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IIIrd Virtual World Congress on Transdisciplinarity 2020/2021 - REFICA Organizes the Africa Session on African Traditional Knowledge, 24 February 2021



The IIIrd Virtual World Congress held its second Africa week on February 24, 2021, chaired by the Network of Foundations and Research Institutions for the Promotion of a Culture of Peace in Africa (REFICA).

President : Full Professor Mèkè Meité

UNESCO Chair for the Culture of Peace, Félix Houphouët-Boigny University, Ivory Coast / Côte d'Ivoire

Sub-theme : African Traditional Knowledge

Moderator: Prof. Djénéba Traoré  -  Panelists : Prof. Nouréini Tidjani-Serpos (Lecture) - Roundtable: Mrs. Roukiatou Hampâté Bâ,     Prof. Paulo Orefice and Mr. Erasmus Migyikra

The virtual academic exchanges  at the second Africa week took place in the presence of Professor Julieta Haidar, in her capacity as President of the III World Congress. She is a Full Research Professor at the National School of Anthropology and History of Mexico City.

Prof. Jean-Noël Loucou, Full Professor of Contemporary History and Secretary General of the Félix Houphouët Boigny Foundation also took an active part in the fruitful debates of the Africa Committee.

In her introduction, the moderator of the panel, Prof. Djénéba Traoré, Director General of the West Africa Institute (WAI), highlighted the following points:


General Context of the Congress

Founded in 1970, Transdisciplinarity already has a long history.

Indeed, we can state that as a scientific discipline, Transdisciplinarity follows two major periods in the human development, namely:

  1. The Age of Universal Scholars which began in Egypt in 2650 BCE and during which basic sciences, natural sciences, philosophy, arts, religions, political institutions were created and developed. This period is marked by the advent of the reign of the Pharaohs and the construction of the first pyramids on gigantic sites. Ancient Egypt will become a source of inspiration to the whole world. The University of Al-Azar will be one of the premier universities in the world. In West Africa, in the 13th century, we witness the rise of the role of Griot under the Empire of Mali founded by Soundjata Kéïta in 1235. His Griot, Falla Fasséké Kouyaté and descendants will play a decisive role in the transmission. True Universal Scholars, the Griots, experts in genealogy and also called the “Masters of the Word”, exercised the functions of historians, advisers, educators, musicians, storytellers and poets. It is notably thanks to the Griots that the Kurukan Fuga Charter, enacted in 1236, was brought to the attention of the whole world and will be inscribed in 2009 by UNESCO on the representative list of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity. At the same time, there were trades and secret societies whose knowledge has so far been passed on only to members or initiates.

In Europe, the Enlightenment will mark the culmination of Universal Scientists ...

2. In the 19th century, we witnessed the development of increasingly specialized specializations with the creation of modern laboratories and the professionalization of scientific research in all scientific disciplines.

This involves making research and the dissemination of its findings, the main triggers for economic, social and technological development in a world facing multiple challenges and crises.


Historical Background of Transdisciplinarity

The word Transdisciplinarity was coined by Jean Piaget in 1970 (1), but the meaning was not clarified until 1985, when Basarab Nicolescu developed the pillars of transdisciplinarity in 1985. The International Center for Research and Transdisciplinary Studies (CIRET) (2) was founded in 1987 in Paris.

The First World Congress of Transdisciplinarity was held in 1994 in the Convent of Arrábida, Portugal, from November 2-7. The participants in the Congress adopted the Transdisciplinarity Charter (3), already signed by hundreds of transdisciplinary researchers from all over the world. In 2005, the Second World Congress of Transdisciplinarity took place in Vitoria / Vila Velha, Brazil. Many other important national and international congresses and events have also taken place in different countries. The latest is the 2018 International Congress ATLAS “Being Transdisciplinary”, which was organized by the Babes-Bolyai University in Cluj-Napoca, Romania.

Numerous applications have been made around the world, in the fields of education, health, arts, sustainable development and the dialogue between science and religion. Doctoral programs in transdisciplinarity can be found in many universities. Currently, we can say that the international movement of transdisciplinarity has reached maturity and that new fields of research have been opened.

The 3rd World Congress of Transdisciplinarity will take place in Mexico, in November 2021.

