HARARE – The African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (Aripo) said on Wednesday Africa can derive massive economic benefits from development and use of intellectual property (IP) as well as protection of IP rights through the involvement of students and research institutions in the process.
The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) defines intellectual property as creations of the mind, such as inventions, literary and artistic works, designs, and symbols, names and images that are used in business.
In line with the objective of roping in young people in the IP movement, the Harare-based Aripo, with the backing of WIPO and the Japan Patent Office (JPO) is hosting a two-day regional workshop on the importance of IP management in universities as well as research and development institutions in Africa.
Aripo director general Fernando Dos Santos said IP had become a global tool that countries were harnessing for their economic development and growth.
“Only societies where such rights are effectively protected and exploited witness cultural advancement and economic progress,” he said while officiating at the opening of the workshop.
“One of the most effective ways of making use of IPs is through universities and research and development institutions where a great number of our youths are pursuing different academic goals and interests with a view to developing their capacities and talents to support national development efforts.”
Dos Santos said an approach to education and development with a bias towards IPs in Africa would “enable us to accelerate the transformation of our economies as demonstrated in other emerging and advanced countries.”
The JPO, which committed to train over 1 000 Africans between 2016 and 2018 on IP issues, said protection of industrial property such as trademarks and patents was critical in Africa’s bid to attract foreign direct investment.
“This will lead not only to encourage investment from abroad but also to bringing out the economic potential of Africa, thereby driving sustainable economic growth in African countries,” the JPO said in a statement.
WIPO representative Joyce Banya said the organisation had, since the 90s, been involved in IP awareness in universities.
“At that time the objective was to create a solid focal point in the legal faculty which could teach IP as a legal discipline,” she said.
“The reality today is that there is need to move beyond the purely legalistic approach.”
Banya said it had been recognised that universities were the main knowledge production centres and the institutions should rise up to the crucial role and make greater contributions to national economic growth and prosperity on the continent, by effectively using IP systems for their research and innovation.
Africa University Vice Chancellor, Professor Munashe Furusa said IP management was central to the success of African development efforts.
“IP management is a key driver of new knowledge generation and transfer which are crucial for building an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, an African underpinned by science, technology and innovation,” he said, lauding involvement of higher and tertiary educational institutions in the process.
Furusa said African governments should create enabling policy frameworks that encourage new products, cultivation of new innovations as well as protect originality of such creative works.
The two-day workshop will discuss the findings of a research on the development of guidelines for elaboration of Intellectual Property Policy and Strategy for effective use of the IP System by universities and research and development institutions in Africa.
The research took place in Cameroon, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.
The guidelines aim to assist countries in ensuring that they have the right IP policies and strategies which are consistent with national laws and related regulations and policies, take into account the specific public research environment and the socio-economic status of the country and can be implemented within the context of each individual institution’s mandate. – New Ziana