By Morris DC Komakech
Time to increase demand for African knowledge in science and practice in the mainstream research
The second international conference for the Advancement of Science in Africa (SASA) ended at Hotel Africana last week on Friday, May 9. This SASA conference started in Polokwane in South Africa last year. The conference draws from some of the world’s best scientists and researchers from USA, Canada, Europe, Japan, Mauritius etc. who come to share their intellectual products with scientists in Africa. At the end of it all, SASA hopes to inspire African scholars, universities and governments to invest in science in order to use evidence from science to influence policies and professional practices in Africa.
This years’ international conference was hosted by Gulu University in cahoots with Makerere University Uganda National Council of Science and technology and Muni University in Uganda. Internationally, Pennsylvania state University, Youth Employment and Income Enhancement project (YEIEP), Global Knowledge Initiative and Osaka University in Japan were very supportive.
During the four days of the conference, we were treated to some mind blowing innovations from Nabisunsa Girls School with their experiment of water purification. Most of the ongoing researches in integrating herbal or traditional medicines in practice being conducted around Uganda were breath taking. We learned with much enthusiasm how Japan was working closely with Gulu University in health research, improving diagnostic mechanisms for malaria management and so forth.
One of the outstanding themes of the conference was the increasing demand for indigenous (African) knowledge in science and practice in the mainstream research. At the forefront of the advocacy for indigenous knowledge were Prof. Njoki N. Wane and Dr Francis Akena Adyanga from the University of Toronto. The scholars made strong cases for the conspicuous absence of indigenous science and knowledge in the mainstream academia – either at high school or at Universities. They argued that the main facet of the frontiers of science in Africa lies in reinvigorating indigenous knowledge which shaped African science and technology way before the advent of colonialism. Dr Adyanga, for instance, illustrated how the modern caesarian section was first conducted successfully in Bunyoro way before Europeans indulged in this practice and yet today, the scalpels or tools used for that surgical intervention lie in archives in London.
This discussion also hinted on how Europe and western colonialism has continued to undermine and under develop African indigenous science by archiving all artifacts associated with African science in museums in Europe, Australia and America. Such artifacts provide references and evidence to how African science influenced the life and ways of the people.
Today, religion and modern medicine remains the cornerstone of undermining African science and technology. For instance, every African practice and belief systems are deemed devilish or satanic by religious zealots who are brainwashed that the core of life has always been associated with the Jewish life story as recounted in the Bible.
The medicine perspective rubbishes African herbal and traditional practices as risky, unsubstantiated and backward, without recognising that most modern medicines are extracts from plants that are found in Africa and were used by the indigenous tribes for centuries.
Medical practitioners, like church preachers and Reverends, do not recognise that life in Africa preceded western religion and modern medicine. In fact, African knowledge provided the back-born to the so-called modern western practices in science and technology.
The building of the pyramids in Egypt; the current medical signs was taken from Nubians; the caesarian section was first conducted in Bunyoro, fire was discovered in Africa etc. African religious beliefs were far more advanced as it entailed holistic practices involving the dead, the living, non-living and environment and all rituals that western religion has emulated.
The presenters concluded that instead of bedeviling African indigenous practices, African scientists should invest in conducting research to establish concrete evidence to support or not support them. Some of these practices have sustained communities for a long time and yet today we see them as inferior or backward.
The conference was one of the best that I have attended and of course, my presentation titled “Advancing psychosocial frontiers in EMTCT: the role of self-efficacy in Male involvement” was well received as it articulated the challenges of achieving HIV free generation in Uganda and provided leadership direction in this field of maternal child health.
The 3rd International SASA conference will take place in Toronto, Canada and we look forward to receiving more research abstracts from African Scholars, Doctoral and post-doctoral scholars in 2015. I pass my sincere regards to the International Organising Committee of SASA, notably, Prof Joachim Kapalanga, Prof Elain F. Fymat, Dr. Francis Adyanga and the National Organising Team headed by Prof. Emillio Ovuga and all the sponsors and Universities that hosted us. This conference could not have been possible without your tireless efforts. See you all in our home turf, Toronto in 2015!
Morris Komakech is a University of Toronto scholar and member of Society of Advancement of Science in Africa (SASA) organising committee 2015. Contact: [email protected]