International Journal of Humanities and Social Science

ISSN 2220-8488 (Print), 2221-0989 (Online) 10.30845/ijhss

The Importance of Patenting Traditional Medicines in Africa: the case of Zimbabwe
Archibold Mposhi, Charity Manyeruke, Shakespeare Hamauswa

This paper brings out the importance of creating domestic legislative structures that seek to protect traditional medicine and associated traditional knowledge (TK) in Zimbabwe. Traditional medicines are important to Zimbabwe’s primary health care system, with an estimated 80% of the country’s population relying on traditional herbal therapies. However, there are various challenges that are associated with integrating traditional medicines with the conventional health care system and these include the absence of clinical tests to ascertain the safety and efficacy of some of the drugs. The paper takes a scope at the current Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) system with particular emphasis on the Patent law. Due to the absence of sound policies that protect the Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS) in developing countries, issues of bio-piracy and bio-prospecting have been on the rise. As such there is need for developing countries to formulate their own IKS policies and patenting system that extends exclusive rights to indigenous communities for their traditional knowledge on medicinal plants so that they can benefit. The sui generis options for IKS protection that suit developing countries are discussed in this paper. A brief discussion on the important role biotechnology can play in the patenting of traditional medicines is made to understand how modern science can improve and protect the existing TK.

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