The objective of this Congress is to bring together the largest number of participants from several national and international institutions, in order to study the latest theoretical and practical developments in transdisciplinarity and to propose new theoretical models, experiences and actions to face the extraordinary challenges of the 21st century: global education, transhumanism, artificial intelligence, destructive technologies, health, poverty, destruction of biological diversity, climate change, wars, violence and other endless problems that plague human beings and all living beings on our planet like the Covid-19 pandemic. "

 (1) Basarab Nicolescu, «”Brief Chronology of Transdisciplinarity”

Additional Source :


The following panelists took part in the roundtable "African Traditional Knowledge":

Professor Nouréni Tidjiani-Serpos

President of the Committee in charge of the Return of Cultural Works from Benin

Former Minister-Counselor, former Ambassador, then Permanent Delegate of Benin to the UN, President of the UN Executive Council, former Assistant Director-General in charge of the UN Africa Department and candidate to succeed the Japanese Kōichirō Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO .

Title of presentation: Characteristics of African Culture


Mrs. Roukiatou Hampâté Bâ

Director of the Amadou Hampâté Bâ Foundation, Abidjan, Ivory Coast

Title of the presentation: African Cultures as a Source of Knowledge Enrichment of the World


Professor Paolo Orefice

Director of the UNESCO Transdisciplinary Chair in Human Development and Culture of Peace at the University of Florence, Italy

Title of the presentation: The Valuation of Traditional African Knowledge - A transdisciplinary point of view


Mr. Migyikra Erasmus Ndemole

Founding member of the West African Center for Peace Studies in Ghana and Uganda, and of the Institute of African Fashion and Creative Arts Migyikra Fashion and Design Limited. Currently, Erasmus Migyikra is working with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan as a child protection specialist.

Title of presentation: Knowledge of African Tradition

You will find here the Agenda of the Africa Committee


Context of the Panel

The World Congress on Transdisciplinarity is being held at the right time at a time when the evolution of our world requires the pooling of different disciplines in order to acquire a holistic vision of the phenomena and crises shaking our planet.

The theme of the panel was linked to the African Union (AU) Agenda 2063, as well as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs 2030).

In particular, at the AU level, there is a text entitled "Linking Agenda 2063 to the SDGs"

It is permissible to note in this document that at no time the terms "Culture" and "Peace and Security" appear at the level of the SDGs.

We are in the month of February 2021, there are therefore nine (9) years left to "rectify the situation" and take into account the possibilities offered by culture in general and more specifically, African traditional knowledge with a view to '' achieve the SDGs by 2030 in the part of the world where it seems most difficult.

This is the theme in particular that this panel will look at.

But first, what do we mean by "traditional knowledge?"

Traditional Knowledge (TK) is knowledge, know-how, skills 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 can be found in a wide variety of contexts, including agricultural, scientific, technical, ecological and medicinal knowledge as well as biodiversity-related knowledge.

While the IP system is built on scientific and contemporary knowledge, TK and Traditional cultural expressions (TCEs) are built on experiential knowledge, going beyond the inexplicable aspect such as spiritual and ritualistic world."

IP: Intellectual Property


Africa is the continent which, due to endogenous and exogenous factors that the panelists will certainly highlight, is in the most unfavorable conditions for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

However, the African continent abounds in traditional knowledge which is used by an overwhelming majority of the population, as well in the rural areas as in the urban areas. This knowledge is found in a multitude of fields such as traditional medicine, education, agriculture, fishing, hunting, peace and social cohesion, environmental protection, arts, crafts, etc. .

Another fact is that eradicating the COVID-19 pandemic has now become a global issue.

The majority of African countries, so far spared the heavy loss of human life, now face the dangers of a second wave much more deadly than the first.

Faced with the ineffectiveness of our health policies, the inadequacy of human resources, infrastructure and equipment in the health sector, can African traditional knowledge be used to compensate for these shortcomings observed in the field of health? so-called "modern" medicine? This is a crucial issue for the survival of mankind.

The questions asked to the Panelists were as follows:

How would you personally define the term: “Traditional African Knowledge”?

What is the current state of traditional knowledge in your country, in Africa?

What are the challenges to be taken up in promoting this knowledge and making it a trigger for economic, social, scientific and cultural development in Africa?

 What role can the African Union Agenda 2063 play in this process?

What traditional knowledge can be linked to the SDGs to facilitate their achievement in Africa?

Women are very present in traditional knowledge. What can be their added value?

What role can scientific research play in the promotion of African traditional knowledge?

You will find below the YouTube links to the videos of the 2nd week of REFICA at the Third Virtual World Congress on Transdisciplinarity:

Wednesday February 24, 2021 / Conference and Roundtable:

Friday February 26, 2021 / Symposium:


Links consulted

Millenium Objectives for Development MOD-Agenda 2063/ODD 2030 - Rapport de transition 2016

      Hassan O. Kaya ; Yonah N. Seleti, African indigenous knowledge systems and relevance of higher education 

      in South Africa The International Education Journal: Comparative Perspectives, 2013, 12(1), 30–44 iSSN 1443-1475 © 2013


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