Comesa countries and policy makers should guard against instituting stringent regulations on Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), as this could frustrate innovation and attained economic benefits.
This is contained in one of the research findings presented at the ongoing 6th Comesa Annual Research Forum in Nairobi, Kenya, where participants deliberated on the implications of restrictive IPR laws on innovation in developing countries.
The research, which was conducted by Professor Albert Makochekanwa from the Department of Economics at the University of Zimbabwe titled, “Intellectual Property Rights, Innovation and Trade in Developing Countries: Evidence from Comesa Countries”, found that countries in the region lacked sufficient motivation to spur innovations.
“According to empirical research cited by the researcher, innovation activities are mainly driven by the
possibility of increased profits and market share, the perceived demand for new products and processes and ‘technology-push’ factors that are related to advancements in technology and science,” Comesa head of corporate communications, Mwangi Gakunga, said in an update on Wednesday.
He said the study investigated the role of IPRs protection in innovations using 12 developing countries in Comesa for which data was available covering the period 2012 to 2017.
These are Egypt, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Seychelles, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
This was one of the 13 research papers being presented at the one-week research forum, under the theme: “Promoting Intra-Comesa Trade through Innovation”, whose implications will be presented to Comesa policy organs and form the basis for policy decision making.
“Arising from the study Prof Makochekanwa observed that regional countries did not meet
the threshold for stringent IPR given the level of development,” said Gakunga.
“This is due to low level of technological development, high cost of research and development and the competitiveness of the economy in the global marketplace.”
The paper, which was presented by Shingirirai Mashura, cited developed economies, such as Japan and Germany, which used flexible/relaxed IPR when they were developing after the World War and only introduced stringent IPR after attaining higher levels of development.
Reacting to the presentation, Comesa senior research fellow Benedict Musengele said: “Developing economies rely much on imitation of technologies as well as technology transfer for their innovations, economic growth and development, which is hindered by stringent IPR.
“Most of the innovation in developing countries are by the Small and medium enterprises, which
have no capacity to register and acquire licences for the intellectual property rights but they need to be nurtured to grow and become large enterprises”.
According to Gakunga, further empirical evidence shows that robust economic activities and manufacturing production stimulates innovation while vibrant economic activity implies profitability, thus encouraging innovation activities by firms.
In addition, he said political stability provides confidence to firms to easily engage in research and development, which yields new ideas, products and processes even in the long run without fear of possible expropriation or loss due to potential risks emanating from political challenges.
“The findings demonstrated that stronger IPRs protection overall discourages or negatively impact on innovations. In the case of Comesa, this finding provides evidence to the fact that IPR discourages innovation,” he said.
“Given the level of development across the member states, the researcher recommended that regional countries and policy makers consider relaxed, as opposed to stringent IPR regulations in the spirit of encouraging innovation activities and economic development in member countries.”
The forum closes today after receiving presentation from innovators in science and technology from Comesa member states, who have been invited to present their innovations.