Bakeng se Afrika is the brainchild of Professor Anna C. Oettlé from Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University and Prof Ericka N. L’Abbé from the Forensic Anthropology Research Centre at the University of Pretoria. They brought together six higher education institutions (three from South Africa and three from Europe) along with the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa) to create the Bakeng se Afrika consortium. The consortium was awarded a Capacity Building Grant in Higher Education (Erasmus+) from the European Union in 2018 and the project kicked off in 2019. See more details about the consortium and each partner institution here.

The use of digital imaging is the way of the future for teaching and research at Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). The development of online curricula in the medical and health sciences are strongly dependent on imaging and digital data; furthermore, many researchers prefer using digital images when compared to other data sources due to ease of accessibility, large sample size and it’s non-destructive nature. The objective of Bakeng se Afrika is to develop and manage a comprehensive digital imaging collection of South Africans as a capacity-building resource for improvement in internationalization of HEI’s. This comprehensive digital imaging will notably amalgamate a large digital archive of micro-focus X-Ray scanning (micro-XCT) from known deceased South African individuals. 

This project aims to:

  1. Create, maintain, and manage a comprehensive digital repository of micro-XCT scans of human skeletal material from South African osteological collections.

  2. Develop quality assurance guidelines via SOP's for the scanning of skeletal elements and analyses of digital data.

  3. Create a constitution regarding the ethical use of digital scans of human remains, as well as the storage and access. The BsA constitution can be accessed here. Read a bit more about ethics in this blogpost written by Prof Ericka L'Abbé, Bakeng se Afrika Project Coordinator at the University of Pretoria.

  4. Use this database to establish strategic relationships with partners abroad for the purpose of stimulating the international dissemination of knowledge. The scans will be used to establish collaborative research networks between South African and European partners with the exchange of teaching technology and experiences through workshops.


This digital skeletal repository will be stored at the University of Pretoria and will be made available online to national and international research institutions. Researchers and educators will be able to apply to use the data for research and teaching by submitting a research protocol and approval documentation to a health sciences research ethics committee. More details on the repository can be found hereThe benefits of a digital repository includes:

  • Invaluable and unique resource for research and teaching;

  • A large, centralized databank with quality control (SOPs);

  • Sustainability with long-term, safe storage and documentation of digital data.


The development and establishment of universal peer-reviewed Standard Operating Procedures (SOP's) for acquiring, storing and utilizing digital images are paramount and the ethical use of the scans offers a level of quality assurance that will contribute to capacity building of academic resources. More details on the SOP's can be found hereCreating SOPs for acquisition of data and ethical use supports:

  • Inclusiveness of all researchers and educators;

  • Worldwide accessibility, harmonization and internationlization of data;

  • Promote postgraduate research and obtainment of advanced qualifications in HEI’s.  



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