Towards a harmonised protection of indigenous knowledge systems (IKS) in the Southern African Development Community (SADC): One step at a time

  • Amos Saurombe Mercantile Law Department, College of Law, University of South Africa
Keywords: Indigenous knowledge, SADC, policy, protection of IKS, harmonisation, law


This article explores the need for a policy, regional dialogue and cooperation on the protection of IKS in the Southern African Development Community (SADC). Since 2002 the SADC countries have held annual SADC programmes in the form of workshops on IKS policy development and cooperation. Steady progress has been recorded with many SADC countries now working on their country specific IKS policies that will inform a broader SADC policy. Having the most advanced policy and legal instruments on IKS, South Africa is playing a leading role in assisting other SADC countries to come up with their own IKS policies. Through its Advocacy and Policy Development Directorate, South Africa’s main focus is on the development of legislation and policy both at national and regional levels. Thus, the development of a regional policy on the protection of IK and IKS is pivotal for a harmonised approach to the protection of IKS since indigenous communities on the country’s borders often share common IK. A harmonised approach will also prevent exploitation by one country of IK gathered in another country. The article will explore the nature and scope of the proposed harmonisation and argues that the conclusion of a regional policy on IKS is long overdue. It recommends that SADC takes the lead with the support of South Africa in developing a robust regional IKS policy. This will entrench a more participatory approach where IKS protection should be seen as part of a broader system of governance from local to national, regional and international levels. Reference will be made to other regions that have made significant strides in the protection of IKS. The role of international structures dealing with intellectual property like World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) will also be referred to since the regional policy should not be in conflict with international treaties where SADC members are signatories.

Author Biography

Amos Saurombe, Mercantile Law Department, College of Law, University of South Africa

Mercantile Law Department, College of Law, University of South Africa


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 0376-4753