The Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) will host a virtual expo on Tuesday, 17 August focusing on rooibos and all associated products and infusions emanating from the tea and its various uses.


The expo, based on indigenous knowledge systems (IKS), will provide a platform for communities, corporations and the government to engage in dialogue aimed at seeking the best balance between the protection and use of indigenous knowledge in products such as rooibos.


A plant that is endemic to a small part of the western coast of the Western Cape, thought to have been historically occupied by the San and Khoi communities of South Africa, rooibos (Aspalathus linearis), meaning "red bush", is a broom-like member of the plant family Fabaceae that grows in South Africa's fynbos.


The leaves are used to make a herbal tea identified by several names including "rooibos" (especially in southern Africa), "bush tea", "red tea", and "redbush tea" (predominantly in Great Britain). The tea has been popular in South Africa and southern Africa for generations, and since the 2000s has gained popularity internationally.


In 2013, the South African government issued final rules to protect and restrict the use of the names "rooibos", "red bush", "rooibostee", "rooibos tea", "rooitee" and "rooibosch", following an attempt in the United States to monopolise rooibos when the name was virtually unknown there.


The protection means that the name cannot be used for things not derived from the Aspalathus linearis plant. It also provides guidance and restrictions on how products that include rooibos, and in what measures, should use the name "rooibos" in their branding.


In 2019, following decades of negotiations, a Rooibos and Honeybush Traditional Knowledge Benefit Sharing Agreement was signed between industry and the Khoi and San communities. The agreement was the first industry-wide "benefit-sharing" agreement to be reached following the signing of the 2010 Nagoya Protocol of the UN Biodiversity Convention.


This meant that, more than a century after commercial farming began on their traditional lands, the San and Khoi peoples of southern Africa will finally share in the profits of the lucrative rooibos tea industry.


While the DSI's expo will be virtual, some stakeholders will physically exhibit a number of indigenous knowledge products developed to treat ailments such as cancer, diabetes and arthritis – showing the many benefits of indigenous resources and the knowledge associated with these resources.


Meanwhile, the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Dr Blade Nzimande, has approved consultation on the regulations of the Protection, Promotion, Development and Management of Indigenous Knowledge Act, 2019 (the IK Act). The expo will serve as a precursor to public consultation on the regulations, which the DSI will embark on in the next few weeks. The process will culminate in the publication of the regulations on the legislation for approval.


Media invited to register for the event



Issued by the Department of Science and Innovation


For any enquiries, please contact Veronica Mohapeloa @ 083 400 5750 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.