshrined in the African Charter. Of interest in this regard is the question of securing intellectual property rights over African traditional medicine, which we posit is achievable within the legal framework of the right to development in Africa.

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Why is it important?

Prior to the introduction of modern medicine, traditional medicinal practices characterised by indigenous methods of healing dominated the medical and public health system, which rural and urban communities in Africa relied on in dealing with the various diseases that threatened their existence and survival. Unfortunately, in spite of its potential to drive socio-economic and cultural development, with the advent of colonialism and the imposition of modernity, African traditional medicinal practices have largely been abandoned and considered primitive.


The often neglected issue of African traditional medicine is examined in this article from a human rights and development perspective, most particularly from the viewpoint of the right to development, which guarantees to all the peoples of Africa entitlement to improved well-being and better standards of living with due regard to their freedoms and identity and in the equal enjoyment of the common African heritage. We consider that granting intellectual property protection to African traditional medicine has the potential to transform the livelihood and living standards for a large proportion of the populations of Africa whose lifestyle is inextricable connected to the practice of traditional medicine.

Dr Carol Chi NGANG
University of the Free State

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Intellectual Property Protection of African Traditional Medicine within the Legal Framework of the Right to Development, African Journal of International and Comparative Law, August 2019, Edinburgh University Press,
DOI: 10.3366/ajicl.2019.0282.
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