Traditional Knowledge



Traditional Knowledge and expressions of folklore

About Traditional knowledge (TK).

Traditional knowledge (TK) is knowledge, know-how, skills, innovations and practices that are developed, sustained and passed on from generation to generation within a community, often forming part of its cultural or spiritual identity.

TK in a general sense embraces the content of knowledge itself as well as traditional cultural expressions, including distinctive signs and symbols associated with TK. Traditional cultural expressions (TCEs) are generally understood as the tangible and intangible forms in which traditional knowledge and cultures are expressed.

Traditional knowledge can be found in genetic resources (GR) that are unique to that area such as plants for medicinal purposes is TK, while traditional dances, songs and designs are TCEs. Traditional handicrafts may embody both TK and TCEs.

The Swakopmund Protocol

The Swakopmund Protocol, adopted in August 2010, is underpinned by the principle that the knowledge, technologies, biological resources and cultural heritage of traditional and local communities are the result of tested practices of past generations. The protocol affirms the principle that traditional or local communities are the custodians of their TK, its associated GRs and TCEs, and empowers them to exercise rights over their knowledge and resources.

The Protocol recognizes the need to respect, recognize and protect Africa’s abundant multi-ethnic character, as well as its rich cultural heritage and TK. It further articulates and amplifies the shared position of African countries relating to collective or community rights and the sharing of benefits accruing from the commercial exploitation of their biological resources, TK and TCEs.

The purpose of this Protocol is;


  • to protect traditional knowledge holders against any infringement of their rights as recognized by this Protocol; and
  • to protect expressions of folklore against misappropriation, misuse and unlawful exploitation beyond their traditional context.