Indigenous knowledge as an important tool to assist Africa's development

There is a rich body of indigenous knowledge embodied in Africa’s cultural and ecological diversities, and African people have drawn on this knowledge for hundreds of years to solve specific developmental and environmental problems.

There are well-documented examples to show the positive impact of Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS) on Africa’s development.

The World Bank, which launched the Indigenous Knowledge for Development Programme in 1998, documented several cases to illustrate how IKS can play a crucial role in development.

The examples include: improving primary education by using local language as a means of instruction in West Africa; provision of primary health care to help reduce child mortality in Eritrea and maternal mortality in Uganda; empowering women in Senegal to facilitate the eradication of female circumcision; helping communities in Mozambique to manage coastal natural resources; and using traditional medicinal plants in Zimbabwe to treat malaria.

IKS can also serve as an important tool to assist Africa in coping with climate change. In Nigeria, for example, indigenous methods of weather forecasting are used by farmers to complement crop-planning activities.

IKS should be embedded in all university teaching, research and outreach activities. This could be achieved by creating an institutional centre dedicated to IKS.

The University of Botswana recently created a Centre for Scientific Research, Indigenous Knowledge and Innovation (CesrIKi), which attempts to link scientific research with IKS. It has undertaken several surveys documenting IKS in the country and promoting IKS among communities.

The universities of North West, Limpopo and Venda in South Africa have also partnered to set up a Centre of Excellence in Indigenous Knowledge Studies. There are centres devoted to IKS in some other universities in Africa as well.

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