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An ontology-based computer-aided diagnosis system in African traditional medicine: At the Sorcerer’s Stone

Armel Ayimdji Tekemetieu (Département de Génie Informatique, IUT de Douala, Douala, Cameroun)
Souleymane KOUSSOUBE (Laboratoire Africain d’Informatique et de Mathématiques Appliquées, IAI de Libreville, Libreville, Gabon)
Laure Pauline FOTSO (Département d’Informatique, Université de Yaoundé I, Yaoundé, Cameroun)


ISSN: 0368-492X

Article publication date: 11 January 2016




The purpose of this paper is to describe an AI (Artificial Intelligence) that can “think like an African traditional doctor”. The system proposes to model and to use attitudes taken and concepts used by African traditional doctors when facing cases. It is designed to go deep into the concepts of African traditional medicine (ATM) by dealing with all the possible interpretations of those concepts, and to produce more much satisfying and accurate support for medical diagnosis and prescription than existing systems.


To take into account the sometimes strange concepts used and attitudes taken by African traditional healers, including mystical considerations, the system relies on a deep ontology describing all those concepts and attitudes in a more computer readable manner allowing a multi-agent system to have full access to ATM knowledge. Ethnological inquiries, literary analysis and interviews of traditional doctors (the holders of African medicine knowledge) were performed to gather sufficient data to achieve the work.


The paper addresses this question of how to build a practical large-scope computer-aided diagnosis and prescription system which can exploit deep descriptions of ATM concepts, including mystical considerations. The system also provides scientific interpretations to some concepts sometimes considered as mystical facts. It is a java web-based platform combined to a Java Agent Development framework multi-agent system accessing an ontology to provide its results.

Research limitations/implications

Because of the origins of healers involved in this research (from Gabon and Cameroon, countries of Central Africa), the ontology and the collected data may lack generalizability in the African scope and then it is a prototype. Therefore, ATM experts all over the continent are encouraged to participate to improve and standardize the ATM ontology and to populate the knowledge base. On the other side, the system cannot give scientific explanations to all the mystical considerations in ATM, there still some facts which cannot be rationally explained for now.

Practical implications

The paper demonstrates the practical usability of the implemented system on the diagnosis and the treatment of a patient case.

Social implications

The research describes a system which once validated by traditional experts, will serve as a tool to assist them in their day-to-day diagnosis and prescription tasks and will also serve as a reference on ATM practices for all interested users.


The paper provides an in-depth description of a computer-aided diagnosis system (CADS) that promotes indigenous technology from an African perspective. Comparing to the former systems identified in the literature, the proposed system is the first which deals with believes and mystical considerations in ATM, and also the first which provides a function to rank its results.



Tekemetieu, A.A., KOUSSOUBE, S. and FOTSO, L.P. (2016), "An ontology-based computer-aided diagnosis system in African traditional medicine: At the Sorcerer’s Stone", Kybernetes, Vol. 45 No. 1, pp. 30-50.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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