NCST calls for the digitalization, patenting of indigenous knowledge systems

National Commission for Science and Technology (NCST) has called upon Southern African Development Community (SADC) Member States to act swiftly in digitalization and patenting of indigenous knowledge systems (IKS) to protect them from loss or theft.

NCST Director General Gift Kadzamira made the remarks at the opening of the Sixth SADC Biennial Regional Policy Exchange Experts’ Workshop on IKS, which is currently underway at Sunbird Livingstonia Hotel in Salima.

Kadzamira addressing delegates to the workshop in Salima on Wednesday--Photo by Watipaso Mzungu
Kadzamira addressing delegates to the workshop in Salima on Wednesday–Photo by Watipaso Mzungu

The workshop, which is being held under the theme, ‘Leveraging Indigenous Knowledge Systems in the Agro-processing and pharmaceutical value chains for industrial development’, will run up to Friday this week.

It has attracted delegates from SADC Member States with NCST anchoring the organization of the workshop in its mandate and pursuit of promoting, supporting, coordinating, and regulating the development and application of science, technology, and innovation.

Kadzamira said IKS promotes the well-being and cultures of the people; hence, the need to protect it from loss or theft.

“Let us not allow the future generations to judge us harshly for not doing the right things. The time to act is now and we must act with a sense of urgency by protecting the knowledge and innovations that may be lost or stolen if we don’t digitalize or patent them,” she said.

At this point, the Director General informed the delegates that Commission, in collaboration with the National Planning Commission (NPC), recently launched the National Research Agenda whose priorities include agro-processing, value addition, food systems, nutrition and dietary diversity, biodiversity conservation and Industrialization, among others.

Kadzamira said the workshop objectives will therefore help in generating the much-needed knowledge and also increase the uptake of research results, which she said is crucial to the achievement of the knowledge-based society as per the goal of the MW 2063.

Delegates to the workshop pose for a group photo–Photo by Watipaso Mzungu

In her remarks, SADC Senior Programme Officer responsible for Science Technology and Innovation, Ms. Anneline Morgan, described the conference as a critical platform for promoting policy dialogue and sharing of experiences on IKS and facilitating regional cooperation on IKS.

Morgan cited the SADC Protocol on Science, Technology and Innovation of 2008, which recognises the need to develop, value and promote IKS and technologies.

She therefore thanked the Government of the Republic of Malawi for prioritising the meeting despite the many other equally important and pressing demands.

“The purpose of this 6th IKS policy workshop is to promote dialogue and knowledge sharing on the development and implementation of national IKS policies by the SADC Member States and to promote SIPS Programme that  raise awareness about some  of its initiatives that focus on the development and production of IK-based herbal remedies  and innovative integrated electronic application to disseminate HIV/AIDS treatment guidelines and enhance regulatory and supply chain efficiencies in the management of HIV/AIDS and associated opportunistic infections through grants that have been awarded under the  programme and exhibit SIPS programme,” she said.

Morgan highlighted that the specific objectives included disseminating and publicizing the SADC Policy tools and instruments to create awareness on the opportunities and benefits of investments on IKS in the region, and to fast-track the development of the national IKS policies and share progress and challenges encountered by Member States in developing and implementing the national IKS policies.

“Other objectives are to develop strategies/approaches for the implementation of the approved SADC policy tools and instruments: i) Resource Mobilisation Toolkit: Writing Proposals for Scientific Research and Innovation Projects; ii) Research Ethics Guidelines; iii) IKS Policy Guidelines and Action Plan; and iv) the Guidelines on the Operationalisation of the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing in the SADC Region for use in developing national IKS policies and creating advocacy and awareness plan with support from regional instruments through technical support and capacity building interventions,” she said.

Morgan also disclosed that the workshop will seek to harmonize the Regional Guidelines on the Operationalization of the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing with the African Union Guidelines for the Coordinated Implementation of the Nagoya Protocol in Africa.

The Minister of Education Madalitso Kambauwa Wirima challenged SADC member states to acknowledge and appreciate the invaluable wealth of IKS that has been cultivated and passed down through generations.

Kambauwa-Wirima said the systems, often rooted in traditional practices and local ingenuity, represent a profound connection to the environment and offer an array of solutions that can guide us towards a more sustainable and harmonious future of SADC member states.

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