Journal article

‘Poisoned Chalice’: Law on Access to Biological and Genetic Resources and Associated Traditional Knowledge in Namibia

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Publication Details

Author list: Chinsembu WW, Chinsembu KC

Publisher: Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute (MDPI)

Publication year: 2020

Journal: Resources

Volume number: 9

Issue number: 83

Start page: 1

End page: 34

Total number of pages: 34

eISSN: 2079-9276


Many countries in Africa provide ethnobiological resources (more especially ethnomedicinal plants), which are converted by companies and users from developed countries into biopharmaceutical products without any monetary benefits to the countries of origin. To mitigate the lack of benefits, African countries are beginning to enact access and benefit-sharing (ABS) legislation, though their wheels turn very slowly. Since many African ABS laws have not been appraised for their feasibility, this paper presents a contextual analysis of Namibia’s new ABS law: The Access to Biological and Genetic Resources and Associated Traditional Knowledge Act No. 2 of 27 June 2017. Even if several international conventions on ABS and local institutional structures guided the evolution of the 2017 Act, the main drivers for the enactment of the ABS legislation in Namibia are: Inequitable sharing of monetary benefits from the green economy, putative, but unproven cases of biopiracy, and political power contestations over ethnobiological resources. A critical analysis of important challenges faced by Namibia’s new ABS law include: Lack of adequate participatory consultations and technical capacity at the local level, discount of the non-commodity cultural value of TK, ambiguous and narrow definition of the term ‘community’, lack of a clause on confidentiality, and assertions that the new ABS law negatively impacts research in Namibian universities and botanic gardens. In contrast to South Africa’s ABS law, Namibia’s law is more onerous because it does not differentiate between commercial and non-commercial research.


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Last updated on 2021-25-05 at 11:22